Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep
Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep
Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Having driven a couple of these fourth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokees at some pretty extreme off-roading media events, I can vouch for their formidable boonie-bashing prowess. It’s pretty much a given.

Jeep, like Range Rover, trades on its legendary off-road ability, but unlike Range Rover, Jeep might not be first to mind when thinking of opulent luxury.

Enter the 2014 Grand Cherokee Summit. Think of Biff McWilderness in a Harry Rosen suit… okay, Tip Top Tailor. This top-spec GC sees a number of improvements for 2014 – most significantly an eight-speed auto transmission replacing the old five-cog unit – and it drops last year’s “Overland” handle.

Available with either the 290 hp, 260 lb-ft 3.6L Pentastar V6, the 360 hp, 390 lb-ft 5.7L Hemi V8, or an all-new 3.0L turbo diesel V6 that delivers 240 hp, 420 lb-ft and a claimed 7.1 L/100 km on the highway, this gussied-up Jeep aspires to snag the best valet spot in front of the Ritz, even if it had crawled through brush and over boulders to get there.

Granted, not a likely scenario, but entirely possible.

With a starting price of $59,995 for this V6 model, the Summit comes with all the requisite hardware to get you far off the beaten path. Quadra-Trac II 4WD with Hill Decent uses a two-speed transfer that splits power 50:50 for normal driving, has electronic locking and an improved 44:1 low range for off-roading (up from last year’s 30:1). The Summit also gets Quadra-Lift variable height air suspension that can raise the ride height by 104 mm (4.1 inches), providing best-in-class ground clearance of 287 mm (11.3 inches). Selec-Terrain dials up five settings (Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud, Rock) that adjust the parameters of twelve functions to provide ultimate traction.

With all this capability, the fact that Jeep deleted the aluminum skid plates and toes hooks on the Summit for 2014 suggests an awareness to the fact that those who pony up for luxury off-roaders don’t really do much luxury off-roading. In other words, the Selec-Terrain knob and its surrounding buttons will likely see as much use as a Scottish pay toilet.

So how does the Summit play out as a cut-price Range Rover?

Exactly that. The Jeep’s interior is certainly well appointed, decently finished and sports the requisite dash-top stitching, but it can’t come close to the exquisite experience served up by the Range Rover, Range Rover Sport, or even the refreshed 2014 BMW X5, that in 300 hp six-cylinder guise (xDrive35i) starts at a similar $62,900.

Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit. Click image to enlarge

South of the lovely open-grain wood trim that bisects the Jeep’s dash lives some cheap, hard plastic, alerting one to its humbler roots.

Nonetheless, there’s much to like here. The heated steering wheel keeps your mitts toasty and the dual-pane panoramic sunroof keeps the cabin bright and airy. The standard 825-watt, 19-speaker audio is decent too, although if you want to play your old-fashioned CDs, a single-disk remote CD player runs 200 bucks.

The Grand Cherokee’s revised instrument cluster has a configurable TFT centre display that drivers can customize to their liking.

Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep Test Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit car test drives jeep
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit. Click image to enlarge

For 2014 the Summit now gets Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen interface which is the best of this ilk when it comes to usability. Upgraded for 2014 with Chrysler’s uConnect2 software, the system boasts all the latest connectivity features – smart phone integration, text message reading, improved voice commands, and it can be configured to act as a wi-fi hot spot. On the down side, the Garmin navigation graphics are pretty rudimentary.

I wasn’t nuts about the seats. Like those in the Chrysler 300, you feel like you’re sitting “on” them, not “in” them. Last year’s notched shift gate gets replaced with Chrysler’s electronic joy-stick thingy that mimics those by BMW and Mercedez-Benz, but misses the mark big-time with its finicky and imprecise operation.

If it’s any consolation, they’ve fitted this thing to the new Maserati Quattroporte. Mamma mia! (cue forehead slap).

Back seat room is generous, and said seats are heated, recline and easily fold to create a large, flat load space.




About Peter

Peter Bleakney is a Toronto-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).