Diesel option to power Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep CEO Mike Manley unveils the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee equiped with a diesel engine at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Jeep CEO Mike Manley unveils the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee equiped with a diesel engine at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

DETROIT — Jeep will make a diesel engine available in its 2014 Grand Cherokee, giving customers an option for much better fuel economy and more pulling power in its top-selling vehicle.

Jeep revealed the updated Grand Cherokee Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“There’s no mistaking it’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it’s been significantly enhanced,” Jeep brand CEO Mike Manley said.

Chrysler designers have made some tweaks to the appearance of the vehicle, especially in the front, but the biggest changes are beneath the skin.

In addition to the diesel option, all 2014 Grand Cherokees will come equipped with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The transmission will increase fuel-efficiency across the board, though pairing it with the diesel will give the biggest boost in mileage.

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Mr. Manley said the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine will give the 2014 Grand Cherokee 30 miles per gallon on the highway. That represents a significant boost from either currently available gasoline engine. Right now the most fuel efficient Grand Cherokee buyers can order is the V-6 model that is rated for 23 miles per gallon highway.

The vehicle is expected to appear in showrooms in a few months. Officials did not say what the new vehicle would cost, but it is expected to be more expensive than the gasoline models.

A diesel-powered Grand Cherokee has been near the top of many Jeep buyers’ wish list for some time. Chrysler introduced a diesel Grand Cherokee for buyers outside the United States in 2011.

Company officials say the new diesel engine is proof the brand listens.

“This powerplant is everything our customers have been asking for. A fuel-efficient diesel with the torque it takes to pull even bigger boats, RVs, and trailers, and conquer even more challenging terrain when they’re off-road,” Mr. Manley said.

No other Jeep sold in the United States is available with a diesel.

“Diesel powertrains have proven to hold significant value over their gasoline counterparts, and the Grand Cherokee diesel offering should fall in line with this trend,” said Eric Lyman, an auto analyst with ALG.

Though diesel fuel has cost more per gallon than gas recently, the diesel engines can offer a combination of fuel economy and torque that gasoline engines generally can't.

Mr. Manley said Jeep’s new diesel will be the cleanest in its class.

Outside, the 2014 Grand Cherokee gets body-color fender flares, a stouter front end, and headlamps that have LED running lights reminiscent of the Chrysler 300’s.

The interior also gets some refinements. Though it’s not an all-new model, the refresh does show Chrysler is committed to keeping its products fresh. The Grand Cherokee wasn’t initially planned for an exterior tweak.

“It wasn’t long ago we would have launched a new vehicle, just left it in the market for six years or more with little or no updates just to die a slow death in our dealers’ showrooms,” Mr. Manley said. “That is no longer the case, and I think nothing illustrates our aggressive approach to product management more than [the 2014 Grand Cherokee].”

Mr. Manley also introduced a mildly tweaked Jeep Compass with an updated interior at the show. Both the Compass and the Jeep Patriot get a new six-speed automatic that should improve fuel economy.

Contact Tyrel Linkhorn at: tlinkhorn@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.