You see more than a few different vehicles parked up with vans in caravan parks around Australia and, among them, you’re bound to see more than one Jeep Grand Cherokee. A favourite among the towing fraternity since the last-generation WG series upped its towing capacity to 3500kg, the current series capped that off with an even more refined V6 turbodiesel and very attractive pricing.
But it has taken us more than two years to obtain a Grand Cherokee diesel for tow-testing. While the V8 petrol was tested in CW October ’11, it is only now – finally – that Jeep has been able to put another diesel onto its test fleet. The company was selling every single one it could ship in.
While a refreshed Grand Cherokee is just around the corner, it shares the same body, most mechanicals (except that it has a new, eight-speed automatic transmission) and underpinnings with this one. This tow test might be a little later than we hoped but, given the reader interest in the Grand Cherokee CRD, we wanted to test the vehicle when the opportunity arose.
GRAND CHEROKEE FEATURES
Our Grand Cherokee was the entry-level turbodiesel, the Laredo. The Grand Cherokee CRD also comes in Limited and luxury Overland specification and the Grand Cherokee is also available with V6 and V8 petrol variants.
Standard equipment in the $50,000 (includes on-road costs) Laredo CRD includes 18in alloy wheels, Quadra-Trac II full-time 4WD with dual-range transfer, ABS brakes, traction and stability control, driver and passenger front, front side and front and rear side curtain airbags, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, Selec-Terrain traction control (which permits five on and offroad settings for different driving conditions), reversing camera, proximity key locking, push-button start, power-fold side mirrors, auto-on Bi-xenon headlights with washers and auto-levelling, and daytime running lights.
The interior is comfortable, spacious and well-finished, with clear and simple controls and instruments. The A-pillars and large side mirrors obstruct the driver’s view a bit, particularly when turning 90-degree corners or when driving offroad but, in all other respects, the Jeep’s interior is a class act.
GRAND CHEROKEE ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The new 3L turbodiesel engine produces 177kW at 4000 rpm with 550Nm of torque at 1800-2800rpm and is made by VM Motori. VM Motori developed the engine with Fiat Powertrain, part of the Fiat enterprise that now owns Jeep.
The 3L V6 develops 10 per cent more power and eight per cent more torque than the Mercedes-Benz-sourced engine it replaces.
The 3L turbodiesel engine has a 60-degree block constructed of compressed graphite iron topped with aluminium cylinder heads and a two-piece structural aluminium oil pan. The cylinder bore is 83mm and stroke is 92mm, making for a total displacement of 2987cc.
Noise and vibration are common problems with diesel engines so VM Motori has designed this V6 with an engine block that has a stiffened crankcase architecture with a rigid bedplate that serves to give the crankshaft a stiff sec-uring structure.
The CRD has cast-iron exhaust manifolds and emissions controls include a close-coupled diesel oxidation catalyst and standard diesel particulate filter. Euro 5 emissions are met through an exhaust-gas recirculation (EGR) system that includes an EGR valve with DC motor and a high-performance EGR cooler with bypass valve.
C02 emissions are reduced to 270g/km for the urban cycle and 188g/km for the extra-urban cycle compared with the previous CRD V6. Combined-cycle C02 emissions are now 218g/km.
The induction system includes swirl control to optimise combustion. Fitted between the intake system and the combustion chamber, the swirl control effectively provides an ideal air-fuel mixture at all levels of engine speed.
Better fuel delivery is permitted with the 1800-bar common-rail fuel-injection system. The new injector can provide up to eight injections per cycle. According to Jeep, this permits a reduction in consumption and polluting emissions of approximately two per cent compared to a traditional injector and also provides a noise-level reduction.
The turbodiesel fires up to the usual diesel clatter but it is sufficiently suppressed. As revs rise, the engine doesn’t seem to increase its noise as much as some diesels do; even better, the dreaded turbo-lag is relatively minor with this diesel. Instead of the nothing-then-everything result that many diesels provide to the request for a quick take-off, the CRD is progressive in its power delivery. It can be relied upon to dart across an intersection without that sensation that the vehicle has stalled.
The five-speed auto is smooth and responsive, with ratios appearing to be well chosen for the vehicle.
The all-coil, all-independent suspension provides a supple and well-controlled ride in the Grand Cherokee and steering feel is not bad for a medium/large SUV. The standard Kumho tyres provide good mechanical grip, too. If anything, the coil spring model rides better over sharp bumps than the upper models’ air suspension does.
Jeep says that fuel economy for the Grand Cherokee CRD is 10.3 L/100km on the urban cycle and 7.2L/100 km on the extra-urban cycle. During testing, with a 2280kg caravan behind, fuel consumption averaged 16L/100km.
This Jeep is a very good towing platform, settling down very little when the caravan was dropped onto its hitch. Once out on the road, the Grand Cherokee hunkered down and simply got to it.
While the air suspension is available on upper-spec models (or as an option on the Laredo), the standard coil spring suspension might actually prove to be the better compromise when towing is concerned. It rarely put a foot wrong, and the very occasional wallow on an undulating surface was hardly surprising and not at all uncomfortable.
Performance from the 3L turbodiesel was very good, turbo lag is minimal and the mid-range performance very strong. Engine braking is not the best we’ve ever tried, but certainly with the occasional dab of the brakes was very effective.
The Grand Cherokee CRD is a relatively popular rig out on the highways and caravan parks and, if my recent experience is anything to go by, it is easy to see why. Offering great value for money, decent economy, good performance and refinement, the Grand Cherokee Laredo CRD is a class act. The main issue with the Jeep is not the vehicle itself; rather, like many smaller volume marques in Australia, there is a question mark over regional support if something should go wrong with the vehicle in the outback.
Thanks to Parravans, 38-40 Mileham Street, Windsor, NSW 2756, (02) 4577 5577, for the loan of the caravan for this test.
JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE LAREDO CDR SPECIFICATIONS
Weights and measures
Ground clearance 218mm
Kerb Mass 2267kg
Gross Vehicle Mass 2949kg
Gross Combined Mass 6449kg
Towing capacity unbraked/braked 3500kg/750kg
Towball (max) 350kg
Engine 3L V6 turbodiesel
Transmission Five-speed automatic
Power 177kW at 4000rpm
Torque 550Nm at 1800-2800rpm
Final Drive 3.07:1
Towbar and brake controller
Fuel capacity 93.5L
Suspension Front: Independent, short and long A-arms, air springs, gas/oil dampers, stabiliser bar. Rear: Independent, multi links, air springs, gas/oil dampers, stabiliser bar
Brakes Ventilated discs front and rear
Wheels 18in alloy/steel, 18in spare
Warranty Three years/100,000km
Roof load 68kg
More information www.jeep.com.au.
$50,000 (including on-road costs)
Originally published in Caravan World #517, August/September 2013.