(Photos by Dave Nutting) – When the time was coming and the plans were being formed up for a 3,000 mile family road trip up and down the East Coast by way of mostly two lane roads, there was one rig that I wanted to use as our family truckster on the adventure. That was a Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel. This is the third time that one of these babies has appeared on BangShift and the second time we have chewed up thousands of miles in one. The first time was last year’s winter adventure that saw Craig Fitzgerald, Dave Nutting, and I venture to Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, before heading home over a long weekend. This year it was my wife, the kids, and I populating the seats with a load of supplies, presents, and personal items for a family week in North Carolina on the shore. As I have started to show you over the last couple weeks, we stopped at nearly 20 drag strips (living and dead) along the way and we took two lane roads for the vast majority of the trip, choosing to avoid the horror of Route 95 and instead take the slower, longer way there and back. The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel was made for such a strategy and from the time we left the driveway in Massachusetts, did all of our driving, and pulled back in again, the observed fuel mileage was 29.1 MPG. That is out of an SUV that was loaded to the gills with options and our stuff, carried everyone in comfort, and was pretty fun to drive as well. The efficiency, the capability, and the total package do not come cheaply though, as our tester carried a base price of $51,695 and a total price of $61,175 on the window.
One of the things that you’ll not see in these photos is the cool root beerish look of the Deep Auburn Pearl Coat paint on the GC. The cloudy skies kind of knocked the edge off of the gleaming look that the Grand exhibited in bright sunlight. We can tell you that the paint color did a good job hiding the road grime and dirt accumulated during the journey until it really got heavy and then we ran it through the wash to make things nice again. The Dark Sienna Brown interior color was nice and while we’ll get into the comfort and amenities stuff a little later here, we really enjoyed it. If the ultimate test of a vehicle’s comfort is the ability to spend about six 12-hours days in it, this thing came through with flying colors.
Mechanically there was nothing much to note as far as differences between the 2014 models that we drove last year. Engine performance out of the 3.0L turbocharged diesel V6 is more than adequate for jumping on the highway and passing. The eight speed transmission is certainly a big part of this and while the Jeep is not a drag racer, the short gearing through the first few shifts gets things happening in a reasonable hurry. Obviously being a diesel, the torque output is impressive and a key to the spectacular mileage we got was lots of driving on roads where we maintained a speed of 45-55 mpg with the adaptive cruise control on. The thing would get into 8th gear and stay there.
We did zip through some incredible mountain roads in Virginia and the Jeep was fun enough through them. Obviously this is an SUV and you know it when trying to push the thing through switchback corners on a mountain, but body roll is very well managed. The steering ratio being a bit quicker would help the fun factor in those situations but the reality is, the thing isn’t ever going to be a sports car (SRT-8 GCs non-withstanding).
I’ll gripe about the shifter for a minute. The t-handled unit is a switch that you kind of knock up and down to make the Jeep do what you want. It isn’t doing anything but activating electronic stuff and it can be finicky at times. More than once I pushed it up to go into park and I went to get out of the Jeep only to find it either in neutral or still in gear. If it happened once it would have been an anomaly but since it happened 4-5 times over the course of our trip, I’m calling it a flaw. My opinion, take it for what you will. The brakes are solid and even when used in an aggressive setting (coming down very windy mountain roads) they did not fade or ever feel anything but surefooted.
The air suspension is cool and adjusting it to lower so the girls could hop in while nicely dressed or cranking it up at the highest setting for off-road fun, it worked as it is designed. At highway speeds, the GC sucks itself down for better aero and this also aids the fuel mileage cause. Storage space is ample as you would expect and the GC swallowed all of our stuff (and there was a ton!) without issue.
We let the kids use the backseat entertainment screens sparingly and they worked great with their wireless headphones that allowed them to see some SpongeBob and us to continue listening to the radio. They got about an hour of that a day, typically after dark but the rest of the time they were staring out the windows, reading, and clamoring over drag strip fences when we stopped. It was an old fashioned road trip in a modern four wheel drive chariot.
We’re going to tell the rest of the story of the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit EcoDiesel through photos and captions below –