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The Jeep Grand Cherokee compares favourably with its German competitors in the high-end SUV market. (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)
The Jeep Grand Cherokee compares favourably with its German competitors in the high-end SUV market. (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles)

2014 JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE

A diesel SUV? That's a luxury vehicle in Canada Add to ...

If you go shopping for a Jeep Grand Cherokee in Britain, a 3.0-litre diesel V-6 engine is standard. In Canada? Different story.

Chrysler Canada sees diesel as a luxury item. On my Grand Cherokee Summit tester, the EcoDiesel was a $4,995 option on a rig already listed at $62,445 – some $4,600 more than the Hemi-powered, 470-horsepower Grand Cherokee SRT-8.

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You might suggest going diesel on a lesser Grand C, say the $39,995 Laredo. We can all agree that a $45,000-ish Grand Cherokee diesel is a sensible sport-utility vehicle with the towing power of a really good truck, the fuel economy of a mid-size car and enough style to go head-to-head with a gas-powered-only, $60,000 Land Rover LR4.

So, the basic Grand with the diesel option then. Not possible. If you want to get the up-to-$58-a-month in fuel savings of the EcoDiesel (based on EnerGuide numbers), you have to step up to the $58,045 Grand Cherokee Overland and then spend another $4,995. At least you’ll save $696 more on fuel per year than you would with a Toyota 4Runner, and $614 more than with a Ford Explorer EcoBoost V-6.

Fuel savings aside, the diesel in the Jeep doesn’t feel or sound as quiet and refined as the diesel in Volkswagen’s Touareg. You can get the latter for as low as $55,275. So the VW is cheaper, though the city fuel economy of the Jeep is 1.0 litre/100 km better. BMW also has the X5 diesel, starting at $64,490 and Audi has a Q7 diesel for $63,200. Mercedes’ ML 350 BlueTEC diesel is comparable in size and packaging, and it starts at $61,400.

By now you’ve clued into the marketing strategy at Jeep. Diesel is not for the masses, but for the wealthy, and that’s exactly the same story with rivals. That begs the question: is the Grand Cherokee as good as a Merc, a VW, an Audi or a BMW oil-burner? Yes.

The Grand Cherokee’s diesel may not sound and feel as refined as the German offerings, but that’s a small piece of the story. The Jeep’s eight-speed ZF automatic transmission is a terrifically smooth shifter and helps reduce fuel consumption. Indeed, the EcoDiesel take a back seat to nothing in the fuel economy department, and the power is tremendous. Nudge down on the throttle and away you go. Effortless.

At higher speeds, the Jeep suffers from little wind noise and it feels stable. The steering is as tight as any of the Germans, too. Where the Jeep trumps all but the X5 is in the cabin. The leather couches … er, buckets in my tester were delightful. The cabin itself is adequately roomy, too, though it has a sporty feel, with everything close to hand.

I am a fan of the Uconnect 8.4-inch touch-screen multimedia centre. Some argue that it channels too many functions through a single screen, but I like the big, easily-read displays and can live with the fact that you must reset the heated seats and steering wheel every time you start the ignition. Yes, simple, redundant push buttons would be welcome, but not essential.

Still, I can’t help but return to the 4Runner and the Explorer, both of which when comparably equipped sell for $20,000 less than the EcoDiesel Grand Cherokee. You can buy a lot of gasoline for $20,000. So they’re worth a second look, too.

Head spinning? That’s understandable. Jeep is touting $700 a month in fuel savings if you spend $4,995 to an already high-zoot version of its flagship model. As James from Halifax wrote to me, “Nothing personal, but a family fellow like me would like the basic Laredo upgraded $5,000 to get a diesel version.” Not for you, Jim, and not for anyone else in Canada, either.

Yep, a diesel SUV is a luxury item in Canada.

Tech Specs

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Ecodiesel

Type: Mid-size SUV

Price: $67,440

Gas engine: 3.0-litre V-6 turbodiesel

Horsepower/torque: 240 hp/420 lb-ft

Transmission: Eight-speed automatic

Drive: All-wheel drive

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 9.8 city/7.0 highway, diesel fuel.

Alternatives: Volkswagen Touareg, BMW X5, Audi Q7, Mercedes-Benz ML 350 BlueTEC.

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