After setting an all-time sales record for 2012, Jeep is setting its sights even higher and counting on an assortment of new products to help it repeat that success this year.
The maker is expected to significantly expand its lineup over the next several years as it adds models, increasing the extremes of its existing product range. But it’s also updating the current lineup, as it announced during its North American International Auto Show news conference.
“It’s going to be a big year for product,” said Jeep brand chief Michael Manley.
Barely three years after scoring a hit with an all-new Grand Cherokee, Jeep is set to make a number of significant updates for 2014. That covers a wide spectrum, from design tweaks to an assortment of new safety and security features.
But the Grand Cherokee will also undergo several revisions meant to improve its less than stellar fuel economy, including not only an all-new 8-speed automatic gearbox but also a new diesel option that will bump mileage into another category entirely.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Chrysler Group’s off-road brand is refreshing its two smallest models, the Compass and Patriot.
Jeep’s strong sales last year, a record 701,626, might come as a surprise to those who have predicted the demise of the sport-utility vehicle market as fuel costs march upwards. And while pump prices have slipped a bit in recent months, few expect that to be more than a temporary aberration. Certainly not Manley and his planning department.
So, the new 8-speed gearbox comes as a welcome update on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, helping drive highway mileage up to as much as 25 mpg with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and 21 mpg with the 5.7-liter V-8. Even the top-line 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT stands to make a measurable improvement, though specific mileage numbers weren’t released.
The new gearbox also is a factor in the 44% increase in towing capacity for the SRT model, now rated at a whopping 7,200 pounds for the 2014 model-year.
But for those who focus on mileage the most appealing addition to the Grand Cherokee line-up for 2014 is certain to be the new EcoDiesel V-6. It’ll squeeze as much as 30 mpg out of the big SUV yet still promises to deliver good performance and towing capacity with its rated 240 horsepower and 420 lb-ft of torque.
Though some might disagree, mileage isn’t everything. The newly updated Grand Cherokee will reach showrooms with an updated infotainment system that includes a larger touchscreen and, with the SRT, an optional 19-speaker Harman Kardon sound system capable to shaking your fillings out with its 825 watts of audio.
New safety features include such technologies as Front Park Assist, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Adaptive Cruise Control,and Selec-Speed Control.
The new 2014 Compass and Patriot models also get improvements in mileage and safety, along with styling updates. Think of the 2014 Compass as “the little brother of the Grand Cherokee,” suggested Chrysler interior design chief Klaus Busse.
The more traditional Patriot’s design comes closer to the original Jeep Cherokee.
With their own transmission update, the two small crossovers are boasting mileage of up to 30 mpg for the coming model-year.
There had been some speculation Jeep might pull the plug on one of the two models as they share the same compact crossover platform. But the updates suggest both Compass and Patriot will be around for at least a couple more years.
And they’ll be joined by other new offerings including an even smaller Jeep to be built in Europe, the maker recently revealed. While it has yet to give its confirmation, sources also expect to see a larger Jeep model to flesh out the top of the line, possibly even reviving the old Jeep Grand Wagoner nameplate.