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Boston Auto Show: The Grand Cherokee that got away

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  January 20, 2013 02:56 PM

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(Clifford Atiyeh for Boston.com; Interior: Chrysler)

You won't see the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee at the New England International Auto Show. It was here for a few hours during the Thursday media preview, and then Chrysler shipped it back to Detroit where it debuted Tuesday at the North American International Auto Show. The black 2013 model, at right, is on display.

We love the Grand Cherokee so much that the New England Motor Press Association awarded it -- twice -- as its official Winter Vehicle of New England. This refreshed model makes a lot of improvements that make the Mercedes ML-Class (which shares its basic chassis) appear very overpriced.

Beyond new dressings at the front and rear -- including body-colored grill surrounds, more chrome, and LED accent lighting on the loaded Overland Summit pictured above -- is a big Jeep that's very serious on saving fuel. That has never happened in the company's history.

A new 8-speed automatic replaces the five-speed on all trim levels, helping the standard V-6 deliver 25 mpg highway, a 2-mpg improvement. Even better is a 3.0-liter diesel V-6 with more than 400 pound-feet of torque and an estimated 30-mpg highway rating for two-wheel-drive models, which tops most of the smaller Compass models (the four-wheel-drive reaches 28 mpg). Together with its massive fuel tank, the Grand Cherokee diesel can travel 730 miles without a fill-up, according to Chrysler, which expects this model to account for 15 percent of all Grand Cherokee sales. There's no doubt this is a superior choice over the thirsty V-8, especially as all of Jeep's German competitors offer a diesel.

On select models with the adjustable air suspension, a new "Eco" driving mode lowers the SUV's ride height, tunes the engine to shut down its cylinders more aggressively and performs a few tricks with the fuel delivery system to eke out more miles.

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Inside, Chrysler's latest Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system is larger, clearer, and easier to use than the current setup. A restyled instrument panel with a large center LCD display, a new shifter, softer leather on the seats and dash, and matte-finish wood graced the Overland Summit we saw.

"Every time we [do] a new Jeep, we have to make sure it's a little more capable, a little more luxurious," said Jim Morrison, Jeep's marketing director.

It'll be a few more months before you'll see one at your local dealer. We're still in shock that any full-size Jeep can claim 30 mpg. Are the planets aligning without us knowing?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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