New Car Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

In a time when mid-size SUVs can blow right past the $50,000 mark, it's refreshing to drive one that comes in about 20 grand below that.

Generally, the manufacturers like to put their highest or second-highest trim line vehicles, loaded with options, into the press fleets that TireKickers (automotive journalists) like myself drive.

If they'd done that with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, let's say a top-of-the-line Summit 4X4, we'd be looking at a base price of $50,995.  And as loaded as the Summit is, there's still another $7,000 plus worth of available options.  We could have been bumping up against 60 grand.

But Jeep chose to introduce us to the heavily refreshed 2014 Grand Cherokee by giving us the base Laredo 2-wheel drive.  Starting price? A very reasonable $28,795.  It comes with a 3.6 liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 260 pounds per foot of torque, is mated to Chrysler's new 8-speed automatic transmission, and gets an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

Not too shabby.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Also on the standard equipment list, 17-inch alumninum painted wheels, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, a full compliment of airbags, keyless entry, dual-zone air conditioning, a six-speaker audio system with a 5-inch touch screen and a generous fuel capacity...a 24.6 gallon tank.

Some fast math:  If you were to attain the EPA highway estimate, there's a cruising range of 615 miles.  In a mid-size American SUV that burns gas, not diesel. Color me impressed.

The new styling is a matter of taste. I started out the week thinking I preferred the '11-'13 model's looks. But the '14 grew on me.  

Inside, materials, fit and finish are all fine, and in Arizona in the summertime, cloth seats are way more of a luxury than leather will ever be.

The power's more than adequate, the ride fairly smooth.  The brakes seemed inconsistent...requiring more pressure some times,  less others.

And frankly, the gauge cluster bothered me.  The tach, temp and fuel are real analog gauges, but the speedometer is a video display that looks like a gauge.  Why?  I don't have a problem with either, but why not make them either all analog or all video?

Gauge cluster of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The press fleet folks restrained themselves when it came to options, too.  There are only two...an upgrade to an 8.4-inch UConnnect touchscreen and to 18-inch aluminum wheels, so with delivery charges, the Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X2 rang in at $31,285.

You can spend a lot more and get a lot less from other vehicles. Conventional wisdom is that buyers avoid base models, but I hope there's a strong market for a mid-size SUV at this price point.