DETROIT (AP) — Chrysler's top-selling Grand Cherokee is making the jump to diesel power, an option driven by demand from outdoor enthusiasts, the company says.
It marks the first major expansion into diesel power in the U.S. by a mainstream SUV maker, showing the potential for boosting power and fuel economy. Jeep unveiled the 2014 Grand Cherokee, as well as updates to its smaller Compass and Patriot models, at press previews for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Monday.
The Grand Cherokee's 3.0-liter, EcoDiesel V-6 engine promises 240 horsepower and the ability to tow up to 7,400 pounds. It's expected to get 21 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway in 4x2 models, and 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway for 4x4 models.
The diesel version will be more expensive than gasoline models. But it's likely to be popular with people who want to tow boats or get outdoors in other ways, says Joe Phillippi, president of New Jersey-based AutoTrends Consulting LLC. It also offers the benefit of savings at the pump, which is key for drivers of bigger SUVs.
"There are plenty of potential buyers," he says.
Chrysler sold nearly 155,000 Grand Cherokees in the U.S. last year, up 21 percent from 2011. The model helped the company's U.S. sales jump 21 percent, and Chrysler says it sold roughly 220,000 worldwide.
The Grand Cherokee is available in Laredo, Limited and Overland models as well as the new higher-end Summit model. There also will be a high-performance SRT version, which promises even sportier driving performance and a potentially more sinister look.
Improvements to the Compass and Liberty announced Monday include new 6-speed automatic transmission.
UNDER THE HOOD: Besides the diesel-powered option, the Grand Cherokee is available with V-6 and V-8 gasoline engines. The 3.6-liter, six-cylinder gasoline engine packs 290 horsepower, can tow up to 6,200 pounds and is expected to get 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The 5.7-liter, eight-cylinder engine offers 360 horsepower, can tow up to 7,400 pounds and is expected to get 14-15 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway.