First Drive in the Diesel Jeep Grand Cherokee

By David Thomas  on June 22, 2006

In addition to some cosmetic changes, inside and out, the 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee will now offer a diesel engine in the Laredo, Limited and Overland trim levels. Models with the diesel engine will be badged CRD for common-rail diesel. Additionally, the 4.7-liter V-8 gasoline engine will now be flex-fuel, capable of running on E85 or gas.

When I drove the Grand Cherokee CRD around DaimlerChrysler's proving grounds in Chelsea, Mich., it delivered as promised. It's ridiculously gutsy from a standing start, even with the relatively heavy Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive underfoot. It's no surprise, because the engine puts out 376 pounds-feet of torque at 1,600-2,800 rpm, as well as 215 horsepower at 3,800 rpm. What makes this engine stand out, though, is how quiet and smooth it is. It's definitely the most refined diesel engine I've ever driven in a car — or light truck, as the case may be.

The 3.0-liter V-6, which has been used in the Grand Cherokee overseas, is a Mercedes engine that is arguably the most advanced small diesel made. When you start — and particularly when you stop — the engine there's no vibration that shouts "diesel." The same couldn't be said of Mercedes' previous diesel car engine, the 3.2-liter in the E320.

The new engine is the foundation of Mercedes' Bluetec system, which promises record-low emissions when operated on low-sulfur fuel. The Grand Cherokee CRD isn't currently Bluetec, though it does include a particulate trap to catch all that diesel soot we Americans object to. One could say the car is diesel-ready, in a sense. When low-sulfur fuel hits the pumps here within the next year, Jeep can begin to sell Bluetec versions that make the engine as clean as possible.

Expect to see the Grand Cherokee CRD in early 2007, except in non-diesel friendly states like California.

The diesel Liberty, which is also badged CRD, will be discontinued in 2007 because upgrading it to meet stringent new EPA requirements would have been cost-prohibitive.

Joe Wiesenfelder reporting from Detroit.

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Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David