Jeep unveiled its next-generation Grand Cherokee at last month’s 2013 North American International Auto Show. In addition to the Grand Cherokee’s updated styling and a new high-end trim level, Jeep announced two important powertrain additions for its popular SUV. The first was the introduction of a new 3.0 liter diesel V6 engine capable of 30 mpg on the highway. This new engine comes packed with 240 horsepower and an impressive 420 foot pounds of torque, enabling drivers to tow up to 7,400 pounds.
Equally important is the introduction of a new eight-speed transmission. This high-tech gearbox improves fuel economy by ensuring that the engine operates in its most efficient mode over a wide variety of power requirements and vehicle speeds. It has the added benefit of increasing ride quality and off-road capability through smooth shifts and an even lower crawl ratio.
These two announcements may offer hints into the future fuel-efficiency strategies that can work for Jeep and its go-anywhere brand image. Powerful but efficient diesel engines as well as eight- and nine-speed transmissions boost efficiency with a modest cost penalty, likely to be less than that of more expensive technologies such as hybrid-electric drive. Such approaches also allow the company to share technology already vetted overseas by Jeep’s corporate parent Fiat.