Grand Cherokee Overland Diesel Review

William C Montgomery
by William C Montgomery

Every morning at 4:00 am, I’m woken by an automotive alarm clock. It’s the sound of my neighbor beginning his daily commute, firing-up his 6.7-liter Turbo Diesel Dodge Ram. The oil burner nestling in the pickup’s snout embodies all the characteristics that American car buyers of a certain age associate with Rudolph Diesel’s powerplant. It’s loud, dirty and smelly. Its rattle makes the vehicle vibrate like a cheap motel bed. Is in any wonder Jeep’s website doesn’t go out of its way to advertise the diesel option in its Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland? Yes and no.

This low-key approach to the diesel propulsion extends to the vehicle itself. The only physical indication that my tester didn’t snack on Regular Unleaded: the subtle 3.0L Diesel badge on the Overland’s lower right tailgate. Otherwise, the oil burning Grand Cherokee looks the same as its gas-powered equivalent— which is, of course, no bad thing.

The tweaked fourth gen Grand Cherokee (codename WK) remains a potent design. The front end combines Jeep’s near-trademark seven-slotted grill with a hood cut back around the headlights the way a woman’s brow stretches back from her eyes after a facelift. In the keepin’-it-real category, a high crotched rear-end to enable departure from steep angled grades.

The Overland, named after the Indiana-born automaker of the same name, is Jeep’s highest spec Grand Cherokee (short of the bonkers SRT8). Externally, it’s differentiated from its more plebian siblings by tasteful platinum accents. Taken as a whole, the Cherokee still looks tight and right, ready to take you out of sight.

Inside, the Overland gets Jeep’s white glove treatment. The seats are adorned with two-tone leather and embossed by an Overland logo. Burled vavona wood frames the radio console, gearshift selector, side doors and the top third of the leather wrapped steering wheel. Sadly, every other dashboard surface is plied with the same low rent molded plastics that afflict every other Chrysler product.

Toys abound. The dual-zone climate control uses a Predator-style infra-red sensor to measure front seat passengers’ body temperature. Rain sensitive wipers deal with moisture issues, while Mafiosi will appreciate a remote start function that works from 300 feet. The Overland’s standard-fit Boston Acoustics audio system is loud enough to ward off wildlife from twice that distance. And speaking of noise…

Kick over the Grand Cherokee Overland’s [optional] 3.0-liter common rail diesel and the engine sounds like… a diesel. That said, it sounds like my neighbor’s truck a quarter of a mile away. And by the time you accelerate to 35 mph, the oil burner is inaudible over the air conditioning fan– on low. A diesel digression…

Although the Jeep’s V6 diesel is NOT a BlueTec, it is foundational to Mercedes’ diesel emissions treatment system. That process injects an additive called AdBlue into the engine’s exhaust, which reacts with nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen and water emissions then pass through an SCR-Kat catalytic converter to trap particulates. Should Mercedes agree to supply engines to Jeep subsequent to the Chrysler amputation, BlueTec might be in Grand Cherokee’s future in a year or two.

Meanwhile, the Overland’s turbo diesel provides the kind of low down grunt that sends off-road junkies into spasms of delight. We’re talking 379 ft.-lbs. of torque all the way from 1600rpm to 2800rpm. Though the mill only produced 215hp, the massive low rev torque pushes you down the highway like the invisible hand of god when you give it the gas, eh, diesel. Jump on the accelerator from a standstill and the traction control struggles spastically to keep the P245/65R17 Goodyear Fortera’s from shredding.

But all is not rosy with the new diesel. The Overland’s pogo stick suspension is so mushy I’m convinced Jeep invited Dodge engineers to tune it. The super-soft springy suspension is atypical of any other late model Grand Cherokees I’ve ever driven. Equally out of character: the Overland’s heavy, numb steering, which makes piloting the vehicle through traffic as much fun as hefting a garbage truck through a slalom course.

Last week, driving my family over the high plains of New Mexico across northern Arizona and into southern Utah, I stopped every 340 miles to refuel my V6 Liberty’s 20.5-gallon fuel tank. With its 22-gallon fuel tank, the Grand Cherokee diesel can cruise more than 450 highway miles per fill-up (estimated 20/25mpg). Road trip pit stops are more about emptying bladders than wallets.

So are SUV driving Americans ready to accept diesel power? We’ll find out, but it won’t be the Overland that wins the hearts of the driving public. The CRD option adds $2,010 to the Overland’s price tag, raising the price of admission to the oil burning club to a total of $42,285 (as tested). Never mind noise, smell or rattle, premium pricing and sloppy handling makes the Overland a glow plug non-starter.

William C Montgomery
William C Montgomery

More by William C Montgomery

Join the conversation
2 of 44 comments
  • CRDWayne CRDWayne on Sep 15, 2009

    As a Diesel S(SRT options) Limited GC owner for 8 months and 22,000 mi, I am very impressed with all facets of this vehicle. The power is more than good and economy is about 25% better than my previous Dakota with the 4.7 gasser. I cannot see how the review could say it is noisy and smelly as it certainly is not. At idle there is a little clatter but once in motion is as quiet as most any SUV I have been in. At 75mph on the highway it is very quiet but does it ever have the torque to handle anything I have seen whether 7% grades or off road tracking around. It is fully loaded with all the bells and whistles but the options I like best are the auto-levelling HID lights, camera, Sirius radio and rain sensing wipers which is something very new to me. Mileage is great (24mpg+ or 9.5-10l/100km) and I do not baby it. Getting 450mi or 750km on a tank is relatively routine. Being in Canada, the traction control is great on icy roads in winter and it handles very well on gravel and other slippery conditions without any wheel spin to deliver power exactly as the traction allows. So far I think the mileage is getting better recently as it is getting more wore in. I often pull a 10' trailer with quad and gear in it and it handles it very well as it is rated to haul about 7000 lb unit. Thus far the only beef I have is the cost of oil changes which runs about $275 for the Mobil Syn oil. Thankfully they only occur every 6000mi of 10,000K. All in all it is very comfortable to drive and and fatigue is not an issue. I made a trip from Calgary to So Cal in April and blew away 800+ miles each day with no problem driving for 11+ hours. That is a good test of how comfortable a vehicle is and it passed. The SRT leather seats help as they are exceptional. Back seat is a little confined but overall not in use very much for the 2 of us so that is a not a big factor. Am I glad I bought bet!

  • Carnuted Carnuted on Sep 18, 2009

    Cummings is widely considered to be the best truck diesel engine in the world. There is a 4cyl version of the 6 cylinder dodge truck engine currently being used in delivery vans, which can log hundreds of thousands of miles a year. I would like to see this engine put into the jeeps. It has proven reliability, and there is already a vast aftermarket and high-performance market available since many of the parts interchange with the very common 6 cyl version. Just my 2 cents, but jeep does have a nice line-up:

  • Grant P Farrell Oh no the dealership kept the car for hours on two occasions before giving me a loaner for two months while they supposedly replaced the ECU. I hate cords so I've only connected it wirelessly. Next I'm gonna try using the usb-c in the center console and leaving the phone plugged in in there, not as convenient but it might lower my blood pressure.
  • Jeff Tiny electrical parts are ruining today's cars! What can they ...
  • CEastwood From zero there is nowhere to go but up . BYD isn't sold in the U.S. and most Teslas are ugly azz 90s looking plain jane drone mobiles . I've only seen one Rivian on the road and it 's not looking good for them . I live out in the sticks of NW NJ and EVs just aren't practical here , but the local drag strip thrives in the warmer months with most cars making the trip from New York .
  • Lorenzo Aw, that's just the base price. Toyota dealers aren't in the same class as BMW/Porsche upsellers, and the Toyota base is more complete, but nobody will be driving that model off the lot at that price.
  • Mike The cost if our busing program is 6.2 million for our average size district in NJ. It was 3.5 last year.