JEWETT: The diesel engine is a great addition to the Grand Cherokee. It starts right up with no smoke, idles quietly enough that you don't have to shut it down in order to place your burger order at the drive-through and squirts away from a stop without causing the fuel gauge to hightail it toward the empty mark. It's $1,600 well spent if you were going to buy a Grand Cherokee.
That said, I wouldn't take ownership of this SUV if you gave it to me for free. Here's why: In less than a day of driving, I'm pretty sure I've sustained a mild concussion from getting in and out of the Grand Cherokee. The culprit is the side-curtain airbag.
I'm all for safety technology. ABS, traction control, stability control, airbags all around-I want all this technology in the vehicles my family and friends drive. The problem comes from the side-curtain airbag, combined with a raised ride height and a seat that's been set up even higher off the floorpan. (It seems as if most carmakers are convinced that everyone wants to drive around with his head in the clouds!) Bottom line: I can't get in or out of this thing without whacking my head on the edge of the headliner that holds that side-curtain airbag-no matter how I contort my body. And there's not enough adjustment in the power driver's seat to negate this.
There's a generous amount of cargo room in back, but rear-seat passengers are punished with incredibly little foot room, and the back-seat cushion sits pretty low--an aid for headroom but torturous on the legs after anything but a short trip.
My recommendation for a vehicle with some cargo room and a nice diesel engine would be a new-tech Mercedes-Benz Bluetech E-class wagon.