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Detroit show: Eight speeds for Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep trick: A new eight-speed automatic transmission and improved fuel economy and towing capacity are just some of changes to the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee that was revealed at the Detroit show.

Jeep Australia’s top-selling Grand Cherokee to get eight-speed auto in September

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Jeep logo15 Jan 2013

By MIKE COSTELLO

THE introduction of a new standard eight-speed automatic transmission is the headline act of a Jeep Grand Cherokee upgrade previewed at this week’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

First examples of the revised range are expected to hit Australia in the third quarter of 2013, where they will be joined by facelifted versions of the smaller Compass and Patriot SUVs also revealed this week in Detroit.

The mechanical upgrade gives the popular American large SUV up to five per cent better fuel economy thanks to its wider spread of ratios and standard Eco mode, and improves towing capacity by as much as 24 per cent on standard models and 44 per cent on the flagship SRT.

At present, Grand Cherokee models sold here feature a five-speed auto, apart from the 5.7-litre V8 Limited and Overland. Even the hardcore 6.4-litre 344kW Grand Cherokee SRT8 persists with a five-speed unit.

The new transmission – which is already used on the latest Chrysler 300 in petrol V6 form – comes with wheel-mounted paddle shifters while a lower crawl ratio has been added for off-road use.

More a mid-life facelift than a full model upgrade, the revised Jeep flagship nevertheless gets a range of styling tweaks and more standard equipment.

North American versions for the first time also get the 177kW/550Nm 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine already sold in Australia.

Engine outputs across the board are unchanged for the 210kW/347Nm Pentastar 3.6-litre petrol V6 and 259kW/520Nm 5.7-litre petrol V8.

The flagship SRT8 continues with its thumping 344kW/624Nm 6.4-litre Hemi V8 and, though Jeep has not yet revealed fuel economy figures, expect the current model’s 14.1L/100km rating to drop thanks to the new auto and the revised cylinder deactivation mode.

Styling changes include slimmer headlights, inspired by the 300 sedan, and a slimmer signature seven-slot grille design, new front and rear bumpers, LED daytime-running lights and ‘softer’ tail-lights.

The cabin gets a revised centre stack with a new 5.0-inch touchscreen for base variants and an 8.4-inch unit for higher-specified models, a distinctive ‘E-shifter’ knob for the new transmission, and a new three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters.

A new ‘Summit’ luxury model has also been launched in the US, with more premium leather trim and wood cabin trim, a 19-speaker/825-watt sound system with three sub-woofers, and a dual-pane sunroof.

It is not clear if Jeep Australia will expand its range to include this new variant.

Jeep is the Chrysler Group’s self-professed ‘truly global brand’, with 75 per cent of all company sales outside of North America featuring the signature seven-bar grille.

The Grand Cherokee is the company’s top-selling model globally as well as in Australia, where Jeep sold 8373 units overall in 2012, representing a mammoth 148.2 per cent growth over 2011.

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