The Cherokee’s common-rail direct injection engine is basically a larger, more powerful 2.8-litre version of the 2.5-litre diesel already available with the Cherokee. The Grand Cherokee, despite its all-American heritage, gains a direct-injection diesel and matching five-speed automatic transmission from Mercedes-Benz – one of the benefits of the Daimler-Chrysler tie-up.

Whereas traditional diesel engines use a mechanical pump to fire fuel to individual injectors, the CRD engine uses a high-pressure pump to deliver the produce via a single fuel rail.

.For acceleration, the 2.7-litre diesel is only slightly off the pace compared to the Grand Cherokee’s 4.7-litre petrol V8 – 11.2sec for the 0-100km/h – and mostly makes light work of lugging its hefty 1925kg body around.

The Grand Cherokee’s V8 produces more power, but the diesel offers impressive torque figures. Both produce a similar peak of around 400Nm, but the diesel achieves this at much lower revs – between 1800-2600rpm – which makes it a better proposition for off-road driving and towing.

In fact, the diesel has the best towing capacity (3360kg) in the Grand Cherokee line-up, which is good news for those wanting to pull a big boat, caravan or horse float.

The diesel’s low-down pulling power came to the fore during the more challenging off-road sections. With a good spread of torque early on, and low-range gearing, the diesel Grand Cherokee takes steep, slippery inclines in its stride. Good height clearance combined with a plush ride also allows it to sweep along rutted fire trails with great ease.

The Grand Cherokee also copes well with steep declines, despite the lack of any electronic descent aids common on many of its rivals. Again, low-range allied with controlled engine braking allows for a safe crawl down sharper drops.Front and rear-side curtain airbags, as well as front airbags, are now standard, as is rain sensing front wipers.

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