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[January 14, 2013]
Fiat's Italian-made diesel engine to power Jeep Grand Cherokee
Jan 14, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Jeep is going diesel, courtesy of its Italian parent and partner Fiat.
The best-known American SUV brand will take the wraps off a Jeep Grand Cherokee with a 3.0-liter diesel engine this morning at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The engine is made by VM Motori, an Italian engine manufacturer owned by Fiat.
The Grand Cherokee will get 30 miles per gallon on the highway when equipped with the new diesel engine, which will be paired with a new eight-speed transmission.
It produces 240 horsepower and a whopping 420 pound-feet of torque, which should attract the attention of off-road enthusiasts who have been clamoring for a diesel option for years.
Adding an Italian-made diesel engine to the American SUV brand underscores the technology Chrysler has gained from its partnership with Fiat as it strives to meet more stringent fuel economy standards by 2016.
The diesel engine will be an option on the Limited, Overland and Summit versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The price has not been announced.
Chrysler's eight-speed transmission also helps to improve the fuel economy of the Grand Cherokee with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine by about 10% compared with the outgoing model. On the highway, the Grand Cherokee with the gasoline V6 engine will now get 25 miles per gallon.
The new Grand Cherokee also is getting new head lamps, tail lamps, a new rear spoiler and tailgate along with a number of interior upgrades.
The investment is expected to bolster Jeep's best-selling model, which also is part of Chrysler's export plans.
The Grand Cherokee's new options come less than three years after Chrysler introduced the current generation of the midsize SUV. It was the first fully redesigned car or truck launched by Chrysler after its 2009 government-backed bankruptcy restructuring.
"It reflects a change in our view of product management," said Mike Manley, Jeep president and CEO. "We used to launch a vehicle and for six years just leave it in the market." The Grand Cherokee's U.S. sales increased 24.2% in 2012 to 137,613.
Jeep sold 701,626 SUVs globally in 2012 -- its best year ever.
This year, Manley expects Jeep will get some help from upgrades of other models, including a new six-speed transmission for the smaller Compass and Patriot SUVs, as well as a replacement of the Jeep Liberty that will be revealed later this year.
Both the Compass and Patriot will get a new PowerTech automatic transmission that will help those small SUVs get 30 miles per gallon on the highway.
Liberty was introduced in 2002. Its sales have lagged other compact SUVs and crossovers because the Liberty's off-road trail capability hurt its fuel economy.
Liberty sales increased 13.2% to 75,483 last year, but that is far behind the Honda CR-V's 281,652 and Ford Escape's 261,008.
"Liberty was a niche player, for a number of reasons," Manley said. "Customers really wanted better on-the-road driving dynamics ... so we were absent from most of this market." Jeep is promising that Liberty's replacement, which is expected to be shown in late March at the New York International Auto Show, will have an all-new look and better driving dynamics while retaining some off-road capability.
"What you are going to see is a completely new direction on styling," Manley said.
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