When you think of the Jeep brand, your mind likely goes to the lovable, and serious, off-road Wrangler. It’s the quintessential Jeep that has rolled off the assembly line in Toledo since 1941. But it’s not the most popular Jeep.
The Jeep sales leader is the Grand Cherokee, and it’s new this year and quite special. It gained a 3rd row to make it more competitive with the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Tahoe. It’s also significantly more upmarket than the previous generation.
Also, slowly, it’s getting a new powertrain. Available only on the 2022 Grand Cherokee 2 row is the all-new 4xe powertrain. Technologically identical to its Wrangler counterpart, the plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee is the one to get.
How do we know? We spent a day in Austin, Texas driving both on and off-road in the most premium non-Wagoneer offering from Jeep and came away incredibly impressed.
Let’s start with that powertrain. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder motor mated to an electric motor. Supplying that electric motor with electricity is a 17.3 kWh battery pack. The combine power and torque is sent to all four wheels via a modified 8-speed automatic transmission that deletes the traditional torque converter. Depending on model, there are two different four-wheel drive versions available, including one with a disconnecting front sway bar and e-locker rear locking differential.
Horsepower is rated at 375 and torque is a healthy 470 lb-ft. It’s quicker to 60 mph, claims Jeep, than the Grand Cherokee equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI V8.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe is rated to up to 25 miles on electricity alone, and has a combined MPGe rating from the EPA at 56. For those counting, that MPGe rating is actually better than the all-electric GMC Hummer EV. But we digress.
Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s latest attempt at moving the entire brand up market, following a successful rollout of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer sub-brands. And it shows inside the Grand Cherokee.
We spent most of the day in a Summit trim model, and it was swathed in Tupalo tan leather with wood accents. To say this interior gives a modern Range Rover a run for its money is an understatement.
Front seats are heated and cooled, plus have a massage function. Digital screens are spread across the entire dash, including a new standard passenger display screen for inputting navigation directions, watching movies, or doing tasks where the driver would be locked out of. The screen isn’t locked out, though, because it’s not visible from the driver’s seat.
Uconnect 5 is the base operating system for the vehicle, and features wireless support for Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The instrument cluster is customizable, and can show a full screen map with driving directions, off-road specific gauges, and even the excellent night vision camera system.
But the real selling point for a modern Jeep is the stereo. The McIntosh MX950 system in the Grand Cherokee is one of the best in-car factory stereo systems we’ve heard. The only one better is the McIntosh MX1375 Reference system in the Grand Wagoneer.
We’d go so far to say that this stereo also beats many aftermarket setups, especially when they haven’t been tuned by real professional tuners.
Feed this system some high quality audio, like Tidal’s Master tracks, and you’ll be in for a treat. Just make sure some jabroni didn’t mess with the levels before you. The system was tuned with the levels being flat. Trust us, the McIntosh engineers know more than you do. Don’t mess with it.
Our test model wasn’t equipped with the rear screen entertainment system, but if it were it’d have independent Amazon Fire TVs built into each one, meaning each rear seat passenger can stream whatever digital media they desire through the built-in modem or by connecting the Grand Cherokee to a hot spot.
Rear seat passengers will be greeted with plenty of legroom and access to their own heated seats when equipped. While we didn’t get to spend a lot of time in the rear, there is ample cargo space for most reasonable road trips.
Actually, this Grand Cherokee is probably a road trip monster. We want to take it on one.
There’s a new exterior on Grand Cherokee for 2022, which is much more upscale. The 7-slot grille, which is a Jeep staple and trademark, is in place and is flanked by a couple of narrow LED headlights. On Trailhawk models, the tow hooks are blue. On all 4xe Grand Cherokees, the badging is either blue or has a blue shadow.
Wheel sizes can go as large as 21-inches.
We wish that Jeep had its hands-off driver assist feature ready, but it is not. Current models aren’t shipping with the hardware, so if you’re thinking that’s something you might want, you’ll have to wait.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk is the model’s off-road variant. An Overland will do a lot of the stuff the Trailhawk will do, but if you think you’re going to frequently go off the beaten path you’ll want Trailhawk.
The Trailhawk is actually an interesting idea. Our off-road trail that Jeep took us on was more complicated and challenging that most people would tackle in a full-blown Wrangler. Spotters from Jeep Jamboree made sure we didn’t bash the car up too much, but it required some serious concentration.
That’s the thing, though. Even if an owner won’t off-road like we did that day, they want to know they can. If it says Jeep on the hood, it has to be able to do all the Jeep things.
The only thing really holding back the Grand Cherokee while rock crawling is tire grip. Jeep doesn’t want drivers to air down on these programs because they want to show off factory performance, but some more surface area from a deflated tire would’ve helped.
Regardless, the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk is impressive as a rock crawler. Because there’s not a traditional torque converter, you feel like you have a direct link between your throttle input and what the tires do. Like in the Wrangler 4xe, you feel like you’re in complete control.
Lockers and a disconnecting front sway bar also help immensely, also do the plethora of cameras on board. On the Trailhawk models, the front camera even has a washing function in case it gets muddy or dusty and needs cleared off.
Extra underbody protection from some heavy duty skid plates protect the mechanical equipment, including the battery.
It’s super fun, especially if you have a spotter that knows that they’re doing. If we had any doubt about Grand Cherokee’s capability before the day started, those doubts were put to bed by the afternoon.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe is available in four different trim levels.
- 4xe: The entry-level trim, which includes the passenger screen and an Alpine premium stereo. It starts at $59,495.
- Trailhawk: This has the off-road camera, the upgraded four-wheel drive with eLSD, and an air ride suspension. It starts at $64,280.
- Overland: This splits the difference between Trailhawk and Summit, and is the first model to include the McIntosh stereo. It has air suspension but no eLSD or sway bar disconnect. It starts at $67,555.
- The Summit sits at the top of range. It has the eLSD, but no sway bar disconnect. It has the McIntosh audio and 20-inch wheels. It has the sunroof and surround view camera. It starts at $71,615.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe is eligible for the current $7,500 federal tax incentive, plus any state and local offers.
It should be arriving in dealerships shortly. We look forward to spending more time actually living with the Grand Cherokee later this year, because it’s a seriously impressive vehicle and a great way to ease yourself into the plug in lifestyle.