The hill rises out of the flat Texas countryside like a five-acre blister. Common sense would dictate I simply detour around the giant mass. But that’s not why I’ve driven two hours west from Austin. In my Jeep Grand Cherokee. I’m determined to tackle this big rock head-on — and with the Jeep’s 2.0-liter turbo engine shut off.
If that has you a bit confused, a little explanation is in order. I’m driving the new Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, and I’m determined to go up and over this rock mound relying solely on the electric drive side of this plug-in hybrid.
It’s been three decades since Jeep delivered the first Grand Cherokee, setting in motion one of the biggest shifts in the U.S. automotive market since the end of World War II. Today, SUVs rule the road and Jeep is determined to carve out a bigger share of that market by introducing a broader mix of variants.
It not only rolled out an all-new version of the Grand Cherokee for the 2022 model year but added an extended wheelbase version offering three-row seating for the first time, dubbed the “L.” Now, the off-road brand is adding a plug-in hybrid package. With only modest tweaks, the Grand Cherokee 4xe uses the same drivetrain found in the Jeep Wrangler 4xe to produce 375 horsepower and a stump-pulling 470 pound-feet of torque.
True off-roaders know that it’s torque, not horsepower, that helps you power your way across a field of boulders. And what has proven particularly appealing about the Wrangler 4xe is the ability to do this in near silence, with only a gentle hum of the motor and the sound of rubber on gravel.
The Wrangler model is now America’s best-selling plug-in hybrid, something that’s caught even Jeep officials by surprise. Now, they’re hoping to duplicate that success with the Grand Cherokee 4xe.
The fifth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee didn’t stray far from the looks of the outgoing model — which, in turn, retains many of the distinctive cues that made the very first version of this midsize SUV such a success.
Compared to the old model, there’s more sculpting to the doors and fenders, while the beltline is slightly lower. And all new Grand Cherokee models now come with standard LED fog lamps, headlights and taillights. The headlights are more slit-like, while the grille leans more aggressively forward, picking up a few ideas from last year’s Grand Wagoneer Concept.
The latest version of the SUV features a built-in rear spoiler and roof rack, more platinum-hued chrome, and American flag emblems by the Grand Cherokee badges. The 4xe drivetrain is available in a variety of trim levels, such as the Overland and Summit Reserve, and each adds unique design accents, notably in grille detailing. The trail-focused Overland model features special bumpers designed to maximize approach and departure angles.
If you were looking for sharp distinctions between standard and plug-in hybrid versions of the Grand Cherokee, you’ll be disappointed. Jeep designers chose to stick with a subtle approach, opting only to add a few blue accents — including front tow hooks. And, of course, you’ll now find a small door on the front left fender concealing the plug-in’s charging port.
The 4xe is only being offered in a two-row configuration, an appropriate decision considering it’s better suited for off-roading than the stretched Grand Cherokee L.
All told, the 4xe delivers 10.9 inches of ground clearance and up to 24 inches of water fording. Jeep also added a skid plate specifically to protect the battery pack from the hits it might experience out on the trail.
Inside, the goal was to “create something very different” from the outgoing Grand Cherokee, said interior designer Chris Benjamin. The visual theme is more horizontal, and there’s a use of more upgraded and elegant materials, such as real wood, real leather and suede for the headliner on higher-trim packages.
Details like double-cross-stitching, as well as the knurled shifter knob, are lifted right from the new Grand Wagoneer and give the latest Grand Cherokee a level of luxury never before seen in the midsize SUV.
The Grand Cherokee also shares the Wagoneer’s custom-designed McIntosh audiophile sound system, complete with an app for the touchscreen replicating that brand’s familiar analog needle display. But more on the SUV’s long list of technology in a moment.
The cabin is not only more luxurious in appearance but also more comfortable, with plenty of leg, shoulder and headroom and seats that soak up the bumps, mile after mile. They also help keep you in place as you jounce your way down a rocky trail.
The heart of the 2022 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is its plug-in hybrid drivetrain. That package pairs a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 gas engine with an electric motor. The combined system pushes out 375 hp — 82 more than the Grand Cherokee’s V-6 option — and 470 lb-ft of torque. The system is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission.
What potential buyers likely will appreciate is the fact that Jeep didn’t narrow the 4xe’s other drivetrain options. It’s available with a choice of both the Quadra-Trac II and Quadra-Drive II 4×4 systems, albeit modified to make better use of the hybrid drive system.
With a 0-60 time factory estimated at 6 seconds flat, the 4xe is a second faster than the Grand Cherokee with a V-8, and 1.5 seconds quicker than with the conventional V-6 drivetrain.
Motorists can switch between several different powertrain modes, including hybrid, where the 4xe will seek to maximize fuel economy. The electric drive system can be idled, preserving battery power until later. Or you can switch the system to drive fully electric. In that mode, you’ll get up to an EPA-estimated 25 miles before the gas engine automatically fires back up. (Surprisingly, that’s several miles more than with the Wrangler 4xe due to the bigger SUV’s better aerodynamics, Jeep engineers explained.)
If the Wrangler 4xe offers any hint about how owners will use the Grand Cherokee plug-in, many will intentionally save the battery charge for when they’re off-road. The automaker claims the pack can operate for up to about three hours on the trail before its drained.
Safety and Technology
That optional McIntosh audio system was one of the coolest features available at launch on the new Grand Cherokee L, but there’s plenty of other impressive technology onboard.
There are now as many as three digital displays, at least if you go for the optional screen embedded in the instrument panel in front of the passenger riding “shotgun.” Actually, make that four, because you also can get a head-up display, which offers a lot of useful information, including navigation guidance.
The latest Uconnect system offers a dazzling degree of capabilities. And customizability. You can move features and apps around as readily as on a smartphone – and as easily. The system makes it surprisingly easy to find what you want, most key functions either on the home screen or just one level down.
The new system also operates five times faster than the outgoing Uconnect package. It has Amazon’s Alexa built in. And it features the ability to use over-the-air updates to not only download content but to upgrade new features and even fix vehicle software glitches that once would have required a service call.
Meanwhile, there are traditional climate controls, a real tuning knob, and additional, manual controls on the steering wheel.
Like so many other new vehicles, a new smartphone app allows owners to operate vehicle functions remotely. Other features include infrared night vision which automatically spots and highlights obstacles, such as deer that might run out across the road. And Jeep’s first semi-autonomous system, Active Ride Assist, helps you steer, though you still need maintain at least a light grip on the wheel.
In terms of safety, Jeep officials claim to have packed in as many as 110 different features. That includes standard advanced driver assistance systems like automatic emergency braking, blind-spot detection and park assist, as well as such options as night vision and surround view.
As I approached the big hill, I cautiously followed my spotter’s guidance, letting my left wheel take the first bite at a gnarly boulder. With the gas engine shut off, I could hear the oversized tires spin and then grab, the Jeep’s nose slowly starting to point upwards at a 30-degree angle. Inch by inch, foot by foot, the Grand Cherokee worked its way up and over each obstacle. The ability to do so in near silence was an unexpected plus. Not only could I hear the 21-inch Continental CrossContact tires work, but I could hear birds chirping and water flowing in a nearby stream.
The electric drivetrain’s low-speed torque really proved itself as I made my way up and over the big hill, and then started back down the other side. If torque is critical, electric drive technology is clearly going to win the hearts of serious off-roaders.
Of course, you’re not likely to buy a Grand Cherokee solely to take out to the back woods. And I found myself equally impressed with the drivetrain during the many hours I spend behind the wheel driving to and from Austin. The combined gas-electric technology seemed to function much more smoothly than I recalled from my time in the Wrangler 4xe. And it had all the grunt I needed to briefly push up and past the 100 mph mark.
For those who might want to operate in all-electric mode around town, the 4xe doesn’t match the range of some other plug-ins, but it should have enough to handle the daily run for many commuters — especially if they have a place to plug in at work.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Specifications
|Dimension||L: 193.5 inches/W: 84.6 inches/H: 70.8 inches/Wheelbase: 116.7 inches|
|Powertrain||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine plus electric motor; 8-speed transmission and four-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||23 mpg combine/56 MPGe combined|
|Performance Specs||375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $57,700; Top trim: $74,300, plus $1,795 destination charge|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
In its base trim, the Grand Cherokee 4xe starts at $57,700. Buyers who want to exercise the plug-in off-road should consider the Trailhawk package, at $62,485, or the seriously well-equipped Overland 4xe, which jumps to $65,760 before options. If you want all the bells-and-whistles, the Summit Reserve presses onward and upward, starting at $74,300. As is normal for Jeep, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Jeep has clearly scored big with its original plug-in hybrid, the Wrangler 4xe. I have every reason to believe it will do well with the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, as well. The bigger SUV is far more lavishly equipped — even in base trim — and a lot easier and more pleasant to drive on-road. Off-road, the Grand Cherokee remains one of the most capable offerings in the midsize SUV segment.
Jeep buyers now have more options than ever, including the stretched Grand Cherokee L, as well as a first-ever plug-in hybrid. Whether you want to save on your fuel bill or take your off-road capabilities to the max, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is clearly an appealing package.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe — Frequently Asked Questions
How much does the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe cost?
It starts at $57,700 in base trip, then rises to to $74,300 in the top-line Summit Reserve trim. None of that includes the $1,795 destination fees.
When can you order the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe?
You can head to any Jeep dealership and do it now.
What is the fuel economy on the Grand Cherokee 4xe?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it gets 23 mpg and 56 MPGe.