Remote off-road touring is the discipline least suited to our brave new electric future. And yet, Jeep is moving toward that future with pace, adding a plug-in hybrid version of its legendary Grand Cherokee to a growing global hybrid stable. Trent Nikolic tests the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe at its international launch to find out whether one of the original off-road icons is making the right moves.
- Pure EV mode range is real-world realistic
- Cabin execution and comfort are excellent
- You don’t feel the extra weight on the road
- Indicative pricing might send it north of $100K
- Pure EV range could be a little further
- Out of EV mode, it’s not as efficient as we had hoped
Large SUVs continue to find favour in the Australian new car market, and into that fray comes the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe. The first hybrid in the large SUV segment from the iconic American off-road brand.
Firstly, its name is read as ‘four by e’ as opposed to ‘four-ex-ee’ as a play on the more traditional ‘four by four’. It’s a plug-in hybrid, too, unlike Toyota’s new Kluger, which is what we call a ‘closed-loop’ hybrid.
That means, you’ll have to remember to plug the Jeep in at home in order to have full electric power when you’re next ready to head off. However, unlike closed-loop hybrids, the plug-in versions promise a useful 45km of electric-only range.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been around for more than three decades now, and there’s finally a seven-seat version coming, too, which will allow it to compete with some of the segment heavyweights. The availability of a hybrid effectively rounds out the range with something to appeal to most buyers.
For 2022, there’s no diesel engine available, with either a petrol V6 or the hybrid we’re testing here. That could take some selling in our market, where diesel remains the most popular choice, even as diesel seemingly falls out of favour with most manufacturers. That’s a factor, too, as diesel is efficient in the real world and in remote areas, so diesel will remain relevant to Australian buyers for some time.
This segment is a tough one. I know we write that often, but this one really is a hard battleground. It’s a varied mix of on-road and off-road vehicles, with fast-movers like the Kluger, Prado, MU-X, CX-9 and Pajero Sport leading the segment so far in 2022.
In that sense, Jeep has a real battle on its hands, but with attractive design and genuine off-road credentials, it stands out as a different option. Only the Prado will push the Grand Cherokee off-road, and even then the Jeep will do everything easier.
On that subject of style, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is an attractive SUV. It looks like a Jeep, but it’s also very modern, with clever styling cues and attractive lines ensuring it looks just as good in a hotel valet as it does covered in dirt out in the scrub.
The proportions of the Grand Cherokee are excellent in the flesh. It’s got short front and rear overhangs, wheels that have been pushed out to the corners, and an attractive stance. The black roof on some of the models we drove really changes the look of the Grand Cherokee too. The signature seven-slot grille sits proudly up front, and trapezoidal wheel openings are also a signature of Jeep styling. Adventurous family buyers take note.
Jeep’s designers at launch told us that it was important the 4xe didn’t scream ‘I’m an electric vehicle!’ at everyone who sees one. As such, the electric branding is actually quite subtle.
You’ll know the 4xe if you see it, but the blue touches around the vehicle and the understated badging work well. Much of the technology, like the sensors at the front of the body, is hidden. “We didn’t want it to look like the technology is designing the vehicle,” chief exterior designer Greg Howell told us.
We’re not sure yet exactly which specification grades we’ll get in Australia, and we can’t yet report on local pricing. A quick look at the range in the States, though, indicates the Overland is the sweet spot, incredibly capable off-road, but also well-equipped and practical. That model comes with 20-inch wheels, but if you opt for the off-road pack you can step down to 18s with more options for focused off-road rubber. Across the Grand Cherokee range in its home market, nine different wheel options are available.
An area where Jeep designers claimed to have spent plenty of development time and effort is the quality and execution of the cabin. The good news for the interior design team (and the engineers who had to make it work of course) is they have executed a high-quality, premium-feeling cabin.
It’s beautifully appointed, and the fit, finish, quality of the materials, comfort and insulation are all excellent. Even after a long slog down the highway, the heated and cooled seats were comfortable and feature plenty of adjustment for all drivers. The cabin is the most obvious area where the Grand Cherokee can take the fight to the established premium Euros.
The cabin also features true ambient lighting. You can turn the intensity of the lights up or down to suit the way you’d like the cabin to look at night. Specific to the PHEV, the off-road-focused Trailhawk gets a different interior as well.
Surf blue stitching in the cabin matches the blue exterior detail, the battery indicator is blue, and the badge – branded into the steering wheel – is also in blue. Trailhawk seats get a contrast suede insert, as well as surf blue stitch and badge.
The front seats have been thinned and tidied up to deliver more leg and knee room into the second row. Overland and Summit models in the USA get four-zone climate control with controls for the second row.
There’s room in the second row for three adults, and the bench is neatly sculpted so you sit into it, rather than on it, like you do in some less comfortable SUVs. The second row in the 4xe is a good one. Visibility is excellent, too, with a large glasshouse making the view out broad, adding to the sense of space when you’re in the cabin for long periods of time.
As buyers demand in this segment, there’s also plenty of luggage space behind that second row. With the seats up, there’s 1067L available, and it expands out to 2005L if you fold the second row down (though Jeep uses more generous SAE methodology to measure boot space, not the VDA standard used by most brands in Australia). The fact you can transport five people in comfort, and take all their gear along for the ride, strengthens the family credentials of the new 4xe Grand Cherokee.
If Jeep is hoping to take the fight up to the more expensive SUVs in this segment, then the interior execution is definitely capable of doing just that. It looks and feels like a high-quality cabin, and that sense translates to the real world, where time spent in the cabin is always enjoyable. Don’t go into a test drive of the new Grand Cherokee with any preconceived notions of how an American cabin should feel. Jeep has delivered well on this front.
|2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe|
|Boot volume||1067L seats up / 2005L seats folded|
Infotainment and Connectivity
Jeep has made some solid inroads here, with a system that works well and is easy to become familiar with despite the amount of information it can display and the control you have.
The most obvious highlight, and the ace up the 4xe’s sleeve for front passenger engagement, is the 10.25-inch screen that sits in front of the driver, and is barely even noticeable when it’s not in use. It’s a really clever piece of technology that brings the passenger into the drive experience and gives them control over features like infotainment.
The driver also gets a customisable 10.25-inch display, and there’s a clear and easy to use 10.1-inch infotainment screen in the centre of the dash. Three screens across the front of the cabin certainly make the Grand Cherokee 4xe feel like it’s a technological leap forward. At launch, we tested Apple CarPlay and the native satellite navigation system, with both working snappily and faultlessly.
Step up to the premium audio system and Jeep has replicated the authenticity of a high-quality McIntosh home audio system. It looks and sounds like a high-end system as well, and the integration is seamless. Rear seat entertainment has been redesigned for this model as well. 10.0-inch screens are mounted into the backs of the front seats for rear seat passengers and are very thin.
Having not yet landed in Australia, the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is untested by ANCAP. It does come standard with a full suite of passive and active safety inclusions, though, so our expectation is that it will score strongly in ANCAP testing.
Standard features include a full suite of airbags including curtain airbags into the first and second rows, ABS, predictive brake assist, traction and stability control with anti-roll, blind-spot warning, forward collision mitigation, and front and rear parking sensors.
|2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe|
This is a difficult one for us to comment on, with local pricing yet to be announced by Jeep Australia. As soon as pricing is available, we’ll report it to you.
The latest pricing of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee L can serve as a rough guide as to what we can expect. The V6-powered seven-seat Grand Cherokee L ranges from $82,250 to $115,450 before on-road costs. Five-seat V6 models will be cheaper, but the plug-in hybrid 4xe is likely to sit closer to the bigger vehicle on price.
Jeep has also rationalised its servicing costs, but again local pricing for the 4xe maintenance program is to be announced, and we expect the new model to carry the same five-year, 100,000km warranty as other Jeep models.
|At a glance||2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe|
|Warranty||Five years / 100,000km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 12,000km|
Against a combined fuel-usage claim of 4.2L/100km (56MPGe based on US figures), we used an indicated 12.3L/100km on our test run. That drive included a lot of highway running, after the first part where we tested pure EV mode through the city. Jeep suggests with the battery depleted the Grand Cherokee 4xe should return 10.2L/100km.
On that note, the Grand Cherokee 4xe started with 45km EV range indicated on the driver display, and delivered that claim out on the road. Impressive when a vehicle gets right on its claim.
An EV-only range of 45km will work beautifully for the average Aussie, who commutes 20km each way to work. That effectively means you’ll use no fuel Monday to Friday getting to and from work. The 12.3L figure that we achieved once we’d used the battery’s capacity is also more than reasonable for an SUV of this size.
I think the lack of a diesel might deter some buyers, though, given diesels are generally more fuel-efficient on longer drives and are favoured by Australians in the larger four-wheel-drive segments.
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||4.2L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||12.3L/100km|
|Fuel type||95-octane premium unleaded|
|Fuel tank size||72L|
First up, the electric-only claim is realistic. When we set off on our test drive, the cluster indicated 45km in pure electric range. And, through an urban setting much like our commutes in big cities in Australia, the 4xe actually delivered 45.2km before the petrol engine took over. Any hybrid – or electric vehicle – that is realistic in the real world gets a tick from us.
In pure EV mode, the drive experience is smooth and seamless, as you’d expect. It’s quiet, and for the average Aussie you’ll get to and from work without ever using any fuel. Yes, I know rural owners and people who live on the urban fringe have longer commutes, but a hell of a lot of us live in the city and commute the average 20km each way to work. For those of us in that boat, Monday to Friday will be fuel-less.
The transition to its 200kW/400Nm of 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol power is also a good one. At cruising speed, with light on/off throttle application, we noticed a shudder through the driveline once or twice, but it was hard to deliberately replicate. We also noticed the eight-speed auto gearbox being a little slow to react on kickdown a few times, too, but those notes aside, the drive experience was a good one.
Despite the added weight that comes with the electric aspect of the drivetrain, the 4xe rides smoothly, keeping in mind US roads are generally levels better than ours in Australia. Still, you can only judge the Jeep on what we experienced, and it can soak up bumps and ruts in its stride. Front or back seat, the Grand Cherokee was comfortable on our launch drive.
Most of our running was on the highway until we got to the off-road testing, and our indicated fuel-use average was 9.1L/100km. We did see figures in the low sevens once we were on an easy cruise, and keep in mind that 75mph (120km/h) is the going rate, seemingly, in the States if you want to keep up with the traffic. At our Aussie limit of 110km/h, fuel use will drop even lower.
An idea Jeep is keen to push is the theory that you can force your 4xe into regular petrol mode for your drive out to the off-road trail, and then do your off-roading in pure EV mode. That won’t work for everyone obviously, but it’s something we tested at launch. And, as expected, the way the electric drivetrain performs in tough off-road conditions is genuinely impressive.
Engineers have claimed for some time that electric drivetrains present tangible benefits in off-road situations, where drive, grip, and the way a vehicle can take advantage of both, are key. One motor at each axle, or eventually at each wheel, means you can have infinite control over what an axle – or a wheel – is doing.
That technology will change the way we think of drive, differentials, transfer cases, and lockers. For now, though, much of the complexity remains.
And yet, the Grand Cherokee, in pure EV mode, was a rock-crawling maestro. You can see in the photos and the video that the off-road course was a tough one. Indeed, it was one where the underbody protection got a solid workout.
The way the electric system sends its drive to the wheels is smooth and hesitation-free, meaning you basically don’t have to concern yourself with the way the throttle pedal is responding to inputs.
The extra ground clearance afforded by the adjustable suspension is an off-road key as well, meaning you don’t touch down as much, rarely get hung up on anything, and thus your progress is a lot smoother. We, and I’m sure you, expect a Jeep to be effective off-road, so it comes as no surprise that the Grand Cherokee is, but it’s an added bonus that the electric drivetrain can be as competent as it is in tough terrain.
|Key details||2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol plug-in hybrid|
|Power||200kW @ 5250rpm petrol
|Torque||400Nm @ 3000rpm petrol
|Drive type||Four-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||115.9kW/t combined|
|Tow rating||2800kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
The key for me after spending two days with the new Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is not whether it is a good plug-in hybrid. It is. It’s also a very well executed large SUV.
Further, and this is an important factor as well, it’s attractive. It certainly stands out on the road, even in the USA, where it mixes it up with plenty of metal we don’t get in Australia.
The recipe for success, though, will be the price. Despite the perception that Aussie buyers throw money around like it’s confetti when it comes to a new car purchase, plenty of new car buyers in our market are careful with their money. And in this segment, the Grand Cherokee has some stiff competition. With the brand’s push upmarket, finding the right positioning and convincing buyers of the benefits of a plug-in powertrain will be a tough act.
Interior Comfort & Packaging
Infotainment & Connectivity
Trent Nikolic has been road testing and writing about cars for almost 20 years. He’s been at CarAdvice/Drive since 2014 and has been a motoring editor at the NRMA, Overlander 4WD Magazine, Hot4s and Auto Salon Magazine.