There’s no moss growing under the feet of Jeep engineers and product planners these days. About a year ago, the brand introduced its first plug-in-hybrid vehicle: the Wrangler 4xe. Approximately 30,000 units found buyers last year, which Jeep says makes the Wrangler 4xe (pronounced “four by e”) America’s best-selling plug-in hybrid. Last summer, the fifth generation of Jeep’s Grand Cherokee debuted with the all-new 2021 Grand Cherokee L—the first Grand Cherokee with three rows of seats. Late last year, a redesign of the traditional two-row, five-passenger Grand Cherokee was introduced on a shorter version of the L’s all-new unibody platform. That’s all history now—along with the equally new Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer full-size SUVs—and Jeep’s engineers are on to their next act: the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe. It’s an intriguing mix-and-match that combines the Wrangler 4xe’s powerful plug-in-hybrid powertrain with the redesigned Grand Cherokee.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe is offered only in two-row, 5-passenger form—it’s not available on the three-row Grand Cherokee L body. The 4xe model roster largely shadows the regular gas-engine Grand Cherokee’s, but rather than starting with a “base” Laredo model, the entry-level plug-in hybrid is roughly equivalent to the mid-line Limited trim. From there, the lineup ascends through Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit models. As on other 2022 Grand Cherokees, the Summit model is also available with the range-topping Summit Reserve package. All Grand Cherokee 4xe models come standard with 4-wheel drive. Subtle blue-colored “e” badges help identify the 4xe visually, while the Overland and Trailhawk plug-ins include a sprinkling of additional blue exterior detailing, including the front tow hooks.
The addition of the 4xe’s hybrid system—not to mention its battery pack—add considerable mass, so the 4xe’s curb weight starts at 5325 pounds and stretches to 5558 pounds for a Summit. That’s a bit more than 900 pounds heavier than a 4-wheel-drive Limited V6, which clocks in at 4413 pounds. The gap closes at the top end, but the Summit 4xe is still more than 500 pounds chunkier than the 5045-lb V8-powered Summit.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe’s PHEV powertrain is basically the same setup that debuted in the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder paired with a 4xe-specific variant of Jeep’s familiar 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic that loses its conventional torque convertor and adds an electric motor and a pair of clutches.
The 2.0-liter turbo is rated at 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, while the electric motor integrated into the transmission delivers 134 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Combined output is an impressive 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, and Jeep says it is available at all times, regardless of the battery pack’s state of charge. For comparison, the Grand Cherokee’s optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8 is rated at 357 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque. The Grand Cherokee 4xe’s maximum tow rating is 6000 pounds, so it is down a bit compared to the conventional Grand Cherokee’s tow ratings of 6200 pounds with the V6 and 7200 pounds with the Hemi.
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The 4xe’s battery pack is a 400-volt 17.3-kWh unit with an automatic heating/cooling system. In the Wrangler 4xe, the similar battery pack was mounted inside under a model-specific rear seat, but in the Grand Cherokee the battery and its controls are mounted underneath the Grand Cherokee’s floor and are protected via a collection of skid plates. Jeep says all components of the hybrid system are sealed and waterproof, so the Grand Cherokee 4xe can ford water that’s approximately two feet deep.
Charging the battery pack from empty to full takes approximately 12 hours using standard “Level 1” 120V household service; Level 2 charging with 240V service cuts that time down to about 2 hours. LED battery-charge indicators atop the dashboard and near the charging port display the battery’s progress while the vehicle is charging.
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The hybrid system’s driver-selectable “E Selec” drive modes—Hybrid, Electric, and eSave—make it especially versatile. The system defaults to Hybrid mode, which blends torque from the gas engine and the electric motor. Energy from the battery pack is given priority, with the gas engine assisting as needed. Electric mode operates solely on the battery’s available energy until the battery is depleted (however, if the driver aggressively applies the throttle, the gas engine will kick in). The EPA estimates that a fully charged Grand Cherokee 4xe can drive 25 miles solely on electric power.
In eSave mode, the gas engine is prioritized. This may sound odd at first, but the idea is that the battery’s charge can be conserved for specific driving situations, such as entering geographical areas that restrict the use of gasoline-powered vehicles, or planned electric-only activities such as off-road driving. This mode can be set in Battery Save or Battery Charge modes via a menu accessible through 4xe’s touchscreen. As is typical for gas/electric hybrids, the Grand Cherokee 4xe uses regenerative braking to help generate electric power used to recharge the battery pack. This system includes a driver-selectable “Max Regen” setting that maximizes the amount of energy recovered and stored in the battery pack.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe is EPA-rated at 56 MPGe on electricity and gasoline, and 23 mpg in combined city/highway driving on gasoline alone. Traditional city and highway fuel economy estimates are not available for the 4xe, but that 23 mpg combined number tops the other 2022 Grand Cherokees—the 3.6-liter models have a combined rating of 22 mpg, while the thirsty 5.7-liter Hemi has a combined estimate of only 17 mpg.
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The base Grand Cherokee 4xe starts at $57,700 and comes standard with features such as Capri leather upholstery, an Alpine-brand audio system with nine speakers, and 18-inch wheels. Jeep’s Quadra-Trac II 4-wheel-drive system, which includes a two-speed transfer case and hill-descent control, is also included.
Consistent with recent Grand Cherokee tradition, the Trailhawk ($62,485 to start) is the most off-road-capable 4xe. Its standard hardware upgrades include the Quadra-Drive II 4-wheel-drive system with an electronic limited-slip rear axle, 18-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, Selec-Speed control (essentially an off-road cruise-control system), Quadra-Lift air suspension, a front sway-bar disconnect system (this activates by pressing a button and allows for improved suspension articulation off road), front tow hooks, steel skid plates, and an integrated off-road camera system. Unique Trailhawk exterior details include model-specific front and rear fasciae–the front fascia brings a five-degree improvement in approach angle, which makes it easier to clear obstacles when off-road.
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The Overland starts at $65,760 and adds features such as Nappa leather upholstery, hands-free power liftgate, and a 19-speaker McIntosh-brand premium audio system. Quadra-Trac II 4WD and Quadra-Lift air suspension are also standard. The Overland can be equipped with an optional Off-Road Group, which adds the Quadra-Drive II 4-wheel-drive system with two-speed transfer case, electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential, steel skid plates, and 18-inch wheels.
The line-topping Summit ($69,820 to start) adds enhanced interior trim, 12-way power-adjustable front seats with massage, driver-attention monitor, and a 360-degree surround-view monitor. The Summit 4xe receives the Quadra-Drive II setup along with the electronic limited-slip rear differential. For the ultimate in Grand Cherokee 4xe luxury, the Summit can be upgraded to Summit Reserve trim ($74,300 to start), which adds premium touches such as 21-inch wheels, quilted Palermo leather, and open-pore Waxed Walnut wood trim.
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Standard safety features on all Grand Cherokee 4xes include full-speed collision warning with active braking and pedestrian/cyclist detection, rear cross path detection, active lane management, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist, brake assist, blind-spot monitoring, and rear parking sensors.
At the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe’s press preview event in Austin, Texas, we split our time between two different models. Our morning drive was in a generously equipped Overland 4xe; its lengthy options list consisted of Baltic Gray Metallic paint ($395), Luxury Tech Group IV ($2155; adds Nappa leather seats, four-zone climate control, and a collection of comfort and convenience items), Advanced Protech Group III ($2235; adds a head-up display, night vision with pedestrian and animal detection, active driving assist, intersection collision assist, surround view camera system, map-in-cluster display, integrated off-road camera, and a back-up camera washer), black painted roof ($775), Off-Road Group ($1095), and the front passenger interactive display screen ($1095). With the $1795 destination fee, the bottom line came to a considerable $75,305.
In the afternoon we piloted a base-model 4xe that was optioned with Black Crystal Pearl-Coat paint ($395), 20-inch wheels and tires ($1645), Luxury Tech Group II ($2295; adds a collection of comfort and convenience items), and Rear Seat Video Group I ($1995; adds two front-seatback-mounted video screens with Amazon Fire TV for Auto functionality), all of which resulted in a bottom line of $65,825 including destination.
We started out on our test drive with the Overland set in Electric mode, but decided to leave the Max Regen feature turned off. Jeep planned a break stop that was 25 miles (the 4xe’s estimated electric-only range) from our starting point in Austin—driving normally with the flow of traffic, we made it to the stop solely on electric power with a bit to spare. We left the stop on battery power, and about a mile down the road the gas engine and Hybrid mode engaged automatically.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine is very smooth and nearly silent at modest throttle, and it’s surprisingly powerful when driven more aggressively—Jeep says that 4xe is the quickest Grand Cherokee, with an estimated 0-60 mph time of 6 seconds. That’s 1.5 seconds faster than Grand Cherokee’s standard 3.6-liter V6, and even a half-second quicker than the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V8.
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Before we departed for our drive, Jeep advised that the prototypes we were driving did not have the final powertrain calibration, and only one obvious quirk appeared during our time behind the wheel. In the afternoon, we caught a green light while turning left from a divided highway onto another divided highway. Once the turn was completed, we released the brakes and returned to the throttle while traveling at an estimated 25 miles per hour—this series of inputs appeared to confuse the hybrid system and the 4xe didn’t respond with any power for a second or two, which was unexpected and a bit concerning. Otherwise, the plug-in-hybrid powertrain was commendably smooth, so hopefully the final calibration will smooth out this and any other remaining rough spots.
As we experienced on our first drive of the regular-line 2022 Grand Cherokee last fall in Utah, the standard steel-spring suspension rides very comfortably. With the available 20-inch wheels, our base 4xe handled nimbly for an SUV its size. The Overland with the available Quadra Lift air suspension also rides very comfortably. Like other 4-wheel-drive Grand Cherokees, the 4xe’s front-axle disconnect feature works imperceptibly. The brake pedal feels very natural when the Max Regen regenerative braking is turned off. With Max Regen on, regenerative braking dramatically slows the 4xe as soon as you lift off the throttle, and the need to apply the brakes is greatly reduced. We quickly acclimated to Max Regen, but we like having the option to turn it off.
To experience the Grand Cherokee 4xe off road, we returned to the dusty rock-littered ranch outside of Llano, Texas, where we sampled the Wrangler 4xe’s off-road capabilities last year. There, we got behind the wheel of a second Overland that was equipped with the Off-Road Group. A guide helped ensure the Quadra-Drive II system was set in four-wheel low and the air suspension was placed in its highest setting, which provides 10.9 inches of ground clearance (down from a maximum of 11.3 inches in the conventional Grand Cherokee). In Electric mode, we drove through standing water that was approximately 24 inches deep, covered some short sections of trail, and went up and down a few rock formations. With help from spotters guiding the way, the electric motor provided more than enough grunt to climb our way atop a large rock, before making our way back down to earth. Our off-road driving was accomplished with little drama beyond some scraping noises from the Overland’s underbody skid plates.
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Since the 4xe’s battery pack is mounted under the Grand Cherokee’s floor, the interior remains largely unchanged, with the few differences being a handful of hybrid-specific control buttons and system information that is displayed on the existing control screens. Front-seat space is excellent; your 6’2” tester found generous headroom under the sunroof, along with plenty of legroom. Outward visibility is excellent all around. The digital instrument cluster and the optional heads-up display feature sharp, easy-to-read graphics.
Jeep’s up-to-date Uconnect 5 infotainment system includes a sleek 10.25-inch touchscreen and Amazon Alexa functionality, along with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity. We are pleased that Jeep has maintained physical control buttons for most of the climate functions, but we do appreciate the climate and seat “short-cut” virtual controls that allow the driver or passenger to access a simple pop-up menu by touching an icon in the nearest upper corner of the touchscreen.
An additional 10.25-inch touchscreen that’s smoothly integrated into the passenger side of the dashboard is standard on base, Trailhawk, and Summit Reserve, yet interestingly it’s optional on Overland and Summit. Originally introduced in Jeep’s plus-size Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, this feature allows the front-seat passenger to control navigation and connected-device functions, watch video entertainment, or monitor the rear-seat entertainment screens.
The Grand Cherokee’s interior is attractive and nicely finished. Even the base 4xe looks and feels luxurious, with quality materials and fine attention to detail. The leather-wrapped, stitch-detailed top surface on the dash and the complexly shaped wood trim on the dash and steering wheel remain highlights. The available McIntosh audio sounds great too.
Rear-seat space is adult sized, with easy entry and exit. There is good headroom under the dual-pane sunroof, and adequate legroom behind front seats set for six-footers. However, the front seats can be pushed further rearward to accommodate extra-tall folks, and taking advantage of that will reduce rear-seat legroom somewhat.
Behind the rear seat, the 4xe maintains the regular-line Grand Cherokee’s 37.7 cubic feet of easily accessible cargo space. The split-folding rear seats flip forward to create a flat load floor, opening up 70.8 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the front seats.
The 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe adds power and the promise of improved fuel economy to the recently redesigned Jeep’s already formidable strengths. The 4xe’s greatest benefit is its ability to deliver 25 miles or so of pure-electric driving—enough for gasoline-free daily commuting for many Americans—if you’re diligent about plugging it in. The tradeoffs include added mass, and unfortunately, a substantial increase to Grand Cherokee’s already steep pricing. For example, the base 4xe starts about $11,000 higher than a conventional Limited 4×4 with the V6. However, it’s not a straight comparison, because the plug-in includes equipment that would add at least $4005 to the V6’s base price. Then there is the array of enticing options that can quickly inflate the bottom line further. Available tax incentives may help the sting somewhat too, but there’s no getting around that these Jeeps command luxury-level pricing. Still, any Grand Cherokee is an impressive midsize SUV that offers a combination of attributes few competitors can match at any price. The Grand Cherokee 4xe goes on sale this spring.
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