2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe First Drive Review: A Hybrid You Actually Want To Off-Road

Who knew hybridizing a luxury SUV would make it such a great off-roader?

byApr 22, 2022 11:30 AM
Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe
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Subtlety has never really been Jeep's strong suit, but what aesthetically differentiates the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe from its non-hybrid brethren all comes down to the small details. Small blue elements on its body here and there indicate the plug-in version of Jeep's ever-popular SUV—but this time, the automaker might just very well have built something that combines luxury and off-roading capabilities even more seamlessly together than ever before.

The launch of the Grand Cherokee 4xe marks another step in Jeep's electrification path. It looks and comes across a lot like the V6 (or optional Hemi V8) versions, but when you step on the accelerator, you’ll find it feels like a different animal. It uses a four-pot hybrid instead of the beefier engines and, Jeep says, it beats a gas-only model from zero to 60 mph by a full second. On the road, it's as sumptuously comfortable and predictable as you'd expect from a Grand Cherokee. On the trail, it performs better than it ever has, especially in the rugged Trailhawk trim.

This sentiment feels familiar; I've taken the 2022 Jeep Wrangler 4xe off-road and I had the same impression. In hybrid form, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is uniquely suited for driving on tough terrain and it begs to be pushed past grocery duty. It feels a little strange treating a Grand Cherokee like a Wrangler, but it really seems like that’s exactly what Jeep wants buyers to do.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Specs

  • Base price (as tested): $59,495 ($65,555)
  • Powertrain: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder | 8-speed automatic | rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive
  • Battery pack: 400-volt, 17.3-kWh battery
  • Horsepower: 375 @ 5,250 rpm
  • Torque: 470 @ 3,000 rpm
  • EV range: 25 miles
  • Cargo volume: 70.8 cubic feet with second-row seats folded
  • Seating capacity: 5
  • Max towing capacity: 6,000 pounds
  • Curb weight: 5,325 pounds
  • EPA fuel economy: 23 mpg combined (gas only) | 56 mpge combined
  • Quick take: The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is proof that you don’t have to rough it when you’re off-roading.
  • Score: 8.5/10

The Basics

Now in its fifth generation, the Grand Cherokee is the grand dame of SUVs. Less opulent and not as bulky as the Grand Wagoneer, the Grand Cherokee has staying power because it appeals to a wider variety of people. Reading the market's voracious appetite for three-row SUVs, Jeep opted to launch the Grand Cherokee L first, followed by the two-row version. And now we complete the trifecta: the plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, which is also a two-row SUV.

With the hybrid version, Jeep made the smart decision not to make it visually different from the regular Grand Cherokee, which has the exterior design language akin to a Midwestern accent; it's pleasing to just about everyone (I may be biased since I grew up in Indiana). The Grand Cherokee 4xe retains those classically boxy looks, with the addition of an e-charging port on the side. Blue accents throughout mark this as the hybrid version, and that’s the only giveaway that it is different from the non-hybrid model. 

Mirroring the non-hybrid version of the Grand Cherokee, the 4xe is available with two 4x4 systems: Quadra-Trac II, (which routes up to 100 percent of available torque to the axle with the most traction), and Quadra-Drive II (which transfers up to 100 percent of available torque to a single rear wheel if needed) and five trims (4xe, Trailhawk 4xe, Overland 4xe, Summit 4xe and Summit Reserve 4xe). The lone engine option is a hybrid 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four, cranking out a combined 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. All that's mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Off-roaders will appreciate the 10.9 inches of ground clearance and up to 24 inches of water fording capability. Under the belly of the Grand Cherokee 4xe, a 3.5-millimeter skid plate protects the battery pack. As engineer Eunjoo Hopkins told us during the media preview, this vehicle can take a few hits. After experiencing the Grand Cherokee 4xe in Trailhawk trim across two states under all-electric power, I tend to believe her.

Driving the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

When piloting the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe in standard hybrid mode, it felt similar to driving the non-hybrid version but quieter. The unibody SUV has the same powertrain as the Wrangler 4xe that launched last year, and with matching power outputs. That’s 82 more horses than the regular V6 version and the same amount of torque as the roaring V8 of a Wrangler Rubicon 392.

I put in quite a few hours behind the wheel of the newest 4xe between Texas and Utah, taking it for a spin between Austin and Inks Ranch, two hours away; then again at the Easter Jeep Safari on winding mountain roads with some rock climbing in between. The Grand Cherokee 4xe delivered a composed ride that’s more Audrey Hepburn than Sophia Loren: it was likable and straightforward, more girl-next-door than mysterious, magnetic screen siren. This SUV retains many of the elements that have kept it on the market for so many years, such as an attractive body style, Jeepish capabilities, and an upscale edge.

There’s not much to complain about, overall. The brakes require only a gentle squeeze without being touchy, and the accelerator is designed for suburban driving. In other words, it's well-controlled: press your right foot all the way down and pedal travel is minimal and effortless. It doesn’t take much to get it going, either; the SUV is ready to move quickly as the electric motor kicks in its extra torque contribution. The power steering, on the other hand, felt heavy and somewhat disconnected, like the car would rather drive itself than let me maintain control. Jeep said at the media preview that hands-off adaptive cruise control is coming later this year, so I'll be interested to see if it's anything like General Motors' Super Cruise, which we here at The Drive consider the gold standard.

The magic, however, is in running this SUV in all-electric mode; that's where it shines. It’s fine as a hybrid and there’s nothing offensive about the 2.0-liter powerplant under the sculpted hood, but hit the button marked “electric” to exclusively use the two motors to drive the Grand Cherokee 4xe, and everything changes. While rock crawling was a breeze in hybrid and e-save mode, it was considerably smoother and less jarring in all-electric mode. Using gas, the Grand Cherokee 4xe felt heavier; resolute and sturdy. In all-electric mode, the SUV acted more like an accomplished athlete, lithe and surefooted, humming to the tune of confidence. I drove it over some gnarly terrain and left some wheels off the ground in both Texas and Utah and it didn't flinch.

Take note that two-pedal driving (also known as left-foot braking) isn’t recommended in the Grand Cherokee 4xe. As Hopkins explained, if you’re using the brake and accelerator simultaneously, the vehicle will think the right pedal is stuck and throw a fault. From a safety perspective, that makes sense; the system is protecting you from a high-speed crash. From a best practices standpoint as an off-roader, there's room for improvement on that front. Having the option to drive with each foot on a pedal to smooth out the ride by keeping the pressure steady is an advantage on the track and on the dirt.

As someone who has been off-roading many times, I'm no expert—but have trained under a few, like off-road champ and Rebelle Rally founder Emily Miller. She trained with legendary rally competitor Rod Hall, who told her that she had to learn how to drive with both feet. Longtime off-roading expert Sue Mead taught me the same thing and she was right: Using left-foot braking improves the quality of the ride when done correctly, so I wish the Grand Cherokee 4xe had that option.

The Highs and the Lows

In addition to the Grand Cherokee 4xe driving like a treat in all-electric mode—especially off-road—it's also less of a disturbance. Like the Wrangler 4xe, it fires up quietly, much unlike its V8 half-siblings. In fact, it’s so quiet that when I depressed the brake at a stoplight, I could hear the sounds of liquid sloshing around in my water bottle behind the back seat. Accessing the button that switches to all-electric power is difficult, unfortunately. It's to the left and down from the steering wheel and if you want to change it up on the fly, you can't see it without taking your eyes off the road to lean over.

I'm not a fan of the angled cup holders, and Jeep isn't the only brand using this design lately. These seem to be designed for single-use plastic bottles and while the angle may be ergonomically pleasing, it's not practical. Kids (and adults) are using larger water bottles, Yeti tumblers, and if you’re on a road trip you almost certainly have drinks with straws. If you have three kids in the back, there’s no room for beverages at all.

Features and Options

At the base level, this SUV comes standard with five terrain modes (auto, sport, rock, snow, and mud/sand). It's a simple matter of flicking the toggle switch, which is located right next to the gear shifter, forward or back. Unlike many other base-level SUVs, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is furnished with heated power leather seats right out of the gate for passengers in both rows. Stellantis’ superlative Uconnect 5 infotainment system is standard across the board, with a 10.1-inch touchscreen and volume and tuning controls behind the heated steering wheel with soft-touch toggle switches. I love that because I can change the volume, band, favorites, or surf up and down the satellite channel stations one by one without looking at anything on the dash. 

Single-color ambient interior lighting illuminates the instrument panel and doors; Overland-trim models and up get five colors to zhuzh up your cabin. I've got to have music when I drive, and I found the basic nine-speaker Alpine audio system to be adequate but didn't offer nearly the same experience as the McIntosh installation in the Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trims. It’s hard to top that kind of quality with 19 speakers, a subwoofer, and a 950-watt amplifier, so if premium audio is important to you, don’t even bother looking at the bottom two variants. At the top of the Grand Cherokee 4xe trim options, the Summit Reserve 4xe comes with plush ventilated and heated quilted leather seats in the front and back, massaging front seats, wood trim, and simulated suede inside. Large, 21-inch wheels are wrapped in Continental CrossContact rubber. Know that the suspension arms extend close to the tires, so if you wanted to upgrade it with knobbier off-roading shoes, you may run into a bit of a challenge there.

At the base level, the Grand Cherokee 4xe starts at $57,700 and increases to $62,485 for the Trailhawk 4xe, which adds some off-road goodies like crawl control and sway bar disconnect. The Overland jumps up to $65,760 and includes the premium McIntosh audio system, along with forward- and reverse-hill descent control and leather upholstery. And at the tippy top of the set, the Summit and Summit Reserve ring in at $69,820 and $74,300. Along with a number of plush upgrades and standard driver-assist features, the Summit includes 20-inch wheels and the Summit Reserve comes with 21-inch wheels.

Sustainability and Competition

Jeep claims 56 mpge for the Grand Cherokee 4xe, which includes an EPA-estimated 26 all-electric miles. If your daily errands take you where you need to go in less than 26 miles, you could ostensibly charge it up every night in electric mode before going out again the next day. It automatically transfers to hybrid mode when the electric miles are depleted.

Compare the range figure to its competitors, and the Grand Cherokee 4xe comes out on top by seven more miles of electric range than a 2022 Volvo XC60 T8 AWD Recharge and five more than a 2022 Lincoln Aviator PHEV. The Volvo, however, has a greater range (500 miles to the Grand Cherokee 4xe's 470) and combined mpg (25 to the Jeep's 23). Looking at price comparisons, the Lincoln plug-in hybrid starts at $52,090 for the base rear-wheel-drive model and swoops up to nearly $90,000 for the Grand Touring Black Label version; the Volvo PHEV starts at $55,845 and ranges up to $63,345.

Value and Verdict

Starting at just shy of $60,000, you get a lot for your money with the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe: a right-sized and torquey powertrain, a plethora of standard luxury features, and electric range. There's a lot to like here and it's going to satisfy buyers who want on-road and off-road capability. We already saw the breadth of improvements Jeep made to the redesigned Grand Cherokee, and the hybridized version rounds out the trifecta of choices in this model alongside the standard two-row option and three-row Grand Cherokee L.

It may not do the truly hardcore off-roading stuff as well as a Wrangler really put to the test, but Jeep has come through with an off-road capable SUV (in its own right) that's more livable than a Wrangler—and with a lot less road noise. For me, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is the superior model of the automaker's SUV lineup, blending off-road competency with the comfort and luxury touches fans have come to expect.

Got tips? Send me a note: kristin.shaw@thedrive.com.