SUV Review: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

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Up to 42 kilometres of fuel-free driving without any range anxiety

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For those who want battery power but aren’t fully committed to all-electric, a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) could be the happy medium. These plug-in powertrains are showing up in an increasing number of vehicles, and for 2022, Jeep has added it to the Grand Cherokee.

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It’s known as the Grand Cherokee 4xe, for 4×4 plus electric. And while many PHEVs tend to be a single, separate model among their conventional siblings, this plug-in comes in four trim levels of the base 4xe, my Overland tester, top-line Summit (which can be further optioned with a Reserve package, turning it almost into a fifth trim), and also the off-road-readiest Trailhawk — and that one is no longer available as a gas-only model, and now solely as a plug-in. The 4xe comes only with five-passenger seating, and not as an electrified version of the three-row Grand Cherokee L.

Once you plug it in and fully charge it — it takes about two hours on a 240-volt charger, or 12 hours from a regular 110-volt household outlet — the 4xe can drive a maximum rated 42 kilometres on electricity alone. I achieved that once with a very light foot, although I was mostly around the 35-kilometre mark, since driving conditions can cut down on the range. Even so, that’s enough for many people to do most of their driving on the battery.

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When the stored charge depletes, the 4xe reverts to conventional hybrid operation, automatically switching between gasoline, electricity or a combination, and self-charging the hybrid battery. That’s where a PHEV shines: If you can’t plug it in, you can still get wherever you’re going as long as you have gas in the tank.

Mind you, plugging in may save fuel, but the technology is still pricey. My 2022 Overland 4xe started at $80,000, and that rises to $80,995 for the 2023 models, which is $10,050 above the gas-only trim’s tag. The 4xe’s 2023 trims range from $71,995 to $86,495. The prices mean you really have to want the technology, and then be willing to plug it in whenever possible to get the most out of it.

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The 4xe is powered by a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder engine that makes 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. When it’s working alongside the hybrid system, you get a combined 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft — more than the Grand Cherokee with a V8. The 4xe uses an eight-speed automatic transmission, with a full-time 4×4 system that can be set into low for the toughest stuff, along with drive modes to handle snow, sand, mud or rock. It can also tow up to 6,000 lbs, and since the battery is under the floor, its placement doesn’t cut into the generous 1,067 litres of cargo volume.

The 4xe delivers strong, fast acceleration, but other luxury-priced PHEVs have a more premium feel. You of course get the expected smoothness when it’s driving on that stored charge, but in hybrid mode, the transition from electric to gas is rough and clunky, and the engine has an odd-and-buzzy sound to it. The hybrid system recharges with regenerative braking, and while most automakers have smoothed out the brake pedal feel on their hybrids, the 4xe’s seems artificial and touchy.

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The rest of the driving experience is very pleasant. The Grand Cherokee is big but doesn’t feel it, with well-weighted steering, responsive handling, smooth ride — a height-adjustable four-corner air suspension is standard on all but the base trim — and takes corners very well. My tester had an optional off-road package that included an electronic limited-slip rear differential, all-terrain tires, and skid plates. The package makes it “Trail Rated,” indicating that it meets off-road standards for ground clearance, traction, articulation and other requirements — but Jeep has never divulged all the benchmark measurements for the badge. Suffice it to say that the very few who will take a new vehicle this expensive into the really-rough-stuff can be confident it will bring them back out again. The 4xe’s electronic components are sealed and the Trail Rated version can ford up to 61 cm (24 inches) of water.

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The powertrain doesn’t always feel premium, but the interior certainly does. The Overland comes standard with Nappa leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats and a heated steering wheel, while my tester further added optional ventilated and massaging front chairs. Other add-ons included a camera-display rearview mirror, head-up display, night vision, and highway driving assist that bundles adaptive cruise control and lane centring. There is a system coming soon that will allow hands-free driving on pre-mapped divided highways, similar to GM’s Super Cruise, but it’s not here yet.

The infotainment uses the Uconnect 5 operating system, still one of the best in the industry for ease of use. It’s a touchscreen, but it also does very well with voice commands, and starts listening when you say “Hey Jeep” (or whatever wake-up call you’ve programmed in). But the engineers resisted the urge to stuff every control behind the glass, and so there are hard buttons and toggles for the climate control, seat and steering wheel heating, and stereo volume and tuning, as there always should be.

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There are also some upper-end options that have trickled down from the Jeep Wagoneer, including a McIntosh stereo — it sounds fantastic, although it’s always odd to see my name emblazoned on a dash — and a screen on the right side of the dash, invisible to the driver to reduce distraction, to play movies or other entertainment for the passenger.

When operating as a hybrid, the 4xe is officially rated at 10.0 L/100 km in combined city/highway driving — not that far off the conventional Grand Cherokee with 3.6L V6, rated at 10.9. To make it worthwhile, you really need to plug it in at every opportunity and run on the battery as often as possible. But if you like the idea of electrification in a 4×4 but are concerned about range anxiety on longer treks, give the 4xe a look.

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