2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe review: Near-silent off-road driving is nice | Expert review

Given that the biggest change to the Grand Cherokee 4xe is under the hood, let’s start with the driving experience. On pavement, the off-road oriented 4xe Trailhawk had some pluses and some minuses. The SUV is surprisingly fast when the electric motors and gas engine work together. Instant torque from the electric motors helps the 4xe get off the line quickly, and at highway speeds the four-cylinder pulses enough to pass and merge. The plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee probably isn’t as quick as the last-gen SRT trim, and it certainly isn’t as quick as the puny Trackhawk, but it felt faster than the V-8 Summit, even with the Trailhawk’s gnarly off-road tires.

However, the sound of the hybrid powertrain is much, much worse than the V-8. Where the V-8 produces a sonorous rumble from its exhaust, the 4x’s dominant sound is an angry whine under the hood that only gets worse under hard acceleration. It’s not the worst sound in the world, but it doesn’t suit the vehicle or its performance.

The driving experience on pavement is otherwise almost identical to a gas-powered Grand Cherokee: comfortable and composed. The Trailhawk’s tires have larger sidewalls than those on the conventional Summit I drove, which improves isolation over bumps. The air suspension shared by both SUVs does a good job of reducing body roll, but it has a stiffness that makes bumps seem harsher. The 4xe’s brakes feel a bit mushier and less linear than those of its petrol counterpart, likely due to the PHEV’s regenerative braking. I wish it had true one-pedal driving instead of just extremely aggressive regen braking, but one-pedal driving is more common in full EVs than in PHEVs, where it’s still rare.

Off-road, the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk is quite capable, making it shorter than a relatively easy off-road course. That said, acceleration can be difficult to modulate when using full hybrid power that is, when the gas engine and the electric motors work together. However, there are three 4xe-specific drive modes to the left of the steering wheel: Hybrid, which uses the gas engine and electric motors; Electric, which allows the 4xe to run on pure electric power; and eSave, which allows the 4xe to operate solely on gas power to save the battery’s charge for later use. Switching from Hybrid to Electric mode reduces available power but makes the 4xe much less jerky, which is useful in rough terrain (and also eliminates the annoying four-cylinder noise). I had a harder time modulating the throttle with full hybrid power during off-road driving, where smooth and firm is usually the ideal.

The Trailhawk’s standard Quadra-Drive II 4WD system is the most advanced of three 4WD systems available on the Grand Cherokee. It has a two-speed gearbox and rear electronic limited-slip differential, and it has a variety of off-road specific driving modes.

One of the main reasons to buy a plug-in hybrid is to save gas; if your daily driving route is short enough and you have home charging, you may only need the petrol engine for longer journeys. The Grand Cherokee 4xe has an EPA-estimated all-electric range of 26 miles, which isn’t the longest among new PHEV SUVs, but it’s not the shortest either. In my experience the electrical range dropped quickly.

The EPA rates the Grand Cherokee 4xe at 56 mpg equivalent with both gas and electric engines, 23 mpg combined when relying solely on its internal combustion engine. That 23 mpg is the highest combined fuel economy rating a few new Grand Cherokee, which is notable because the Wrangler 4x’s hybrid rating offers no advantage over the Wrangler’s non-hybrid engines.

Mostly the same interior, for better or for worse

Not much differentiates the 4x’s interior from the conventional Grand Cherokee, but it features unique charge status indicator lights atop the dash, three PHEV-specific drive mode buttons to the left of the steering wheel, a button to control regenerative braking, and some PHEV-specific screens in the touchscreen display. Beyond these, the differences are merely cosmetic, with light blue accents on various buttons and surfaces (since light blue is apparently the official color of hybrids everywhere).

The 4xe enters the market in a fairly strong position because it’s not very different from the gas-powered Grand Cherokee. Its control layout is intuitive and its materials have an upmarket feel for the price. The 10.1-inch touchscreen that runs the Uconnect 5 is clear and easy to use assuming it doesn’t misfire or lag, which are issues carried over from the 4x’s non-hybrid counterpart.

Other benefits include comfortable front and rear seats, plus high-tech goodies like a 10.25-inch front-seat passenger touchscreen (it’s not visible to the driver) that can control in-car entertainment, navigation, and available rear-seat dual screens with built-in Amazon Fire TV.

Besides technical issues with the main touchscreen, my biggest complaint about the Grand Cherokee’s interior transcends generations: From my driving position, the A-pillars and rearview mirror obstruct the view. However, this may just be a “me” problem, so be sure to sit in a Grand Cherokee before you buy to make sure it’s not a problem for you.

Security

Grand Cherokee 4xe buyers get a host of standard safety features, as do buyers of the gas-only version. These include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection; Adaptive cruise control; a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert; and much more.

As of this writing, the Grand Cherokee 4xe has not been crash tested by either the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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Choose your own adventure

Is the Grand Cherokee 4xe the right SUV for you? Is that even right Grand Cherokee to you? One of the nice things about the 4xe is how much it mimics the gas version, but with improved fuel economy. According to EPA fuel cost estimates, buyers save $2,100 per year drive a 4xe instead of a V-8 Grand Cherokee. The 4xe also adds speed, but its four-cylinder makes a racket, and the hybrid is more expensive than its petrol-only counterparts (at least before tax credits are factored in). The cheapest 4xe starts at $63,495, and our test 4xe Trailhawk was $64,280 before adding $7,510 in options (prices have risen since our test drive, with a 2022 4xe Trailhawk now starting at $67,055). The cheapest 2022 Grand Cherokee that can have a V-8 is also the Trailhawk, where that engine is a $3,795 option that brings the total price to $59,825. It’s definitely cheaper, but saving $2,100 a year in fuel costs would cover the difference in just over two years.

Could I live with a Grand Cherokee 4xe? Yes, especially considering the possibility of saving money in the long run. But since the 4xe is so similar to the gas-powered Grand Cherokee, but sounds worse, I’d go for a V-8 Grand Cherokee, all else being equal. In the current car market, things are not always equal. For 2023, the only Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will be the 4xe version, so if you want the most hardcore off-road Grand Cherokee, it has to be a plug-in.

The Cars.com Editorial Department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In keeping with Cars.com’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers do not accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The editorial department is independent of Cars.com’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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