2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee wins courtesy, still a top off-roader too

The full-size SUV is more luxurious than ever, but its improved handling doesn’t mean it’s worse off the pavement

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The 2022 fifth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee is bigger and all-new from the road up. It’s arguably Jeep’s most important vehicle and one that plays in a seriously competitive segment – the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Nissan Murano, Toyota Highlander and Volkswagen Atlas are the heavyweights. So doing the rework wrong was not an option. Fortunately for Jeep, it all comes together quite nicely.

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Although the exterior appearance is reminiscent of the outgoing model, it has a sharper, more modern style – sharper front and rear ends, with more definition through the sides. The key is the overall proportions and short overhangs that preserve the approach and departure angles.

Underneath the bright work sits a completely new platform with a 50 millimeter longer wheelbase. The use of more high-strength steel not only reduces weight, it improves body rigidity – the inclusion of cast aluminum struts and a cross-car brace increases front-end rigidity by 200 percent. This solid base supports a variety of powertrains. It starts with the 3.6L Pentastar V6 rated at 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. For many potential customers, that will be enough given the power and its 2,812kg towing capacity.

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For those who want more, there is the 5.7L V8. It pushes 357 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque over a rewardingly wide range. This not only gives it a much faster speed; it increases the towing capacity to 3,265 kg. It won’t do your wallet any favors at the pump, but the response and subsequent sound make it worth it!

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Early next year, the 4xe (“4-by-e,” in Jeep-speak) plug-in hybrid will join the group. Despite its green traction and better fuel economy, it produces more power than the V8, and it’s no less capable off-road.

Now, if you’re into things like Jeep, you’ll definitely want to check out the Trailhawk. Despite its luxurious interior and surprising on-road friendliness, it gets dirty with the very best of them. Of course, it’s Trail-Rated.

There are three four-wheel drive systems available. It starts with the full-time Quadra-Trac I system followed by the Quadra-Trac II, which adds a low gear kit to the mix. Both now include a new front axle disconnect system – when four-wheel drive isn’t needed, it only drives the rear wheels to improve fuel economy.

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The most capable configuration is Quadra-Drive II, the configuration found in the Trailhawk. It has the same two-speed transmission as the Quadra-Trac II including a 44:1 crawl ratio, but it adds an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential that can send all the torque to one wheel should the need arise. It works with Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension with semi-active damping. The test drive showed that it balances ride comfort with handling very well – body roll is limited and response to steering input is sharp. The irony is that it may actually have the best ride on the road because the taller 265/60R18 off-road tires become the first suspension level. That said, the default settings are still very good. The air suspension also has five height settings, including the highest which gives 287mm of ground clearance when raised — looks like the tires and fenders had an argument!

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Throw in the ability to disconnect the front stabilizer, which improves articulation, and Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction management system, and the Trailhawk rumbles wherever the driver’s heart desires. Of course, it gets a full set of skid plates to protect the delicate parts.

The Selec-Terrain system changes the 4×4 torque distribution, steering, suspension, throttle, transmission and traction control according to the selected mode. There are Auto, Sport and Snow on-road modes along with Rock and Mud/Sand off-road modes. Ultimately, all of this technology makes the Trailhawk one of the best off-road vehicles out there.

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One of the neat features is Selec-Speed ​​Control. It is an off-road cruise control with slow speed. On steep climbs and descents or when crossing tricky terrain, it controls the engine and brakes to maintain a set speed. On the off-road course, which was surprisingly aggressive and all the trickier due to the snow, it worked to perfection. I set it to three mph and tackled a set of moguls that left alternate wheels dangling in the air. It just chugged through, unphased by the changing traction at each wheel. Disconnecting the front sway bar really helped matters.

Now, if you have a display fetish, the Grand Cherokee is for you. It starts with the 10.25-inch reconfigurable instrumentation screen. On the right is a 10.1-inch infotainment touchscreen that works with Uconnect5. It’s five times faster than the outgoing unit, and it was one of the best. It also works with wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and an available McIntosh sound system — it pumps out 950 watts through 19 speakers, so it’s the cat’s meow. For good measure, there is another 10.25-inch screen in front of the passenger. This screen can be used by the rider in the right seat to plug in a destination or tinker with the infotainment system and then leave the setup to the main screen. The smart part is that it has a privacy-like screen that prevents it from being distracting to the driver.

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Move to the back and there are two more available 10.1-inch rear-seat entertainment screens with built-in FireTV. This will put an end to the “are we there yet?” questions. Now if this plethora of screens isn’t enough, there’s always the available 10-inch full-featured head-up display!

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Finally there is better use. The longer wheelbase provides better rear-seat legroom and more cargo capacity — there’s 1,067 L of cargo space with the seats up; and 2,005L with the seats folded down. Thanks to the designs to minimize the intrusion of interior panels, the available space, unlike some, is all useful.

The latest Grand Cherokee is better in every area. It has more manners on the road, but doesn’t give up any of its off-road prowess; it is more luxurious; and it has a smattering of advanced technology that ranges from essential safety aids to some that help off-road. Consequently, it’s just as at home on a fancy urban driveway as it is tackling the gnarliest off-road trails. These improvements bode well for the inevitable Trackhawk and its insane horsepower.

The 2022 Grand Cherokee starts with Laredo at $51,545 and goes through Limited ($59,045); Trailhawk ($63,645); Overland ($68,045); Summit ($73,545); and tops out with the uber-posh Summit Reserve at $78,040. All models are available with a three-row model, except for the Trailhawk.

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