Contender for four-wheeled SUV of the year

Jeep introduced its latest generation Grand Cherokee, the fifth since the vehicle’s introduction in 1993, for the 2021 model year, leading with the all-new larger Jeep Grand Cherokee L. In 2022, after a slight delay, Jeep pulled the wraps on the all-new standard-length Grand Cherokee, which includes the off-road-focused Trailhawk trim. Over the course of 50 years as Four Wheeler of the Year, Jeep’s Cherokee and Grand Cherokee have taken home the award a total of 10 times and finished in second place several more times.

Due to the vehicle’s late introduction, its eligibility for the 2022 ATV of the Year continues into 2023. Does the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk have what it takes to impress our judges and take home the award? Let’s find out!

On banana

The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk comes with just one powertrain option: Jeep’s new 4xe plug-in hybrid. Jeep’s 4xe Grand Cherokee combines its powerful turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 engine with an electric drive motor to produce a combined 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. Individually, the gasoline engine pumps out 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque while the electric traction motor is good for 134 hp and 195 lb-ft. A 17.3 kWh lithium-ion battery provides approximately 24 miles of all-electric driving under the right conditions. Supporting the engine is an 8P75PH PHEV eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s impressive power and relatively light weight (5,500 pounds) pushed the vehicle to the top of the charts on the track. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk put down an impressive 0-60 mph time of 5.83 seconds and ran through the quarter mile in just 14.39 seconds. The SUV broke the target beams at 99.0 mph. This made the Grand Cherokee the fastest and fastest vehicle in this year’s test. The Grand easily reigned in its speed, from 60 mph to a stop in 127.22 feet. Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the 4xe Grand Cherokee Trailhawk heartily beat the 5.7-liter Hemi-powered Grand Cherokee L from the previous year’s test, which ran a 7.06-second 0-60 and 15.46 second quarter-mile.

Interior comfort and exterior design

If there was one thing all of our judges agreed on, it was that the interior of the new 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk was superbly finished and extremely comfortable—again, not a surprise, as we’ve spent quite a bit of time with the Grand Cherokee during the past year. The Trailhawk model sits near the middle of Jeep’s Grand Cherokee lineup, and our tester came equipped with the Luxury Tech Group III package. This brought Nappa leather and massaging front seats, which our judges loved. As it has been for years, Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system once again proved a crowd favorite and was equipped with the latest fifth-generation Uconnect along with a 10.1-inch center screen. The team also fawned over the powerful Alpine sound system. The Active Drive Assist, Head-Up Display and Night Vision systems included in the Advanced Protech Group package are things our crew could live without, but luckily they’re easy enough to ignore or turn off, and the Protech Group also includes itself Surround View and Trail camera systems, which are worth the price of admission. We won’t even get started on the useless screen on the passenger side.

Everyone agreed that the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has very sleek and modern exterior styling, with some referring to it as “swoopy” or “fast.” Others even went so far as to declare that it looked like it was moving fast even when it stopped. Our team appreciated the aggressiveness of the Trailhawk’s tires and loved the wheel design. At its normal ride height, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk sits low and is fairly easy to get in and out of. Thankfully, its adjustable air suspension elevates the vehicle for off-road excursions. But while the front and rear bumpers and fairings have higher off-road clearance on the Trailhawk, there’s still a lot of flimsy plastic. We managed to dent the lower front bumper corner on a piece of ice while driving through a puddle, which is borderline unacceptable (but admittedly a freak accident, as no other vehicles apparently encountered the same iceberg).

On the highway

We knew from past experience that the 2023 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk would prove to be a great highway warrior. Much of our judging panel appreciated the Jeep’s smooth ride and tight handling, with many commenting on its amazing ability to tame mountain roads. However, the only thing that separated the team was the powertrain. No one complained about the vehicle’s power, but some were confused by the 4x’s hybrid powertrain. From the simple complaints of not knowing what setting the jeep should be in (Hybrid, E-Save or EV), to not really understanding how the system works. We also had many comments about the sometimes odd handling characteristics of the transmission’s Motor Interrupting Clutch and Integrated Launch Element. Because the electric traction motor essentially replaces the transmission’s torque converter, it can sometimes feel like the Grand is equipped with a malfunctioning dual-clutch transmission.

When the sidewalk ends

Off-road is where the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk really needed to shine. And as the flagship off-roader in the Grand Cherokee lineup and the vehicle with the most ground clearance and best approach, departure and transition angles in the test group, the performance bar was set pretty high. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk never left our judges disappointed, but there were more than a few moments that led to its middle-of-the-road performance score.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk never quite hit the terrain, but it didn’t stand out from the pack either. Our team appreciated that it came with an electronic limited-slip rear differential, but sometimes had trouble telling whether it was engaged or not. The locked differential icon on the dashboard did nothing but add to the confusion. Having an electronic disconnect front anti-sway bar is a great feature when it comes to aiding suspension flexibility and articulation, but the Grand Cherokee doesn’t have much of it to begin with. Our judges noted that the Grand Cherokee’s smaller body size compared to the rest of the competition made it fun to whip around, but it was also noted to have a very firm suspension that created a lot of jostling and head-tossing on rough and rutted roads. ways. Moving to the standard height provides a smoother ride, but at the expense of ground clearance. And despite having a decent set of off-road tires, the Grand Cherokee was the only vehicle we got stuck in soft sand, and one of only a couple that couldn’t make it up the hill once it got soft and nasty.

Could this have been driver error or a lack of understanding of how the electronic aids work? Possibly. But all of these situations reinforced our judges’ feeling that the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk was just kind of meh off-road. Don’t get us wrong – the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk went everywhere and did almost everything we asked of it. However, it was never quite drama-free; it always took a little more gas, a different line, or a second try in a different drive mode to get the job done. If the off-road experience had been just a little more seamless, we’d be looking at a winner.

Conclusion

In short, the general consensus among our ATV judges is that the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is the ultimate off-road Grand Cherokee … as it should be. Jeep is certainly on the right track and has created a powerful and comfortable SUV that is incredibly capable off-road. A little more refinement of the traction control system, better off-road damping, and even a simplification of buttons and modes (the 4xe hybrid system is still complicated for the uninitiated) would easily propel this Grand Cherokee to the top spot.

What is hot

Impressive powertrain, comfortable highway ride, great skid plate package, disconnect front anti-sway bar, useful front and rear recovery hooks

What it is not

Tricky and noisy traction control system, firm suspension in off-road modes, quite a bit of highway road noise, poor outward visibility

Log book offers

  • “From a distance and parked next to a Wagoneer, this thing looks like a Jeep Compass…sorry.”
  • “I love the power of the hybrid 4xe powertrain, but it’s so confusing to know which mode to be in.”
  • “I really like the steering wheel controls; they are very logically laid out for my taste.”
  • “Lots of squealing and squealing from the brake pedal during twisty off-road driving with low traction.”
  • “For a mid-size SUV, this thing feels huge inside and is pretty comfortable.”
  • “The Grand Cherokee tackled an iceberg and the plastic bumper dropped … such a bummer.”

2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk: Specs and Details

  • Base price: $62,485
  • Price as tested: $70,190
  • EPA Fuel Economy (MPGe/Comb): 56/23
  • Tested fuel economy (average/best): 19.09/23.72
  • Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged I-4 Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV)
  • Power: 375 hp at 5,250 rpm
  • Torque: 470 lb-ft @ 3,000 RPM
  • Gearbox: 8-speed automatic
  • Acceleration 0-60 MPH: 5.83 seconds
  • ¼-Mile: 14.39 seconds @ 99.0 mph
  • Braking 60-0 MPH: 127.22 feet

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