In 1992, Jeep did the unthinkable and imagined the Grand Cherokee as an exclusive sports vehicle. Beach days really for a manufacturer that would have been hard pressed to list a luxury feature on any of their vehicles up to that point. And guess what, it worked.
Today, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee steps out of the shadow of its brand new sibling Grand Cherokee L and Grand Wagoneer to assert its personality as a two-wheeled SUV with all the luxury appointments you could wish for and expect – a highly capable 4×4 system.
My latest Grand Cherokee tester was the top model of the Summit Reserve that checked every box that Jeep offers. The Advanced ProTech (1995) package included a heads-up display with night vision that can distinguish between animals and humans, as well as a night-time rear-view mirror function that shows a live feed of what is behind you.
I mention these unique technical features to emphasize how elite the equipment is on the Grand Cherokee, but it does not slow down from there. Choose Summit Reserve and the interior gets Palermo leather seats and accents, an exclusive feature of this SUV, a fantastic 950-watt sound system from McIntosh with 19 speakers embedded in each slot in the cabin, and 21-inch painted aluminum rims.
On the outside, the first thing you will notice is the two-tone scheme of the Grand Cherokee. You only get a black roof, but the lower half can be countless colors; if you want a single color, yes, black is all you can get. Although I like the two-tone method, especially how much it differs from the other big SUV in the stable, it feels a bit daunting not to have the choice (especially at these prices).
The Grand Cherokee is a handsome SUV with a base price of $ 59,365, although my tester raised it to $ 73,000 when all the extra features and destination fees were added. That said, it really does look like it’s worth it on the outside. A signature Jeep grill sets the tone and much more conservative body lines sweep back to a refined and elegant rear treatment with thin taillights and sharp double exhaust ports.
The position of the 21-inch wheels (19-inch is standard) does not scream athletic, but be sure that this is a capable off-road vehicle, Jeep invests its legacy in it, regardless of the Palermo leather comfort inside.
The Grand Cherokee’s cabin is elegant and put together with great care. Every button and control knob is well thought out, within reach and exciting to look at. The materials are soft and in many cases covered with the soft Palermo leather. The seats are just firm enough with any number of power adjustments to find your perfect seating position. A 10-inch interactive screen for front passengers is a nice addition so that everyone can stay up to date. Look for heated and ventilated seats, even in the back.
Keeping the cabin open is a big roof hatch. Passengers in the back are taken care of with huge backrest video screens that were easy to use with individual headphone sets so that everyone can watch Amazon’s Fire TV, or whatever they want via a wireless device. Look for lots of charging ports and a charging pad on the front for new models of phones.
It’s funny how you can be so happy with the dynamic sound from the Alpine bass sound system, an incredibly capable sound package, just to test the McIntosh system with 19 speakers and be forced to raise the bar once again.
I must say that I was disappointed with the lack of second row fold control in the cargo area. Most SUVs in this price range do not allow you to go to a rear door and use a seat-mounted lever to fold the rear bench. There is a lot of space behind the second row, and even more so when you decide to fold down these seats.
Jeep offers hybrid Grand Cherokee variants, but when it comes to old-fashioned fuel, you can choose one of two engines: the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, which delivers 293 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, or a Hemi V8 system with 357 hp and 390 lb-ft.
My tester had the Hemi V8 and it was fantastic to drive, refined and capable, and a fitting match to the accommodating cabin. Both engines are mated to a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. My tester had some hiccups in sport mode and showed a noticeable delay when I jumped on the pedal.
Grand Cherokee manages all roads with good balance. The extremely quiet cab is a dream to ride in, while the huge 21-inch wheels and 275-rubber surface make cornering and stopping a serious thought for the driver.
Jeep may take another step by implementing a more luxurious standard theme for their iconic Grand Cherokee, but the implementation of the plan is definitely in place. The real question is, will buyers raise the luxury price for a little off-road capacity? I think if you have a Hemi in it, they can just be happy about it.
• John Stein is a freelance journalist based in Chicago. He has more than 25 years of experience driving, testing and writing about the automotive industry, its latest innovations and vehicles.