Mountain Wheels: Heavily revised Jeep Grand Cherokee adds heavy-duty technology and extra space

The fifth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee gets extra cargo and passenger space and a host of electronics and safety tools. A plug-in electric hybrid version will also be available later this year.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles/Courte photo

Welcome to a new year, let me quickly address the significant updates made to a popular, American-made SUV – especially as opportunities to drive other new RVs have been hard to come by, thanks to delivery and production issues.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I drove back and forth from the Front Range to Breckenridge twice over the Christmas weekend, certainly proved to be the right kind for snow and car-packed winter highways.

It has become increasingly sophisticated and certainly jumps up a few notches in terms of technology, with plenty of passenger-friendly features to complement its off-road capabilities.

I was most concerned with navigating deep, fresh snow and atrocious Interstate 70 conditions, and the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee did so with great confidence—even on less-than-stellar all-season tires.

I sampled an Overland edition, priced at $62,885 with a whole heap of options, most notably a 19-speaker, 950-watt McIntosh stereo system (audiophiles may recognize that name from high-end home stereo systems) and sophisticated gadgets, including a night-vision camera in the electronic instrument panel, Nappa leather seats and massage seats up front.

Power here came in the form of an all-aluminum 3.6-liter V-6 making 293 horsepower mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission with subtle thumb-activated paddle shifters on the steering wheel. A 357-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 is also available, giving the Grand Cherokee as much as 7,200 pounds of towing capacity. All 4×4 models have front axle disconnect, allowing the vehicle to cruise largely as a rear-wheel drive vehicle to save fuel.

The 2022 Jeep offers a handsome and slightly thicker and blockier look than previous models, with more angular wheel arches, blacked-out window frames for a floating roof effect and hefty 20-inch wheels.

The nose adopts a new, vertical wall of grille, flanked by low-profile headlights and LED daytime running lights, all atop a bone-shaped front fascia with prominent tow hooks and fog light panels on each side. Out back is a wide band of taillights — not quite as sci-fi as a Durango but pretty close.

The overall update is keen but also clean enough not to scare off existing Grand Cherokee fans.

Driving character also provides what I felt was a slightly more grown-up experience than yahoos in their Wrangler Unlimiteds and my many friends in Toyota 4Runners, both of which always seem to show up or misbehave in the worst weather or traffic.

The V-6 Grand Cherokee’s power is certainly more than adequate, but not dazzling, and its Quadra-Trac 4×4 system (three grades of which are available) absolutely kept me grounded, even in pretty sketchy conditions. You can cycle through traction and performance modes, and a gripper snow system was easy to click on—allowing me to comfortably pass the long, long line of vehicles slowly and steadily sweeping the icy left lane of Colorado Highway 9.

I was able to get about 23 mpg; it’s rated as high as 26 mpg on the highway under less taxing conditions. In the summer, you could take advantage of its sophisticated 4×4 system and cruise through 2 feet of water or even disconnect the sway bars for family-friendly rock crawling.

The Overland edition featured almost every option available, and the stiffly sported, leather-trimmed seats were very stylish. The front navigation and entertainment screens are crisp and full of features, and you can also get equally wide rear entertainment screens with Amazon Fire TV built-in.

I could not, for the life of me, get the very elegant and detailed navigation maps to regularly center or display traffic data when I most desperately needed it on the summit side of my travels, likely due to poor data connections.

Space has also increased significantly with 37.7 cubic feet of good, fully carpeted rear storage – the layout is indicative of the third-row setup of the new, extended-wheelbase model – plus a full-size spare and some storage under a large cargo deck lid.

My model, one of seven available trim levels, was just part of an impressive lineup of builds that also includes the plug-in electric hybrid version referenced in my last review of the electrified Wrangler Rubicon, as well as an ultra-aggressive, off-road-focused Trailhawk edition .

Even in standard configuration, the Grand Cherokee’s Quadra-Lift air suspension system helps the vehicle gain 11.3 inches of ground clearance, as well as settling closer to the road for better aerodynamics on dry highways.

Andy Stonehouse

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