Mountain Wheels: Heavily revised Jeep Grand Cherokee adds heavy 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 by a popular, American-made SUV – especially as it has been difficult to get opportunities to drive other new motorhomes, due to delivery and production problems.

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

It has become increasingly sophisticated and really jumps up a few notches when it comes to technology, with lots of passenger-friendly features to complement its off-road capability.

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

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

The power here was in the form of a 3.6-liter V-6 made entirely of aluminum that provides 293 horsepower coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission with subtle thumb-activated shift paddles 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 disconnection, which means that the vehicle can largely cross as a rear-wheel drive vehicle to save fuel.

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

The nose adopts a new, vertical wall of grilles, flanked by low-profile headlights and LED headlights, all on top of a bone-shaped front panel with prominent towbars and fog light panels on each side. At the back there is a wide band of taillights – not quite as sci-fi as a Durango but quite close.

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

The driving character also gives what I felt was a slightly more adult experience than yahoos in their Wrangler Unlimiteds and my many friends in Toyota 4Runners, who both always seem to show up or misbehave in the worst weather or traffic.

The power of the V-6 Grand Cherokee is certainly more than adequate, but not dazzling, and its Quadra-Trac 4 × 4 system (of which three qualities are available) kept me absolutely grounded, even in rather sketchy conditions. You can scroll through traction and performance modes, and a grabber snow system was easy to click on – allowing me to comfortably walk past the long, long line of vehicles slowly and steadily turning over the icy left lane of Colorado Highway 9.

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

The Overland edition featured almost all available options, and the stiffly sporty, leather-covered seats were very elegant. The front navigation and entertainment screens are sharp and full of features, and you can also get equally wide entertainment screens with the Amazon Fire TV built-in.

For the rest of my life, I could not 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, probably due to poor data connections.

The space has also increased significantly with 37.7 cubic feet of good and comprehensive storage space at the rear – the layout is an indication of the third-row installation of the new model with extended wheelbase – 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 array of designs that also include the plug-in electric hybrid version referenced in my latest review of the electrified Wrangler Rubicon, as well as an ultra-aggressive, off-road-focused Trailhawk edition.

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

Andy Stonehouse

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