Some smooth, some rough

2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe: Logs, leather and ‘electricity.

Award: $78,605 as tested. Advanced Protech Group IV added head-up display and night vision for $2,235; Luxury Tech Group V added $275. More is noted below.

Conventional wisdom: Edmunds likes that it has “short-haul electric driving” but “retains the off-road capability of the standard Grand Cherokee, tows up to 6,000 pounds when properly equipped, PHEV powertrain doesn’t reduce passenger or cargo space,” but not “Eye-catching price tag, barely more fuel-efficient than the standard model.”

Marketer’s pitch: “The legend, designed for the future.”

Reality: Mostly calm and cool, with occasional outbreaks.

Competition: BMW X5 Drive45e, Kia Sorento Plug-In Hybrid.

What is new: Jeep breaks new ground with the Grand Cherokee 4xe, bringing a plug-in hybrid to the off-road SUV. The Wrangler 4xe was a nice ride; how does this measure up?

Up to speed: The engine is a 2.0-liter turbo-four, along with twin motors and a 17.3-kWh battery that provides 25 miles of range. Together, the system creates 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. The vehicle reaches 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to Motor Trend, a respectable number.

After having the vehicle for a couple of days, I was ready to report that the powertrain was smooth and quiet and felt like a V-8. But the next time I got into it, the vehicle made as much noise as an old Reliant pulling out from a standing start, as if it required a lot of effort just to get going. And during that drive, the quiet, smooth engine continued to make 2.0-liter turbo-worthy noise.

Its power delivery didn’t ring any bells for Mr. Driver’s Seat, so there was nothing special about hills and passes.

» READ MORE: Jeep really blows the doors off with the Wrangler 4xe

Sneaky: As in all Jeeps and the entire Stellantis line, PRND is done with a dial. I’m getting used to it.

The eight-speed transmission had shiftability through paddles, and they seemed on the small side for a vehicle that otherwise played the role of a big honking truck.

Somewhere in the powertrain lurked a stinginess when pulling out cold and sometimes when downshifting and slowing down in corners. It even felt like the truck was in four wheel drive when I turned it in the driveway and cornered, but it wasn’t.

On the road – and away: The Grand Cherokee felt so big and wide that it could be difficult to maneuver on narrow country roads. I never thought I had a strong sense of where my vehicle ended and the shoulder began, probably something to do with the window line and relative seat height.

Handling highways and country roads was mostly straightforward, thankfully.

The large tires on the tested Grand Cherokee should have been enough to make a big dirt road seem like nothing, but it really felt like something. The curb access to the Sturgis family’s driveway also appeared more improved than it had in other vehicles.

Driver’s seat: Since the 1980s versions of the Grand Wagoneer, Jeep has been adept at making its luxury car owners feel like they’re in the saddle. The Palermo leather (part of the $4,480 Summit Reserve Group) in today’s model once again offers just the version of tan most often seen on the range or a Chester County horse farm.

Plenty of wood surrounds the driver; there is enough login here to get mr. Driver’s Sea to feel as if he is in a cab. It is a lot.

But it’s comfortable and has a great view, and the controls are pretty simple, as they are in most Jeeps.

Friends and stuff: Passengers in the back seat will not lack space. Headroom, legroom and footroom are all generous, although the middle passenger will have a hump in the way.

However, the seat itself is very flat and straight, with none of the plushness and contours that make the front seats so nice. However, the backrest angle is adjustable, which at least makes it acceptable, and the rear seat was heated and ventilated (part of the Summit Reserve Group).

Cargo space is a generous 37.7 cubic feet behind the second row and 70.8 behind the first.

Play some songs: The 10.1-inch touchscreen is nice enough, but it can also be boring. I kept pressing different functions twice and thrice. The screen also seemed to reset frequently, a quirk I’ve noticed in other Jeeps.

The volume and setting knobs are located below the screen and face into the cup holders, which makes handling a bit challenging.

Furthermore, the row of buttons across the top of the screen – for non-infotainment functions – face up towards the windscreen and were as difficult to read as the dials. The configuration also omits resting places for your touchscreen hand.

The sound from the McIntosh system (another Summit Reserve Group feature) wasn’t bad, about a B+, despite the 19 speakers working at their best and the boost from a 950-watt amplifier.

Keeping warm and cool: The cooling and heating controls are nestled between the volume and tuning knobs, but it’s a standard Jeep, so most buyers are probably used to it. Buttons also heat and cool the seat, although the touchscreen offers most of the options here as well.

Fuel Economy: I averaged about 26-27 mpg, depending on how much sport mode I used, with the vehicle engaged a lot and staying within about 15 miles of home. This is a huge improvement over the 18 mpg I recorded in the Grand Cherokee L V-6.

Where it is built: Detroit

How it is built: Consumer Reports predicts Grand Cherokee reliability to be 2 out of 5, with no separate category for the 4xe model.

In the end: Since the Jeep is priced like a BMW X5 xDrive45e anyway, I’d probably go for the BMW.

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