Test Drive: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve Climbs to Luxury Heights

(The Car Connection) — Grand takes on new meaning with the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. With its first complete redesign since 2011, the Grand Cherokee is more of everything: It’s bigger, more capable, more technologically advanced, more efficient with the 4xe plug-in hybrid variant, and more than anything, it’s more luxurious.

And more expensive of course. The base model Laredo starts at around $40,000, which is $6,000 more than last year’s starting point, but my top-of-the-line Summit Reserve hit new highs with a price of $73,000. Such a wide spread reflects how Jeep still caters to its base as it strives for a piece of the luxury red velvet pie.

That’s one reason the redesigned 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee earned a high TCC rating of 7.2 out of 10 and returned to its familiar spot as our best SUV to buy in 2022.

Like life, though, it’s not perfect. During my week of testing, it hit several big notes, but it also skipped a few spots.

Hit: “Is that a Land Rover?”

No. But when I tried to understand why my friend would say such a thing, it gave me insight into the new look of a vehicle that has long been the benchmark for SUV design despite its unibody construction. I pulled up to her at a stop, so maybe she didn’t see the classic seven-slot Jeep grill slimmed down onto a more blunt, vertical surface. Maybe it was the gloss black roof over the Silver Zynith body, or the clean body panels with the slimmest character line running through the door handles. Most likely it was the quilted Palermo leather and wood grain dash that popped from the luxury-leaning cabin. Anyway, she wasn’t the only one who didn’t think it was a Jeep.

Miss: It’s bigger

The new Grand Cherokee is 3.4 inches longer, 1.6 inches taller, 1.0 inches wider, but at 4,784 pounds, the Summit Reserve 4×4 lost more than 200 pounds from its similarly equipped predecessor. Still, the new five-passenger Grand Cherokee is as smooth as a typical three-row SUV, although the three-row Grand Cherokee L is much softer. Jeep makes up for the Grand Cherokee’s larger dimensions with front MacPherson struts and a more robust five-link independent rear suspension, as well as air springs that can raise ground clearance from 8.4 inches to 11.3 inches for off-road driving. I didn’t go off-road (check out our partner’s take on it at Motor Authority), but on pavement, the system automatically adjusts the shock adjustment for a smoother, quieter ride. The driver can override it with five different height settings, or use the five driving mode settings (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand) that are easily accessible with the center console. In Auto mode, the big SUV leans into corners and bumps the road, but it stifles road imperfections and isolates the cabin from road and wind noise. Sport mode lowers the air suspension, but it can’t overcome the physics.

Hit: It’s bigger

The increased proportions make it much larger on the inside, confirming that especially in Summit Reserve classes, this off-road hero was built for comfort as much as capability. In that sense it is like a Land Rover. The front has more shoulder and legroom, and the extra width gives rear riders a bit more room, although I wouldn’t try to fit a third adult in the middle for anything more than a local trip. Still, passenger and cargo volume increases, at 37.7 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seats up; fold them down manually (power-fold isn’t an option, even on the Summit Reserve) and that grows to 70.8 cubic feet, which is less than four feet shy of a seven-seat Land Rover Discovery.

Hit: Seat comfort

Of kings, said Shakespeare, “troubled is the head that wears the crown”; of luxury cars Bill the Bard might have said, “simple is the flip side that pays for luxury.” The Summit Reserve’s front and rear seats are heated and cooled, and soft quilted leather up front complements massagers with a range of settings. The massage button on the door panel couldn’t be easier to reach, leading to frequent and welcome kneading.

Miss: Carryover powertrains, with one exception

The base 3.6-liter V-6 and available 5.7-liter V-8 carry over from the last generation, and they’re plenty powerful for everything from towing to off-roading to mischief. The awesome 357 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque in the Summit Reserve’s V-8 help it pull 7,200 lb and eclipse seven seconds in a 0-60 mph sprint, with all the American thunder you’d expect from a V-8.

But we live in fuel- and emissions-conscious times, and the V-8 with 4WD is rated at 17 mpg combined. Jeep knows the time of the V-8 is nearly over, and as the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid makes 375 hp and 470 lb-ft, while boasting EPA ratings of 23 mpg combined and 56 mpg combined with electric power, there’s no reason other than nostalgia for the V-8.

Hit: Spearhead cabin

Jeep is all-in on all screens. A 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster is the most useful, projecting up to five easy-to-see tiles ranging from trip meter to terrain meter to driver assistance functions, of which there are many. A 10.1-inch touchscreen with the latest Uconnect infotainment system sits in the middle and remains easy to use even as Jeep deepens its functionality. The front passenger gets its own 10.3-inch touch screen for navigation and entertainment, or for arguing with the driver, which is shielded from view. My tester had the $1,995 Rear Seat Video Group with dual seatback screens with Amazon Fire TV compatibility. That’s a lot of screens, but it’s not overwhelming like Mercedes or Cadillac’s massive wall-to-wall screens. Also, the cabin is a lovely place to be, but I’d skip the Tupelo trim color because it washes out the wood grain.

Miss: $1,795 destination charge

While most mandatory destination charges — those slippery extras that automakers add to deliver cars to dealers without having to include them in marketing — are in the $995-$1,295 range, even for cars imported from Germany, Japan or Korea. Jeep and Ford consistently flirt with $2,000. The 2022 Grand Cherokee will come all the way from Detroit via what? Plane, train, truck, dirigible, derring-do? I would get it direct from the factory if I could.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve scales luxury levels but isn’t priced as high as full-boat luxury SUVs from Germany or the UK. It retains its rugged American individualism and a V-8 for now. Wherever Jeep is headed with the Grand brand, the Grand Cherokee’s toughest, most direct competition comes from within.

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2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4×4

Basic price: $39,185, including $1,795 destination for the base Laredo

Price as tested: $73,085

Driveline: 357-hp 5.7-liter V-8 with an 8-speed manual and 4WD

EPA fuel economy: 14/22/17 mpg

The hits: Luxurious features, opulent finish, light terrain, bigger and bolder

The misses: Expensive, boat-like, outrageous destination charge

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