Rethinking what it means to be a Jeep
Every time I’ve stepped into one of the new Jeep SUVs (that aren’t a Wrangler), I say the same thing: Who does Jeep think they are now? And what I mean by that is that Jeep has gone through an impressive metamorphosis with its SUV lineup offering luxurious, stylish vehicles. This is a departure from their more basic, robust offering that they have profited from over the years.
This week I’m reviewing the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I actually got to enjoy two different trims with two different powertrains. And both left me saying once again, who does Jeep think they are here?
Getting to experience the Grand Cherokee with both the 3.6-liter engine and the turbocharged 2.0-liter with electric motor assist helped me gain perspective on what this SUV is all about.
As a 4xe (electric engine with turbo 2.0), the Grand Cherokee lives up to the first part of its name. It’s pretty grand. Jeep is making progress with the 4xe nameplate, which drops the electric motor assist in most of its lineup, including the Wrangler.
10 years ago it would have been blasphemy to talk about an electric Jeep, but now it’s not only accepted but a pretty good option. With the proven 3.6-liter V6, the Grand Cherokee is a little more familiar. That is, it performs like you might remember a Jeep to drive. It is slightly underpowered with this engine as it is rated for 293 horsepower and 257 pound-feet of torque. Comparatively, the 4xe version is rated at 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.
An eight-speed automatic transmission is part of both power plants and is able to handle the power and torque adequately. There is no noticeable turbo lag with this transmission on the 4xe version. Front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard, but a Jeep must be four-wheel drive (AWD). Both my testers were 4×4.
Appearance-wise, the Grand Cherokee also gets the first part of its name because it’s quite grand. Jeep’s focus is to invade the luxury SUV market and they are doing it with the Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneer. Is it a Cadillac? It certainly looks as advanced as a Cadillac or other luxury nameplate.
It still retains the waterfall grille that Jeep is known for. The unique shape of the dual exhaust system is integrated into the rear bumper and gives it a complete look. Clean lines and refined styling will keep the Grand Cherokee from aging.
In the 4xe variant, the blue lowercase e is a common theme on both the rear and side of the Grand Cherokee. The black look of the Grand Cherokee Limited really makes this SUV pop with gloss black painted aluminum wheels and gloss black accents.
Inside, the luxury focus is quite clear. Leather seating surfaces are just the beginning of what makes this five-passenger SUV “big.” Heated and cooled front seats and heated rear seats add to the finesse, while soft materials and beautiful accents add refinement not usually found in a Jeep.
From a technical standpoint, Jeep doesn’t often get enough credit for the intuitive nature of their infotainment system. A 10.1-inch touchscreen is responsive and well-placed in the center, while the front passenger can enjoy their own 10.25-inch touchscreen as well (optional). This makes the entire front dashboard appear modern with a wall of screens. It doesn’t overwhelm but it looks impressive.
Behind the second row is 37.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which is impressive among other five-passenger SUVs. Fold down the rear seats and cargo space expands to 70.8 cubic feet. This shows how versatile the Grand Cherokee can be for transporting not only passengers but also as a weekend war vehicle.
All the aforementioned luxuries come at a price. With the Grand Cherokee 4xe Summit starting more than $65,000. Meanwhile, the Limited trim had a base price of $49,020, but when optioned out it had a final MSRP of $57,540.
The fuel economy of the 4xe is outstanding as you would expect from a plug-in hybrid. It has an all-electric range of around 25 miles. As such, it offers a combined fuel economy of 56 mpg. The 3.6-liter V6 with 4WD is rated at 19 mpg/city and 26 mpg/highway. This is more in line with what you would expect from a Jeep.
So who does Jeep think they are? I’m not sure, but if all you think of when you hear the name is that Jeep is a rugged off-road mud monster, think again.