The plug-in Hybrid SUV goes off the road

Jeep is one of the oldest vehicle brands and sells one of the most traditional, well-established models in the American (and global) market. But it is also evolving to keep pace with a changing world. And the latest Grand Cherokee 4xe, a plug-in hybrid model with a range of 250 km fully electric, is the latest example of Jeep’s development. 4xe follows Jeep’s introduction of the Grand Cherokee L last year, the first 3-seater version of the Jeep’s premium SUV, and one that helped the Grand Cherokee have its best sales year since 2001.

If the idea of ​​a Jeep-branded plug-in hybrid somehow seems counterintuitive to your Jeep sensitivities, you have not been paying attention. This is the brand’s second plug-in hybrid model. The first was last year’s Jeep Wrangler 4xe, the best-selling plug-in hybrid in 2021, despite an introduction in April that was only available for 8 months. Jeep also unveiled its first all-electric model last month, confirming the brand’s readiness for an electric future.

But what does an electric future mean for Jeep, and how does this driveline technology affect the qualities that Jeep fans have come to know and love about the brand? According to Jeep representatives, the 2022 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe is based on the Trailhawk’s capacity, with disconnected swing rods and a differential with limited gliding, plus the best approach and departure angles of the class. It also includes the Trailhawks standard Quadra-Lift air suspension with 10.9 inches of ground clearance and up to 24 inches of water transport.

Where things get interesting is how the plug-in electric driveline improves the Trailhawk 4xe’s capacity, making it more capable than the traditional combustion model. For example, this version is almost a second faster from 0-60 mph while receiving 56 MPGe ratings. It also has that brand, instant torque provided by electric motors, plus a two-speed gearbox with a 2.72: 1 low-gear ratio, both of which are handy when climbing over rocks and up steep slopes. This setting also helps the Grand Cherokee 4xe get a trailer rating of £ 6,000 and a total range of 470 miles, including the aforementioned 25 miles of all-electric travel.

The technology behind these numbers begins with a turbocharged 2.0-liter, inline 4-cylinder engine that offers 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. This engine is mated to an electric motor of 134 horsepower, 195 pound-feet of torque, along with a 44 hp / 39 lb-ft torque starter / generator motor, plus an 8-speed automatic transmission. The power of the total driveline is estimated at 375 hp and 470 lb-ft. A 400-volt battery pack, mounted under the rear seat and charged through a port in the driver’s side fender, takes 2 hours and 15 minutes to fully charge from a 240-volt level 2 charger, or 12 hours from a standard 110-volt household outlet.

Perhaps one of the coolest features of the Grand Cherokee 4x is the ability to charge the battery while driving. A bank of buttons on the lower left side of the dashboard allows drivers to switch between standard hybrid mode, all-electric mode and an “e-save” mode that can maintain the battery’s charge status for future use – for example when you want to ride terrain without noise by simply using the electric motors. This e-save mode can also be set to actually charge the 400-volt battery up to a preset level while driving, either to 40, 60 or 80 percent of the charge. This should be possible with any plug-in hybrid, but the Grand Cherokee is one of the few plug-ins that offers it.

While we were immediately fascinated by this feature, we honestly wondered how long it would take to charge the Grand Cherokee 4x’s large battery pack through normal driving conditions. To our surprise, we caught over 40 percent of the battery’s charge charge on our drive from downtown Austin to a terrain park less than 160 miles away. It was to use both e-save mode and the most aggressive regenerative braking setting, which causes the jeep to brake when you lift off the gas. As with most hybrid and electric vehicles, a short acclimatization period is all that is required to learn to lift the accelerator pedal and let the car’s braking system slow you down while you take advantage of the vehicle’s forward speed.

Once in the park, we put the Trailhawk 4xe to the test on an aggressive terrain course that made us use a two-speed gearbox, 47.4: 1 crawl ratio, control for hill, sway-bar disconnection and 10.9 inches of ground clearance. We also appreciated the exterior cameras that allow you to place the jeep exactly where you want it while navigating through trees and over sharp rocks. This Grand Cherokee is easily among the 10 most capable off-road vehicles you can buy right now – probably top 5. And having the ability to climb over hills and valleys with enormous torque and with zero noise, adds a new dimension to experience.

Our off-road seating time allayed any concerns we had about the skill of the Grand Cherokee without sidewalks, but we can not forget what has made this model so successful over the past 30 years. As one of the first premium SUVs you could buy in the early 1990s, the Grand Cherokee has always provided a smart balance between off-road adventure and luxury on the road. The current Grand Cherokee takes this doctrine to a new level, offering luxurious interior materials, safe handling, a wide range of advanced technology and a quiet cab (even when not in full electric mode). Quilted Nappa leather massage seats, several 10-inch touch screens, a head-up display and a 19-speaker McIntosh sound system are among the highlights available.

We are particularly pleased with the latest Uconnect 5 interface, which continues Uconnect’s tradition of providing in-depth vehicle information and customization options through an intuitive interface. This system is now Amazon Alexa and Amazon Fire TV compatible, has dual phone connections and benefits from OTA updates. We also appreciated the simple infographic in the meter cluster that made it easy to monitor Grand Cherokee’s driver assistance systems. The list of standard driver assistance technologies, including frontal collision warning and brake assistance (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane keeping assistance, blind spot, smart cruise control and rear parking sensors, is another boast point for the Grand Cherokee 4xe.

So much capacity, luxury and technology is not cheap, but at a starting price of 59,495 $ (including a destination fee of 1,795 $) there is a strong value argument also for the base Grand Cherokee 4xe, which includes the driver assistance technology mentioned. above, leather seats, a 10-inch touchscreen on the passenger side, 18-inch wheels, a double-glazed sunroof and Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive. The $ 64,280 Trailhawk upgrade to the Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system, air suspension, locking differential, swivel release and off-road cameras. $ 67,555 Overland 4xe gets 20-inch wheels, premium sound and a sunroof with double glazing, while the Summit 4xe $ 71.05 adds exterior upgrades, four-zone climate control, perforated nappa leather, massage chairs and additional driver assistance technology, including parking assist.

For the ultimate in luxury and technology experience, a Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe package includes a head-up display, night vision technology, quilted Palemo leather seats, walnut details with open pores, suede and post roof pillars, ventilated front and rear seats, manual secondary window , charging the cordless phone and 21-inch wheels for $ 76,095. This combination of advanced technology, both inside the cabin and driving the vehicle, is a sneak peak at what’s coming, as Jeep says every model it manufactures will offer an electrified version 2025. And with the performance of this latest Grand Cherokee 4xe, we’re fine with that plan.

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