The plug-in hybrid SUV is on its way

Jeep is among the oldest vehicle brands and sells one of the most traditional, well-established models in the US (and global) market. But it also evolves to keep pace with a changing world. And the latest Grand Cherokee 4xe, a plug-in hybrid model with a 25-mile all-electric range, is the latest example of Jeep’s evolution. The 4xe follows Jeep’s introduction of the Grand Cherokee L last year, the first 3-row version of Jeep’s premium SUV, and one that helped the Grand Cherokee have its best sales year since 2001.

If the thought of a Jeep-badged plug-in hybrid seems somehow counterintuitive to your Jeep sensibilities, you haven’t 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 of 2021, despite an introduction in April that only had it 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 powertrain 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 builds on the Trailhawk’s capabilities, with disconnected sway bars and a limited-slip differential, plus best-in-class approach and departure angles. It also includes the Trailhawk’s standard Quadra-Lift air suspension with 10.9 inches of ground clearance and up to 24 inches of water clearance.

Where things get interesting is how the plug-in electric powertrain enhances the Trailhawk 4xe’s capabilities, making it more capable than the traditional combustion model. For example, this version is nearly a second faster from 0-60 mph while earning a 56 MPGe rating. It also has that trademark, instant torque provided by electric motors, plus a two-speed gearbox with a 2.72:1 low gear ratio, both of which come in handy when climbing over rocks and up steep inclines. This setup also helps the Grand Cherokee 4xe achieve a 6,000-pound tow rating and a total range of 470 miles, including the aforementioned 25 miles of all-electric travel.

The technology behind those numbers starts 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 a 134 horsepower, 195 pound-feet of torque electric motor, along with a 44 hp/39 lb-ft torque starter/generator motor, plus an 8-speed automatic transmission. Total powertrain output is rated 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 Grand Cherokee 4xes’ coolest features is the ability to charge the battery while driving. A bank of buttons on the lower left-hand 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 state of charge for future use – for example, when you want to go off-road without noise by just using the electric motors. This e-economy 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 charge. This should be possible with any plug-in hybrid, but the Grand Cherokee is one of the few plug-ins that offer it.

While we were immediately intrigued 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 captured over 40 percent of the battery’s state of charge on our drive from downtown Austin to a terrain park less than 100 miles away. It was using 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 it takes to learn to lift off the gas pedal and let the car’s braking system slow you down while still benefiting from the vehicle’s forward momentum.

Once at the park, we put the Trailhawk 4xe to the test on an aggressive off-road course that had us using the two-speed transmission, 47.4:1 crawl ratio, hill control, sway-bar disconnect and 10.9 inches of ground clearance. We also appreciated the external 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 hill and valley with massive torque and with zero noise adds a new dimension to the experience.

Our off-road seat time quelled any concerns we had about the Grand Cherokee’s off-pavement prowess, but we can’t 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 on-road luxury. The current Grand Cherokee takes this doctrine to a new level, offering luxurious interior materials, assured handling, a vast array of advanced technology and a quiet cabin (even when not in full electric mode). Quilted Nappa leather massage seats, multiple 10-inch touchscreens, a head-up display and a 19-speaker McIntosh sound system are among the available highlights.

We’re particularly fond of 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 gauge cluster that made it easy to monitor the Grand Cherokee’s driver assistance systems. The list of standard driver assistance technologies, including forward collision warning and brake assist (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), lane keep assist, blind spot, smart cruise control and rear parking sensors, is another point of pride for the Grand Cherokee 4xe.

That much capability, luxury and technology doesn’t come cheap, but at a starting price of $59,495 (including a $1,795 destination charge), there’s a strong value case for even the base Grand Cherokee 4xe, which includes the driver-assist technology mentioned. above, leather seats, a 10-inch touchscreen on the passenger side, 18-inch wheels, a dual-glass sunroof, and Quadra-Trac II all-wheel drive. The $64,280 Trailhawk upgrade to the Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system, air suspension, limited slip differential, swing disconnect and off-road cameras. The $67,555 Overland 4xe gets 20-inch wheels, premium audio and a dual-window sunroof, while the $71,05 Summit 4xe adds exterior upgrades, four-zone climate control, perforated nappa leather, massage seats and additional driver assistance technology, including park assist.

For the ultimate luxury and tech experience, a Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe package includes a head-up display, night vision technology, quilted Palemo leather seats, open-pore walnut trim, suede roof pillars and roof pillars, ventilated front and rear seats, manual secondary -row windows, wireless phone charging and 21-inch wheels for $76,095. This combination of advanced technology, both inside the cabin and powering the vehicle, is a sneak peak of what’s to come, as Jeep says every model it makes will offer an electrified version in 2025. And with the execution of this latest Grand Cherokee 4xe, we’re fine with that plan.

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