The original Jeep Grand Cherokee is arguably one of the vehicles most responsible for today’s onslaught of rugged SUVs being squeezed into family duty. Flashing forward to 2022, we find the off-road brand with a newly facelifted Grand Cherokee, one offered with a myriad of powertrain options.
Rounding out the spectrum of proven and latest innovations is the available 3.6L V6 gasoline engine and the all-new plug-in hybrid system, the latter of which is designated by Jeep’s fresh “4xe” moniker. While this particular factory V6 has been with the brand for about a decade and is offered in nearly every model in their catalog, the 4xe and its electrified guts are a relative newcomer.
Jeep makes both engines available in a variety of models on the Grand Cherokee and, as any good scientist wearing a lab coat will tell you, eliminating variables is the key to a successful test. In this case, the eggheads would be proud. Our test vehicles were identically optioned Overland models, right down to their Velvet Red Pearl paint, and we tried them over similar routes in similar weather conditions. An easy way to spot a 4xe? Look for distinct light blue trim accents appearing on the front tow hooks.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland V6
The venerable 3.6L V6 engine, often referred to as the “Pentastar” engine by car geeks like us, makes 293 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic, runs just fine on 87 octane regular gas, and (speaking from your author’s personal experience) is generally dirt cheap to maintain. The latter is largely thanks to the fact that this factory has found its way into a variety of vehicles in the Stellantis family, meaning parts are plentiful and even Joe Mechanic working from his shed will be familiar with repair procedures. In other words, its technology is reassuringly familiar.
However, as with most older items in this world, it cannot match the effectiveness of newer equipment. NRCan estimates that a 2022 Grand Cherokee powered by this V6 engine will burn about $2,180 in gas when faced with Canadian driving consisting of a mix of city and country roads, which shakes out to an overall fuel economy of 10.9 L/100 km. Separately, this combination should provide an efficiency of 12.9 L/100 km in city driving and 9.2 L/100 km on the highway. This deviation is due to a petrol engine’s tendency to be more efficient when driven at a steady speed compared to the stop-and-go grind of city driving.
Behind the wheel, this powerhouse is a friendly companion that goes about its business as a dutiful butler who refills your water glass without being asked. The V6-powered Grand Cherokee Overland weighed just 5,000 pounds in this particular trim and had no problem propelling itself around the rolling Utah landscape—both during on- and off-road maneuvers. The old-school Pentastar somehow manages to make decent exhaust noise despite not being a hairy V8 engine, although no one will ever mistake it for a supercharged Hellcat.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe
To dip its toe in the waters of electrification, Jeep has chosen to pair a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and 17.2kWh lithium-ion battery. Total power output for this team is an impressive 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Both of these numbers best not only the V6 in this comparison, but also the brand’s 5.7L Hemi V8 engine. An eight-speed automatic, tuned for plug-in hybrid operation, handles shifting duties.
According to the crew at NRCan, adding electrification technology to the new 2022 Grand Cherokee is paying big dividends in terms of fuel economy. They estimate an annual fuel expense of $1,516 based on typical Canadian driving habits, helped in part by the 4xe powertrain’s ability to travel about 40 kilometers on its battery alone. If you rarely venture outside that fence, it is reasonable to expect fuel costs to be even lower. And although our country rarely focuses on the statistics of the total COpp release, Johnny Polar Bear will feel it’s worth noting. NRCan estimates the 4xe will spew less than half the emissions of a V6-powered model.
First Drive: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe
Odometer: 2022 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4xe
Although the electrification guts of Jeep’s 4xe system add about 500 pounds to a Grand Cherokee Overland compared to a V6 unit, the extra grunt from the hybrid powertrain more than makes up for any weight penalty. Hills are avoided with a flex of your big toe and passing the slow trainer in the right lane is handled with ease. There is a trio of drive settings for the 4xe: one that allows electric-only cruising, one to encourage use of the battery system in certain low-stress situations, and one that primarily drives the gasoline-powered engine to ensure the lithium-ion hybrid battery is constantly charged. The latter may seem superfluous but can be quite useful if the driver wants to conserve battery juice for quiet all-electric driving when they reach their low-speed urban or off-road destination.
Which of course is exactly what we did during our drive in the 4xe. Other authors at Driving has long waxed lyrical about the off-road chops of the new Grand Cherokee with the famous Trail Rated badge, but this writer will reiterate the new with completely silent off-roading, an activity where you can hear details like pebbles scrambling over Moab rock or an errant bottle of water sloshing around in the hold. Electric power plants are known for their right now levels of torque, a characteristic that ends up being a double-edged sword when off-roading. The available power is welcome but its delivery tends to resemble the immediacy of a light switch.
Back on the tarmac, the 4xe powertrain makes a great cruising partner, sweeping through hybrid modes and pulling on the electric lads when needed. However, the transition from electricity to petrol is not always smooth; it’s easy to catch the gasser napping in certain situations, such as accelerating out of a side street and onto the uphill of a main road. In that scenario, the four-banger wakes up with a jolt as if startled from a dinner session. Besides this quirk that only happens in a specific situation, the powertrain shines.
Jeep is trying to move the Grand Cherokee up the SUV chain and has priced the 2022 models accordingly. Overland trims sit just a step away from top-of-the-line Summit models and are available with nifty options like night vision technology and supple thrones trimmed in Nappa leather.
Overland models with the V6 engine start at $71,240 plus destination. Our option-laden tester rang the bell at $80,215. Fronting for an Overland 4xe, which Jeep interestingly lists as a completely separate model and not just a powertrain option, picks up where the V6 leaves off at $82,195 plus destination. Scooping on equivalent options like fancy leather seats and night vision, raises the sum to a heady $90,175. As for similar, the 4xe powertrain is about a $10,000 proposition on the 2022 Grand Cherokee.
Is it worth the cheddar? Your bed-wetting accountant will say “no” because it takes about 15 years of fuel savings to pay off the premium using NRCan’s numbers. However, the amount of power on tap in the 4xe and the allure of all-electric stealth is an intangible that won’t be found on an Excel spreadsheet.