Any Jeep has to prove its off-road credentials – which is how I found myself at an acute angle on the side of a rock face, trusting its low-range gearing to pull me slowly forward with one wheel a couple of feet in the air.
The goal was to show that the new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid is every bit as capable at doing Jeep things with an electric motor as its gas-only brethren. I also forded two feet of water, scraping the protective chassis underplate on a rock in the process. And while we didn’t tow, the 4xe carries a 6,000-pound tow rating. Consider the mission accomplished.
The 4xe adds a plug-in hybrid option to the V6 and V8 powertrains in the Jeep’s mainstay mid-size SUV. Available “this spring,” the Grand Cherokee 4xe is the second Jeep with a plug, after the Wrangler 4xe that launched last year.
|Quick Stats||2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Overland|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4|
|Output:||375 Horsepower / 470 Pound-Feet|
|Efficiency:||23 MPG / 56 MPGe Combined|
|EV Range:||26 Miles|
|Base Price:||$58,095+ $1,795 Destination|
Gallery: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe: First Drive
Higher Power, Torque, And MPG
The plug-in Grand Cherokee and Wrangler use virtually identical powertrains: a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor (of unspecified power) inserted between the engine and the eight-speed automatic transmission. The motor is powered by a 17.0-kilowatt-hour battery pack mounted under the floor and protected by skid plates. Combined power output is 375 horsepower, and Jeep quotes 470 pound-feet of torque from the system – more than the 5.7-liter V8 (at 357 hp and 390 lb-ft) – plus better fuel economy (EPA-rated 23 mpg in gas-hybrid mode) than the smaller, less powerful 3.6-liter V-6 (at 21 mpg).
The plug-in Grand Cherokee 4xe offers an EPA-rated 25 miles of electric range under optimal circumstances. That’s four miles more than the less aerodynamic Wrangler plug-in hybrid. Operating as an electric vehicle, the EPA rates the Grand Cherokee 4xe at 56 MPGe. (Miles Per Gallon Equivalent, or MPGe, is the distance a vehicle can travel under electric power on the energy contained in one gallon of gasoline.)
Grand Cherokee With A Twist
Behind the wheel, the usual Grand Cherokee features and fittings are supplemented by some new options. When starting up the Jeep, the word “Hybrid” appears in the cluster, meaning its standard mode is to operate as a gas-electric hybrid. Buttons above the driver’s left knee offers “Electric” and “e-Save” options. The first propels the SUV solely on battery power, while the second retains battery charge for later use – perhaps for silent off-roading, Jeep suggested.
I started the drive around Austin, Texas, in electric mode. Over a mix of city, suburban, and a short stretch of highway driving, we got exactly the EPA rating of 25 miles. The electric motor drives the car through the eight-speed automatic transmission, so experienced EV drivers may be startled to find the Jeep shifting up and down through its gears as it gains and sheds speed.
The “Max Regen” button at the top of the center of the dash increases regenerative braking. It allows something close to so-called one-pedal driving down to 8 or 10 miles per hour, but drivers must brake below that speed to bring the plug-in Jeep to a complete stop.
For my test, Electric plus Max Regen delivered a calm, quiet ride with sufficient acceleration to keep up with traffic. Drivers who floor the accelerator – past a noticeable detent that keeps it in Electric mode – will switch on the engine to get all 375 hp for emergency circumstances.
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Operating in the hybrid mode in which the 4xe will cover most of its miles, the powertrain could get lumpy. My 4xe had a few jarring transitions among electric power, gasoline power, and regenerative braking. It’s the penalty of using a one-motor system with a conventional automatic transmission – versus two-motor systems used by Toyota and some Fords with smoother and infinitely variable power delivery. Jeep will likely update its software over time to iron these out, but it’s not as smooth as a conventional torque-converter automatic alone.
New Design, New Plug, New Profits?
The five-seat Grand Cherokee and the new, longer seven-seat Grand Cherokee L were entirely redesigned over the last two years. Its off-road virtues are well known, but adding a three-row model finally puts the Grand Cherokee in the sweet spot of mid-size SUV family haulers. In North America alone, the Grand Cherokee is a huge profit engine; more than 7 million have been sold in 30 years, and last year alone Stellantis sold more than a quarter million. Continued strong sales led the company to add a second assembly plant near its existing line to build more Grand Cherokees.
In Europe, smaller Jeeps – the subcompact Renegade and the compact Compass – got plug-in hybrid options first. In North America, Jeep started with its iconic Wrangler 4x4, and offers the advanced powertrain in its larger and pricier models. Now the Grand Cherokee 4xe is Jeep’s first plug-in hybrid targeting the heart of the lucrative family SUV segment. It helps the truck-heavy Stellantis meet increasingly stringent corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) rules.
Do Drivers Plug In Their Jeeps?
Plug-in hybrids aren’t necessarily an easy sell to drivers who don’t know how or why you’d add a plug and a short electric range to a hybrid vehicle. Many or most car shoppers don’t understand how they work – and neither may the salespeople they talk to at dealerships.
Because they have gasoline engines, plug-in hybrids don’t need to be plugged in. Ignoring the plug is a waste of some very expensive hardware; plug-in hybrids that never connect to the grid might as well not have a plug at all. It’s unclear whether Wrangler 4xe owners have been plugging in their cars during the year they’ve been on sale. Anecdotal evidence exists for both sides: the off-roaders who love the silent four-wheeling, and the auto writer whose neighbors got a 4xe for its low lease cost and never knew it had a plug at all.
I asked Jeep about the charging behavior it had recorded among early Wrangler 4xe owners. Did they plug in often? Daily, or weekly, or not at all? After some initial resistance, the company has promised to see what data it had. I hope they do get plugged in; it would be a waste of pricey technology if they are sold only for the $7,500 federal income-tax credit and other incentives.
High-End Test Versions
I tested two of several trim levels offered for the 4xe, which sits toward the top of the overall Grand Cherokee lineup. Both wore a handsome Baltic Grey metallic clearcoat paint. The tested Overland model carried a base price of $67,950 (including a whopping $1,795 destination charge). Optional paint plus a black roof, a Luxury Tech Group IV, an Advanced Protech Group III, an Off-Road Group, and other options added about $8,000, bringing the MSRP to $75,305.
The high-end Summit Reserve started at $69,820; it stickered at an even $79,000. Listing the various features and option packages in either vehicle would have doubled or tripled the word count of this review, but there are a few must-have options, starting with the $4,480 Summit Reserve Group. It includes a touchscreen display for the front passenger, a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, active noise control for a quieter drive, and Palermo leather seats, as well as 21-inch painted aluminum wheels with all-season tires. On the Overland trim, the passenger touchscreen and McIntosh audio system are a separate option for $1,095.
To get advanced active-safety systems, however, you'll have to pony up some extra dollars. The Advanced Protech Group III includes a head-up display, intersection-crash assist, night vision that detects both pedestrians and animals, surround-view cameras, and—to the delight of anyone who lives where it rains or snows—a washer system for the rear backup camera. That runs $2,235. The auto-dimming video rear-view mirror, however, is part of a separate group for a different trim level.
More Plugs To Come
Over time, it’s clear more owners of Jeep 4xe models will experiment with plugging in. Most will discover they enjoy the quiet, torquey acceleration of operating in all-electric mode. Meanwhile, Stellantis has now sold tens of thousands of Jeep and Chrysler plug-in hybrids – and many more are on the way, including the Grand Wagoneer large luxury SUV.
If you’re in the market for a Grand Cherokee, the 4xe provides more power than any other powertrain offered this year. It’s a taste of electric driving without any of the worries about battery range or finding charging stations on longer road trips. As one EV enthusiast quipped years ago, “Let’s just consider plug-in hybrids the gateway drug to buying an electric car.”
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Overland