Electric power makes 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe faster, better, cleaner

2022-05-14 00:54:48 By : Mr. Justin Zhang

AUSTIN, Texas — While you weren’t watching, Jeep became a leader in vehicle electrification. EV-only upstart Tesla’s got nothing to worry about, mind you, but the 81-year-old SUV brand is virtually certain to be America’s top-selling brand for plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs, this year.

Jeep just launched its second PHEV, the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe, a year after the surprise-hit Wrangler 4xe demonstrated Jeep owners will happily pay for electric power to whoosh through the forest silent as a squirrel and commute emissions-free. The Grand Cherokee 4xe adds luxury and comfort to the equation.

Jeep’s new 4xe — say it “four-by-ee” — subbrand features a 17 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery and two electric motors for up to 25 miles of electric driving on surface roads, per EPA tests.

A 2.0L gasoline engine provides power for longer distances, driving in mixed gasoline-electric hybrid mode, and occasional gasoline-only use, as antiquated as that may seem in what historians will probably call the Decade EVs Took Charge.

The PHEV drivetrain gives the Grand Cherokee 4xe a unique combination of affordability and electric power on- and off-road.

Off-roading reduces battery range significantly, however. Electric power will carry the Wrangler 4xe, intended more for off-roading, around 20 miles on pavement and a handful of miles off-road. The specifics will vary depending on terrain and the driver’s behavior.

The Grand Cherokee straddles the line between the poles of Jeep’s appeal: rugged capability and refined luxury. Wrangler prices can brush $80,000, but nobody mistakes it for a luxury vehicle. The $100,000-plus Grand Wagoneer has the unmistakable Jeep grille and offers multiple all-wheel-drive systems, but makes no pretense to conquering the harrowing off-road trails of the Rubicon, Moab and more.

The Grand Cherokee, alone among Jeep’s 11 models, must do both. Sticker prices run roughly from $40,000 to $70,000. It’s equally at home scrambling over boulders and in the fast lane on the way to work, and the 4xe battery-electric system improves its performance on both.

The plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee 4xe adds another duality: Gasoline power for long trips and quick refueling, electric power for commuting, improved performance and emissions.

Jeep plans to launch its first full electric — no gasoline backup, as with PHEVs — in 2023. Expect more details on it later this year.

Prices for the Grand Cherokee 4xe start at $57,700

All Grand Cherokee 4xes have all-wheel drive and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Power comes from a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. That package produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, more than the 5.7L version of Stellantis’ revered Hemi V8. Fuel economy, of course is much better. More on that later

The 4xe package is available on four trim levels. The Trailhawk — max off-road capability — starts at $62,485. Overland 4xes check in at $65,760, Summit 4xes $69,820. All prices exclude a $1,795 destination charge.

Grand Cherokee 4xe prices are generally higher than comparable SUVs without electric augmentation.

Even the base 4xe is well equipped, with Stellantis’ excellent Uconnect infotainment system, dual front touch screens — one for the passenger that’s invisible from the driver seat — a dual-pane sunroof and loads of safety and driver assist features.

Notable options and features on higher models include air suspension, two more capable AWD systems, 21-inch wheels, disconnecting sway bar, 10-inch customizable head up display and McIntosh audio.

In addition to its 25-mile electric range, the Grand Cherokee 4xe gets an EPA-estimated 56 MPGe in combined gasoline-electric driving and 23 mpg in normal hybrid driving. The battery will charge fully in 2.5 to three hours at 240v.

The EPA estimates a Grand Cherokee 4xe will pay $1,850 annually for electricity and gasoline. That compares to $2,900 for a Grand Cherokee powered by a V6; $3,350 for V6 Ford Bronco; $4,150 for a Grand Cherokee with 5.7L Hemi; and $3,550 for a Land Rover Discovery mild hybrid and $2,850 for a 2021-model Range Rover PHEV. A new Range Rover goes on sale shortly. EPA estimates for it aren't available.

I started my test drive on the surface roads of downtown Austin and its suburbs in EV-only mode. Locking out the gasoline engine led to nearly silent operation and excellent throttle response. The hybrid’s regenerative braking, which channels some power back to the battery to preserve EV range, was easy to adjust to, slowing the Jeep and boosting efficiency in stop-and-go driving.

My actual mileage matched the trip computer’s estimate of how far I could go on electricity almost exactly.

As I reached the countryside, I shifted to hybrid mode to save electricity for the off-roading to come. The engine, battery and motors worked in sync to provide good fuel economy — compared to other off-road SUVs, anyway. The electric motors also supplement the four-cylinder engine’s power for acceleration, which Jeep says is about a second faster than a gasoline Grand Cherokee powered by the 5.7L Hemi V8.

I went back to EV mode when I reached the off-road course, which consisted of water fording and scrambling over a pile of massive boulders.

Rock-crawling in a conventional SUV is noisy business as the engine revs up and down. The Grand Cherokee 4xe’s electric mode, by contrast, was nearly silent. In addition, the precisely controlled motors delivered exactly the right amount of torque to each wheel, ensuring maximum traction and minimum drama. Electronics manage power and brakes to maintain a set speed so all the driver has to do is pick the correct path, a task made simpler by surround view cameras.

In a final EV benefit, the heavy battery lowers the Grand Cherokee’s center of gravity a whopping 2 inches, keeping it sure-footed on off-camber boulder descents that had my inner ear ringing with alarm bells.

Base price: $57,700 (excluding $1,795 destination charge)

All-wheel drive 5-passenger plug-in hybrid midsize SUV

Power: 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine and two electric motors

Output: 375 hp @ 5,250 rpm; 470 pound feet of torque @ 3,000 rpm

EPA fuel economy estimate: 25-mile electric range. 56 mpge combined city/highway in hybrid mode and 23 mpg in combined city/highway, gasoline-only driving. Regular gasoline.

EPA estimated annual fuel cost: $1,850

Charging time: 2.5-3 hours at 240v

Height: 70.8 inches standard suspension/70.9 air suspension  

Cargo volume: 37.7 cubic feet behind rear seat; 70.8 behind front

Ground clearance: 8.4 inches; 11.3 at maximum ride height