The world of hybrids appears to be hitting a new stride as manufacturers move close to an electrified future. Before electric vehicles (EVs) take over, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) continue to become more popular as it fits as a more acceptable bridge to full-on EVs as PHEVs tend to eliminate range anxiety and are rather versatile vehicles in having the ability to run on gas, be plugged in, or use both forms of power as a thoughtless process for consumers. Jeep has entered deep into the PHEV game, and the latest Grand Cherokee gets their 4xe PHEV powertrain that doesn’t compromise on the best aspects of the midsized SUV for its smooth roadgoing and off-roading abilities.
Having the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe to experience for a week has left me with a positive outlook for such a vehicle, provided that owners of such will utilize it to the best of its benefits. Such means that the Grand Cherokee 4xe is only “good” when you actually plug it in to get up to 26 miles of fully electric range factored into the equitation, along with enjoying its rugged abilities wrapped up in a luxury-themed package.
The new fifth-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee was already well received when I first drove it a couple of years ago in its three-row long wheelbase version. Now, having the shorter wheelbase version only with the brand’s newer 4xe PHEV powertrain setup, the Grand Cherokee is fundamentally a more versatile vehicle for its choice of laying down power through its four wheels. Using a combination of a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a generator/motor that often feels more like a power filler than a motor for moving the Jeep along.
Total power output comes to 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. The engine, electric motor, and the 8-speed automatic transmission work well to move the Grand Cherokee with some authority and hit 60 mph in 6 seconds flat. The one issue I find with the powertrain’s delivery of power is that it is mostly inconsistent and not nearly as seamless as comparable PHEV setups from other brands.
Power delivery, while inconsistent, seems to be hidden at times but surprises you when you’re not expecting it. The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder is somewhat harsh in its sound and subtle vibrations under the hood when it revs up, which takes away from the otherwise initial luxury feeling of the SUV. The powertrain does deliver on having the ability to crawl through rough terrain without issue, but on the road, the PHEV SUV just doesn’t lay down the power as fast as you would like when pressing the gas pedal. There’s no huge fault with the inconsistency of power, it’s just not as smooth and seamless as I thought it should be. Despite the slight inconsistency, there’s a decent feeling you get in piloting the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe in the Summit Reserve trim, as it feels assured on the road with very direct and somewhat heavy steering that inspires confidence in how it behaves.
Overall, the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe feels lively and never overly heavy. The air suspension, with its active dampers, do well to mitigate unwanted body motions and is mostly smooth over pavement bumps and dips. The ride height is cleverly managed, where the vehicle automatically lowers to an aero height when you hit highway speeds. You can leave the vehicle in the aero height as well using the suspension height controller, which permits lowering the vehicle to an even lower entry-exit height manually or set it to lower automatically upon shifting into Park. The Sport drive mode tends to firm up the suspension to the point where the ride quality is not agreeable, but you do feel some added stability.
For the few who like to be adventurous, the Grand Cherokee in the top-level Summit Reserve 4xe trim doesn’t slack for its off-roading prowess as it gets a two-speed transfer case with 4wd low, steel skid plates covering the sensitive powertrain bits, including the PHEV battery pack, and proper off-road-height air suspension settings for over 10 inches of ground clearance giving you the ability to ford 2 feet of water.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe gets up to 26 miles of all-electric range. After fully charging up my test vehicle’s 14.0-kWh battery, which took just over two hours using my 40amp 240v Level 2 home charger, the EV range indicated 27 miles. Use of a standard 120v wall outlet will take about 15 hours for a full charge.
Out on a drive, I was able to hit 26 miles for the EV range but did so with the engine firing up a few times when it seemed I demanded a bit too much acceleration. The system starts out in the Hybrid drive mode by default, but you can opt to switch to an Electric drive mode that limits the use of the gas engine until you need to accelerate aggressively or an e-Save mode that retains the battery charge and sometimes recharges the battery pack from braking regen or running the engine. I found that the EV power is adequate for around town, but when you don’t want to annoy tailgating vehicles, the EV power just isn’t enough to accelerate out of their way.
The fuel economy that you get out of the Grand Cherokee 4xe is remarkable if you charge up the battery pack giving you a total combined range of about 470 miles. However, just using the vehicle as a hybrid with a depleted battery, you will return not-so-spectacular fuel economy results that end up being around 21.8 mpg, as I averaged on my mixed city and highway driving. The EPA estimated 23 mpg for city and highway driving seems reasonable if you’re a little more conscious of your right-foot movements.
Overall, the EPA estimate of 56 MPGe isn’t necessarily bad, but you can manage to do a little better if you utilize the clever hybrid system information screens to monitor your power application and limit the use of the gas engine.
Jeep has undoubtedly merged into the luxury segment with the latest Grand Cherokee and Wagoneer/Grand Wagoneer SUVs. Most of the added luxury amenities and themes are designated to the higher trim levels, which is found in the top-trimmed Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe test vehicle of mine. There’s a generous use of open-pore wood trim throughout, and the premium leather upholstery with heated, ventilated, and massaging from seats serves the Jeep well to place it on par with luxury competitors. There are plenty of gloss black plastic surfaces that some may like or hate for the fact that they collect fingerprints and visible dust. The large metal rotary gear shifter is always a welcomed feature adding a nice luxury feeling to another touchpoint of the interior.
The central focus of the 10.1-inch touchscreen that waterfalls into physical automatic climate controls is a nice touch for an easy-to-reach console area. The infotainment system running the new Uconnect 5 software is mostly simple in its use with a short learning curve and welcomed customization of screens for quick access. However, the system tends to have a few glitches where it will freeze up and respond slowly to inputs requiring you to shut down the vehicle and restart it. Such an issue may be resolved with an over-the-air update, but it was annoying enough to mention during my week with the PHEV Jeep SUV. There’s also wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which nicely integrate to leave the vehicle’s core infotainment function icons on the screen during use.
The front passenger gets their own 10.25-inch touchscreen for accessing some vehicle features. The screen is more designated for the front passenger streaming video or media from their smartphone or plugged-in device, which cannot be viewed by the passenger thanks to its privacy coating.
The 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster has a plethora of information screens that are very useful in the management of the PHEV side of the vehicle. Here, the system also suffered from a couple of glitches in loading of the navigation map and often failing to bring up the night vision screen, which is a rather handy feature that detects people or animals at night.
Seating areas are large and comfy, with a rather expansive cargo area having 37.7 cubic feet of storage with the rear seats in place. Fold down the 60/40-split seats manually, and you have over 70 cubic feet of storage.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe gets all the expected active safety features, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning/mitigation, forward collision warning/mitigation, rear parking sensors, and blind spot warning with rear cross-traffic warning and emergency braking. Other features added as part of being a higher trim level include front parking sensors, front cross-traffic alert, a digital rearview camera mirror, and a surround-view camera system with off-roading views.
Where the Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe starts to become head-scratching is its price. At the as-tested price of $81,380 and not wearing a traditional luxury badge, the Grand Cherokee tends to be a little off-putting for many when you consider you don’t necessarily save on fuel as much as you would think. Though, those who don’t mind the Jeep badge and look at the mounting content of luxury and premium aspects will not balk as much at the pricing, which otherwise starts around $61,660 for a base Grand Cherokee 4xe.