Discover more from PRNDL by Jordan Golson
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Review
This Plug-In Hybrid SUV Is $5/Gallon Catharsis
AUSTIN, Texas — I like electric cars, but I don't think they're suitable for everyone. Not yet.
With a few exceptions, most of the country does not have the infrastructure to handle long road trips in an EV. We'll get there, but with gas soaring over $5 per gallon nationwide, what is a savvy shopper to do?
That's where the plug-in hybrid comes in. It combines the best of an electric car with a regular, gas-powered vehicle. I love PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) so much that I bought one myself, a second-generation Chevrolet Volt, a few years back.
Unlike a regular hybrid, which mainly generates electricity during braking, a plug-in hybrid, as the name suggests, has a plug. Inside is a battery that's smaller than a full EV but larger than a hybrid, and it's designed to be topped off at night or when you're at work.
With the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, the 17 kWh battery pack is good for about 25 miles of electric range, and that's perfect. A considerable percentage of drivers don't exceed that in a day, which means fewer trips to the gas station if you charge it every night.
But if you go on a long drive, the Jeep seamlessly transfers to gas power once the battery is exhausted, turning the 4xe (a play on 4x4) into a more traditional hybrid. A setting allows the driver to choose all-electric or hybrid modes, with the latter preferable if you're going on longer journeys. A third-mode forces engine use, which could be helpful if you're going off-roading and want to save your battery charge to explore the wilderness in blissful silence.
The mechanical setup of the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is interesting, with the engine and electric motor separated by a clutch. When in electric-only mode, the clutch is opened, completely separating the engine from the rest of the drivetrain. When the clutch is closed, torque from the turbocharged 2.0L engine and the electric motor flow through the 8-speed transmission.
Both the power steering and air conditioning compressor are electric. At the same time, the traditional alternator and starter are replaced with a battery-powered motor-generator to help start-stop engine operation and generate extra electricity from spare engine torque.
But all of that clever engineering wizardry is hidden from the driver. Even better, unlike an electric car that requires some knowledge and planning to use effectively, a plug-in hybrid like the 4xe can be driven like a regular car.
That means it's not a big deal if someone forgets to plug it in or if one member of the household is an EV enthusiast and the other is not: I've heard of more than one marriage strained because one partner decided to buy an EV without consulting the other.
Of course, the fancy powertrain is only half the story. The 4xe is still a Jeep Grand Cherokee, meaning it's extremely capable off-road and very luxurious on it. There are a few different trim levels, and the 4xe is well-equipped in all of them. It starts at $59,495 before tax incentives — all 4xe models are eligible for a $7,500 tax credit — and runs up to $76,095 for the fancy Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe.
The Trailhawk trim is extremely capable offroad with an air suspension, disconnecting sway bar, up to 10.9-inches of ground clearance, and two feet of water fording.
Inside, things get interesting. There's a 10-inch touchscreen atop the center stack, but then the front-seat passenger has their own (optional) 10-inch touchscreen to play with and rear-seat passengers can get (optional) 10-inch touchscreens with Amazon Fire TV built-in.
The Amazon Fire TV is essential because it means you can download YouTube, Netflix, Disney+, or whatever apps you want, and stream shows and movies right to the screens through a built-in 4G wi-fi hotspot. I don't know why it's taken carmakers so long to do this, but it changes the game for long road trips.
Also available is a McIntosh audio system (roughly the same as the lower-tier stereo from the Wagoneer, but it's still perfect) with 19 speakers, Alexa support, and a seemingly endless number of other tech and luxury features.
The Grand Cherokee has always been a nice ride, but Jeep has raised the bar with the new JGC. When you get into the higher trims, especially the luxury-focused Summit and Summit Reserve, it is a solid premium vehicle able to compete with the Lexus' and BMWs of the world.
Plus, the 4xe comes with blue front tow hooks, which you won't find on any Lexus or BMW. The biggest problem is availability. Order one today, and you might not see it until late in the year or even well into 2023. Supply chain shortages and massive demand mean long delivery delays. Luckily, it'll be worth the wait.