Mountain Wheels: Heavily revised Jeep Grand Cherokee adds heavy tech and extra space
Welcoming in a new year, let me quickly address the significant updates made to a popular, American-made SUV — especially as it has been hard to get opportunities to drive other new domestics, thanks to supply and production issues.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which I drove back and forth from the Front Range to Breckenridge twice during the Christmas weekend, certainly proved itself to be the right kind of thing for snow- and car-packed winter highways.
It’s become incrementally more sophisticated and certainly jumps up a few notches in terms of technology, with loads of passenger-friendly features to supplement its off-road capability.
I was mostly concerned about navigating deep, fresh snow and heinous Interstate 70 conditions, and the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee did so with great confidence — even on less-than-stellar all-season tires.
I sampled an Overland edition, priced at $62,885 with a healthy pile of options, most notably a 19-speaker, 950-watt McIntosh stereo system (audiophiles may recognize that name from high-end home stereo systems) as well as sophisticated gadgetry, including a night vision camera in the electronic instrument panel, Nappa leather seats and massage seats up front.
Power here was in the form of an all-aluminum 3.6-liter V-6 providing 293 horsepower connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission with subtle thumb-activated shifter paddles on the steering wheel. A 357-horsepower 5.7-liter V-8 is also available, which gives the Grand Cherokee as much as 7,200 pounds of towing capacity. All 4×4 models feature front-axle disconnect, which allows the vehicle to cruise largely as a rear-wheel drive vehicle to save fuel.
The 2022 Jeep offers a handsome and somewhat stockier and blockier look than previous models, with more angular wheel arches, blacked-out window frames for a floating roof effect and substantial 20-inch wheels.
The nose takes on a new, vertical wall of grille, flanked by low-profile headlamps and LED running lights, all of it set on top of a bone-shaped front fascia with prominent towing hooks and fog light panels on each side. In the rear, it’s a broad band of tail lamps — not quite as sci fi as a Durango but pretty close.
The overall update is keen but also clean enough to not frighten off existing Grand Cherokee fans.
Driving character also provides what I felt was a slightly more grown-up experience than the yahoos in their Wrangler Unlimiteds and my many friends in Toyota 4Runners, both of which seem to always be showing off or misbehaving in the worst of weather or traffic.
The V-6 Grand Cherokee’s power is certainly more than adequate, but not blinding, and its Quadra-Trac 4×4 system (three grades of which are available) kept me absolutely grounded, even in pretty sketchy conditions. You can tab through traction and performance modes, and a grippier snow system was easy to click on — allowing me to comfortably walk past the long, long line of vehicles slowly and perpetually hogging the icy left lane on Colorado Highway 9.
I was able to get about 23 mpg; it’s rated as high as 26 mpg on the highway in less taxing conditions. In the summer, you’d be able to take advantage of its sophisticated 4×4 system and cruise through 2 feet of water or even disconnect the sway bars for family-friendly rock crawling.
The Overland edition featured just about every option available, and the stiffly sporty, leather-trimmed seats were very classy. The front navigational and entertainment displays are sharp and feature-packed, and you can also get equally wide rear entertainment displays with Amazon Fire TV built in.
I could not, for the life of me, get the very elegant and detailed navigation maps to regularly center or display traffic data when I most desperately needed it on the Summit side of my journeys, probably attributable to poor data connections.
Space has also increased substantially with 37.7 cubic feet of ample and fully carpeted rear storage space — the layout is indicative of the third-row setup of the new, extended wheelbase model — plus a full-size spare and some storage under a large cargo deck lid.
My model, one of seven trim levels available, was just part of an impressive array of builds that also include the plug-in electric hybrid version referenced in my recent review of the electrified Wrangler Rubicon, as well as an ultra-aggressive, off-road-focused Trailhawk edition.
Even in standard setup, Grand Cherokee’s Quadra-Lift air suspension system helps the vehicle get 11.3 inches of clearance, as well as settling closer to the road for better aerodynamics while on dry highways.
Andy Stonehouse’s column “Mountain Wheels” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Stonehouse has worked as an editor and writer in Colorado since 1998, focusing on automotive coverage since 2004. He lives in Golden. Contact him at email@example.com.
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