Mountain Wheels: Plug-in electric Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe rules off-road
Charged up, or at least slightly charged by a more aggressive regenerative recovery mode switch — the 4xe, the plug-in electric hybrid rendition of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, makes a bit more sense, at last.
With its 17-kilowatt-hour, 400-volt battery fully functional, the new full-size SUV promises a 25-mile all-electric range, with heating, air conditioning and loads of driving power left intact. At least that’s the idea.
I let downhill (or sometimes even uphill) regenerative brake drag bring the battery to a level where I had about nine miles of all-electric range, and then switched the Grand Cherokee 4xe from hybrid mode to all-electric mode, and did indeed get a 9-mile burst of fully functional, gas-free motoring.
The day-to-day functionality of that innovation — included here in a reasonably pricey but quite heavily optioned-up, $75,305 Overland edition of the Jeep — will depend on your intended uses of the vehicle.
Since it is very much a real, “trail-rated” 4×4 with very aggressive off-road tires added to the whole Quadra Trac II two-speed 4×4, air lift and 10.9-inches-of-clearance package — plus distinctive blue tow hooks to let people know you’ve got the electric model — the electric stuff is of somewhat debatable value, especially as I was still averaging less than the 23 combined city/highway mpg. Its all-electric rating is 56 electric mpg.
Maybe a better way of looking at it is to understand the other benefits of the 4xe’s hybrid system, which is based around a 2.0-liter turbo engine (yes, a full-sized Grand Cherokee, 2.0-liter engine), plus two electric motors. Small as that seems, total output is 375 horsepower and a very impressive 470 pound-feet.
As I found while driving the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe last year, it’s definitely full of the kinds of noises and peculiarities I remember from hybrids a decade ago. Occasionally I got absolutely screaming noises from the gasoline engine as I accelerated into higher gears, which I do not think are a normal part of the procedure.
But it is absolutely a very noisy electric air conditioning compressor, separate from the motor; you also get a lot of gasps and gushes from cooling fans and the air-lift suspension system, all of those accentuated as the Grand Cherokee is often not making any internal-combustion engine noises whatsoever.
You sort of get used to those, as well as the initial data overload of the 4xe’s multitude of screens: a full digital instrument panel with an optional night-vision screen, a large central infotainment screen and, good lord, a third digital screen for your passenger, so you can all fight about navigation directions, I guess.
Like my fellow writers, I opted to head directly for the trails to see if the electrified system helps or hinders the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee, lovely as it is inside with Nappa leather, massage seats and a 19-speaker, 950-watt McIntosh sound system.
Turns out Grand Cherokee is indeed way more fun when it’s all dusty, with the Kevlar-reinforced Wrangler tires absorbing as much nonsense as all the other non-electric Jeeps I met out on the trail.
If you air-lift it to full height, lock in the low range and then use the various screens, forward- and 360-degree view cameras, and your own heightened sense of invincibility, well … yeah, it does everything you’d hope a Jeep might, especially up very steep, loose surfaces.
The noises aren’t always pretty as that 2.0-liter once again screams to pull you up the worst stuff, but I can imagine some actual all-electric off-roading as a real possibility. The 470 pound-feet of torque was also welcome in those spots.
There’s a gigantic amount of cargo space inside, as the standard model borders on the dimensions of the longer-wheelbase third-row model. Second-row seating doesn’t have tons of leg room, but the entire setup is still quite comfortable (especially with the massagers firing away).
I’m also less than enthusiastic about the way that Jeep has tried to visually illustrate the benefits of hybrid driving, as you actually drive. The main screen’s battery use/engine use details are a little vague, and there’s so much information on the center screen that you’d be better off shutting it off entirely while doing any involved driving. But it certainly is a handsome and capable vehicle, and a step forward to that electrified future just around the corner.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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