Remember when hybrids were boring? It really didn’t seem that long ago that we were trying to come up with ways to make the things seem like anything more than snooze-inducing functional engineering. Even a starring role in Gran Turismo 5 couldn’t make the poor Prius cool.
But, while the Prius will probably never shake its image as a utilitarian machine, nobody will ever call the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe boring. From the lurid blue tow hooks to the wide stance of the knobby 265/60R-18 Goodyear Wranglers, this thing is both aggressive, and aggressively a hybrid. Weird mix? Yeah, but somehow it works.
Let’s quickly run through the details. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe is a $62,485, two-row SUV powered by Jeep’s venerable 2.0-liter turbo inline-four, here putting down 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque ducted through an eight-speed automatic. That’s paired with a 17-kWh battery pack and the necessary plug-in plumbing to provide an EPA-estimated 25 miles of all-electric range on a full charge.
Naturally, the first thing I did was see whether that 25 miles is achievable. From empty, the Jeep took just short of two and a half hours on my home Level 2 charger to fill its batteries. I then went on a quick run around town to knock out some errands and, wouldn’t you know it, exactly 25 miles later the dashboard dinged and the engine kicked on. I’d depleted my charge.
The SUV was perfectly fine to drive on electrons only. Sure, it was a little wheezy off the line, but it was hardly slow, the engine only popping on now and again when climbing steep hills. Remember, this thing weighs 5,300 pounds! Over the course of my two-week time with the Trailhawk 4xe, I averaged a few tenths shy of 22 mpg, again more-or-less right on the EPA estimate. But as with all PHEVs, your milage can and will vary massively depending on the length of your commute and your access to a charger on either end.
During those testing miles I was blown away by how nice the Grand Cherokee is to drive — comfortable and calm despite the rugged suspension, quiet and composed despite the aggressive tires. I could really see myself doing big miles in this thing without complaint. Only the eight-speed auto was an occasional annoyance, delivering the odd clumsy shift on part-throttle acceleration. Really, that’s just a tiny fly in this delightfully smooth ointment.
The interior more than held up its end of the bargain. This Cherokee offered comfortable seating front and rear, and while the color scheme was rather dark in there, the panoramic sunroof brightened the place up. It’s worth the $1,835 extra. The Trailhawk you see here has both the $2,235 Advanced Protech and $1,995 Rear Seat Video packages, meaning touchscreens and HDMI inputs for everybody, plus a plethora of USB-A and USB-C ports and even three-prong power for thirsty laptops or game consoles.
The front passenger display is shrouded behind a privacy filter, meaning you can’t easily see it from the driver’s seat. That’s clever and, with Amazon Fire TV built in everywhere, there’s no shortage of media on tap for all your passengers. That said, in this era of personal content consumption, I have to figure most folks would just as soon bring their own devices.
The 10.1-inch center touchscreen is the one intended for the driver, augmented by Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, both wireless. That display is flanked top and bottom with a massive array of buttons. Jeep thankfully has not given up on physical controls, providing knobs and dials for just about everything. Opinions will differ on this, but I’m thankful for the tactility.
I do, however, wish those buttons were a little more logically arrayed. Selecting off-road drive mode is done in the center console to the left of the transmission’s shifter dial. Selecting hybrid drive mode is done on a separate panel to the left of the steering wheel. Then, if you want to activate maximum regenerative braking, you have to hit a button perched up on the very top of the center stack, above the touchscreen. That’s a lot of flailing around.
Again, though, that’s a minor quibble in what is a really impressive rig, especially when you take it off-road. The Quadra-Lift air suspension hoists the Grand Cherokee up to a claimed 11.3 inches of ground clearance, and the locking rear differential ensures all the power gets where you want it. I didn’t spend as much time off the asphalt as I’d have liked, but running through some deep, muddy logging roads, the 4xe felt thoroughly confidence-inspiring.
It felt, in other words, just like a Jeep, but one that could get you to work emissions-free and in effortless comfort. The as-configured price of $72,185 is far from cheap, but also quite fair for all this thing can do, and the wonderfully buttoned-up way in which it does it.