Jeep has come a long way from its original vehicle, the Willys MB, a tough and durable car for wartime. Sold to the US Army in the 1940s, the Jeep 4×4 became one of the enduring symbols of World War II, and the first commercial Jeep, the CJ, was introduced immediately post-war, to great acclaim. The original price? $738 per unit. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $12,000. Suffice to say, when Jeep invited me to spend a week driving the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe PHEV with an MSRP of $75,000, I expected quite a few improvements from that original 1940s utility vehicle!
In fact, there has been an astonishing amount of refinement and technological improvement in the intervening 80 years and a GI who was used to jumping in their “general purpose” (“G.P.”, thence “jee-p”) would barely recognize anything about the refined and luxurious plug-in hybrid Grand Cherokee Overland. So much modern tech.
Like much of the United States, Colorado was stuck in a cold spell during my evaluation period, however, so the hybrid performed miserably, barely tapping the electric engine and system at all during my drives. PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) typically show the percentage of battery life remaining and allow drivers to drive EV-only for the first 25 or so miles, then switch to the more traditional electric/gas hybrid technology, but after my extended drives, I could see the gas level had dropped but the battery charge remained above 95%.
Let’s start with an exterior shot as the Grand Cherokee is an attractive midsize SUV, then come back to the PHEV technology discussion:
The vehicle is in Baltic Gray Metallic, with a Global Black interior. The frost came along for free! Note the front tow hooks in the unusual blue color: Most Jeeps sport red or orange tow hooks. The blue denotes that it’s a 4xe, a 4×4 powered by a hybrid electric engine. Also, note the ground clearance and the solid appearance of the vehicle.
The Grand Cherokee Overland is powered by a 2.0L I-4 Turbo PHEV Engine pushing 375 hp with an 8-speed automatic transmission and 18″ wheels and some solid all-terrain tires. It offers a solid driving experience with plenty of pickup (thanks, hybrid) and very good traction, as one would expect from a Jeep SUV. Just as importantly, it offered a comfortable and luxurious ride, sporting all the modern driving tech and safety amenities, with a heads-up display, 12-way power adjust seats, integrated off-road camera, and even a rear back-up camera washer to save you from getting out to wipe off that precious little lens.
The center console is suitably high tech too:
It’s a bit hard to see with the reflections, but there’s another display built into the dashboard in front of the passenger. It has a polarized screen so that the driver cannot see what’s being shown to the point that it appears that it’s powered down. There’s even an HDMI port in the center console to feed content to that passenger screen, helpful if your passenger wants to plug in a gaming device.
The full cockpit image shows that there are really a lot of controls and switches, to the point where it’s verging on information overload to keep track of what’s where and how to enable or disable various features. There’s even a bonus row of buttons above the infotainment screen if you look closely.
Speaking of looking closely, consider the ports and center console controls:
True to its heritage, the Grand Cherokee has five drive modes – Rock, Sand/Mud, Snow, Auto, and Sport – along with an easy way to adjust the clearance height for better aerodynamics. The HDMI port I mentioned earlier that hooks to the passenger display? You can see it i the above photo too.
Look up and there’s yet another console of buttons and controls to consider:
I imagine a new vehicle owner laying down in the driver’s seat and just staring at the above, trying to decipher what each and every button actually controls. For example, it wasn’t until I studied the above photo that I realized that’s where the rear hatch button was located: I had already spent a few minutes scouring the entire dashboard seeking that button without success, never thinking to look above my head.
It’s a big, roomy vehicle, so it’s no surprise that there’s lots of rear passenger legroom, though that does eat into the rear cargo space, as can be seen in the below:
Comfort is a big part of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland trim model and the seats, whether you’re driving or a passenger, are remarkably comfortable. It’s very quiet to drive and handles even tough driving conditions with aplomb. I certainly felt safe even as other vehicles on the road were slipping around on ice and snow conditions.
Most notably, the Grand Cherokee is part of Jeep‘s 4xe lineup, a plug-in hybrid 4×4. The specs indicate that it has a 25 mile all-electric range, but I didn’t experience that and when I tried to shift into EV mode so I could tap just the electric system, it complained “Electric Motor Unavailable: Cabin Cooling or Heating”. Turning off the climate controls did not alleviate the complaint, meaning that I essentially lost the benefits of the hybrid and specifically the electric-only drive mode. My average fuel efficiency was 19.6 mpg, which is even a bit low for the gas only EPA figure of 23mpg. With the electric enabled, I should have seem approx 56mpg, a far cry from the 19.9 the trip computer reported after a 50 mile highway jaunt.
The main information display shows how it worked out: 82% of my driving was gas-powered and even after a 15 mile drive, the bottom shows that the battery remains at 98% charge:
Would the experience have been different if it were warmer than 15ºF outside? I’m sure the vehicle would have performed quite a bit better, but are Jeeps intended for people who only live in warm climates? I suggest that’s something to grill the sales team on if you’re considering one of these and live in a colder climate.
Putting aside the complexity of the vehicle’s interior control design – something you’d get used to as you spent more time in the vehicle – I’m still troubled by the PHEV experience in our winter chill. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot to love with the 2022 Grand Cherokee Overland, from the comfort and quiet to the excellent bad weather performance and attractive appearance. If you’re in the market for a mid-size SUV this is definitely one to investigate further.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe in Baltic Gray Metallic with a Global Black interior, powered by a 2.0L Turbo PHEV engine with 8-speed automatic transmission. BASE PRICE: $65,760.00. Options included: Luxury Tech Group IV, Advanced Protech Group III, Black Painted Roof, Off-Road Group, and Front Passenger Interactive Display. AS DRIVEN: $75,305.00.
Disclosure: Jeep loaned me the Grand Cherokee for a week in return for this candid writeup. I accept that there might have been some settings I could have adjusted to improve fuel efficiency in the extreme cold. Mea culpa: If that’s true, please leave a comment explaining how I should have changed drive modes to improve fuel efficiency in our sub-freezing weather.