We’ve had some good experiences with Jeep’s luxurious all-new Grand Cherokee freshening, but most of our time to this point has been in the three-row L model. While we love the fifth-generation Grand Cherokee’s highway ride, its incredible tech, and the luxury found on the inside, the L just has a different feel. It lacks the sportiness of the previous two-row, and its additional size keeps it from being a truly credible trail machine (although you might be surprised just how deep down a trail it could get you).
That all changes with the two-row Grand Cherokee and its tidier proportions, shorter wheelbase, and more compact dimensions. Thankfully, we’ve found everything we’ve loved about the Grand over the years intact in the new WL two-row model. Add to that the Trailhawk package and the improvement is even more substantial. Take it a step further with the 4xe version and you have a forward-leaning, class-leading SUV.
With incredible consumer acceptance of the Wrangler 4xe, especially by enthusiasts, Jeep now turns its sights on the Grand Cherokee. With the 4xe (pronounced “four-by-e”) variant, the Grand Cherokee adds the Wrangler’s 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder PHEV and eight-speed automatic drivetrain to the standard 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 and optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 offerings.
When dealing with future powertrains, we come to the table open-minded and cautiously optimistic. We realize that the whole zero-emissions message is essentially marketing spin, but whether you buy into it or not, electric vehicles are here to stay. So, for us, an electrified vehicle should be judged on its capability—and its ability to make the base vehicle better, and add capabilities—versus any misguided attempt to save the world.
This is the case with the plug-in Grand Cherokee 4xe, where it feels like features and capabilities are gained without anything being given up. For example, the 375-horsepower 4xe has the same 470 lb-ft of torque as the V-8 (270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque on gas alone, compared with 357 horsepower and 390 lb-ft of torque from the 5.7-liter V-8), but it is approximately one second faster to 60 than the V-8, while beating the fuel economy of the gas V-6 by approximately 1 mpg when running on gas alone. It comes to the table with a 56 mpg-e number, which bests both the Wrangler 4xe’s 49 mpg-e and the Range Rover Sport PHEV’s 42 mpg-e by a not insignificant amount.
The most off-road capable of all the Grand Cherokee models is the Trailhawk, which, when optioned as a 4xe, makes for an intriguing package. All Trailhawk-specced Grand Cherokees feature a Quadra Trac II 4×4 system with a 2.72:1 low range and a 47.4:1 crawl ratio. The rear eLSD can transfer 100 percent of torque to the wheel with the most traction, and every Trailhawk has a class-exclusive front electronic disconnecting anti-roll bar for improved articulation. Jeep also made sure that there was enough structure to rate their tow hooks at 10,000 pounds, or about 1.5 times GVWR, while the roof rails can carry a 150-pound dynamic load. Also unique to the Trailhawk are the 30.5-inch 265/60R18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory all-terrain tires on Trailhawk-specific 18-inch wheels.
Trailhawk models come standard with the Quadra-Lift air suspension with semi-active damping and 4.7 inches of adjustment. In the highest of five settings, the Grand benefits from 10.9 inches of ground clearance, 24 inches of water-fording capability, and a best-in-class approach angle of 35.7 degrees, along with a class-leading departure angle of 30 degrees, and a trail-friendly breakover angle of 22.3 degrees. The new air suspension is a faster, more refined closed-loop system that will no longer have you banging off the rebound springs off-road the way a WK or WK2 Grand would.
Distinguished by their blue accents, such as on tow hooks, wheels, and badging, Trailhawk 4xes are fully skidplated, including a 3.5mm-thick battery skidplate to keep the 17.3 kWh battery shielded from trail damage. Trailhawk 4xes weigh in at about 500 pounds more than their internal combustion siblings and are rated to tow up to 6,000 pounds.
Inside, the Trailhawk 4xe is gorgeously assembled and generously equipped with Capri leather-trimmed power seats with suede inserts, heated front and rear rows, heated steering wheel, 10.1-inch display, 10.25-inch front passenger display, 506-watt nine-speaker Alpine audio system, cargo tie downs, dual zone auto climate control, all-weather floor mats, and Uconnect 5 with Jeep off-road pages. The Grand 4xe is roomy, quiet, and road-trip-comfortable.
During our drive, we found that the Grand Cherokee 4xe is easy to pilot and has a great highway ride, due in part to the semi-active, multi-link air suspension setup. More stable than before thanks to a track width that is 1.4 inches wider than the previous WK2 model, handling is precise, and with perfect steering, the Grand is an engaging partner on twisty roads.
Acceleration was surprisingly quick, and when the 2.0-liter turbo and motor are working together, it’s an impressive setup. One aspect of its PHEV vehicles that Jeep got right is E Selec, which offers three drivetrain modes:
- Hybrid: This is the standard mode, where the Grand will optimize the drivetrain to determine the mix of ICE and electric assist for the best combo of fuel efficiency and performance.
- Electric: In this mode, the Grand 4xe will operate on electric power only until the battery is depleted or the driver requests maximum torque, for example at wide-open throttle or while accelerating up a hill.
- e-Save: This mode prioritizes the ICE engine to save the battery charge for later use, such as driving to a trail and running it on all-electric with a full charge.
The driver can select from these modes with easily accessed buttons to the left of the steering wheel, and can also choose to prioritize battery save and battery charge within the Uconnect system. The Grand Cherokee 4xe will get about 25 electric-only miles on a charge and takes about 2.5 hours to fully charge on a Level 2 plug-in charger at a max of 7.2 kW charging rate.
It is worth nothing that there were a couple of times on the road where we felt a slight stumble as the powertrain transitioned between modes, but it wasn’t the norm, and the drivetrain, for the most part, felt well-sorted. As we played with the different modes, a new dimension to driving emerged as we gamified our inputs to take advantage of max regen and claw back some range after depleting the battery.
Though on-road is where the Trailhawk 4xe will spend most of its time, Jeep made sure that it was engineered to be the most capable SUV in its class. In fact, Jeep proved the point by completing the Rubicon in a Trailhawk 4xe on battery power only, relying on a single charge. In Texas, where we tested the Trailhawk 4xe, Jeep put us on one of the most demanding off-road loops we’ve seen for just about any vehicle launch, short of the Wrangler.
With a real low range and five Selec-Terrain modes (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand), the Grand felt ready to go at the press of a button. On the rocks, the Trailhawk 4xe excelled at crawling, flexing its fantastic brake traction control system and a rear eLSD that proved to be responsive and effective, always getting power to the wheel with the traction (even when one was off the ground). The 360-degree surround view camera helped us to see trail obstacles and past the hood on tall climbs and in battery-only mode, and the instantaneous torque and responsive pedal made piloting the Grand through technical terrain confidence-inspiring. Proving how important capability and the enthusiast are to Jeep, the company equipped our test vehicles with optionally available Mopar rock sliders.
Another driving aid in the Grand 4xe toolbox is Selec-Speed control, which acts like cruise control for the trail. It proved to be easy to modulate, keeping the Grand to a preselected speed, regardless of terrain. The 4xe can also take advantage of regen, which can act as a de facto hill descent control on steep grades, although we would like to see Jeep implement multiple levels of aggressiveness for further control. If there was anything else we’d add to the Trailhawk 4xe package, it would be the ability to export power from the hybrid drivetrain—to power a campsite, for example.
One last note from our off-road 4xe experience: Whoever tuned the Grand Cherokee 4xe’s stability control needs a raise. On hard-pack trails, the Grand is tossable and fun, and shockingly easy to power slide and drift through corners without the electronic nannies stepping in to prematurely end your audition tape for the next Gymkhana. It has instant power, and with that great steering and those strong brakes, the chassis encourages the driver to dance with it in the dirt.
At the end of our test, we walked away thinking that the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe might be the best offering in the lineup and one of the few PHEVs we’d consider for our own driveway. With a starting price of $62,485, plus $1,795 destination fee (an $8,250 premium over the gas V-6 Trailhawk), the Trailhawk 4xe certainly is priced proudly, but it does come with a comprehensive list of standard features, and the government tax breaks and incentives should blunt the sticker shock and bring it more in line with its gas-powered siblings. If you are in the market for a capable, powerful, efficient, luxurious, technology-forward, and comfortable SUV all in one package, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe is definitely one that should be at the top of your list.
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