Jeep does not mess around with the off-road prowess of its SUVs. Case in point: I’m in the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk, staring down a steep rock face, hoping the hill-descent control and 35.7-degree approach angle are enough to slowly clear the bottom without scraping. To no one’s surprise, the Grand Cherokee tackles it with ease. And because I’m in the 4xe, it does so purely under electric power.
Yes, the Grand Cherokee now comes with a plug-in hybrid powertrain similar to the one Jeep launched in the Wrangler. Available in base, Overland, Trailhawk and Summit trims, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine plus a pair of electric motors powered by a 17.3-kilowatt-hour battery pack. All told, this setup offers 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque, as well as the ability to drive 25 miles under electric power.
All 4xe models have three drive settings: Hybrid, Electric or eSave. In Electric mode, you don’t get the full thrust of the combined gas and EV propulsion systems, but the Jeep is still plenty quick — more than enough to keep up with traffic on the city streets of Austin, Texas. When I hit the highway, I can put the Grand Cherokee into eSave mode to run the gas engine in its most efficient setting and save my remaining electrons for slow-speed trail driving.
On pavement, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is sublime. While testing a Summit model, I can use Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II air suspension, which amply soaks up harshness from broken pavement. Meanwhile, the Grand Cherokee’s eight-speed automatic transmission does its job in the background. Running only with the gas engine, the 4xe should deliver 23 mpg combined, but using the full plug-in hybrid system, the EPA rates this Grand Cherokee at 56 mpge.
Plenty of advanced driving aids make the Grand Cherokee 4xe even more serene. Forward-collision warning, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot monitoring are standard across the board. Spend a little more money and you can get a nigh vision camera with pedestrian and animal detection. Jeep is planning to offer a Level 2 hands-free highway driving assistant in the coming months, as well.
When I exit the pavement, I switch from the Grand Cherokee Summit to the Trailhawk, throw it into low-range four-wheel drive and hit the dirt. The air suspension gives me a maximum of 10.9 inches of ground clearance, a breakover angle of 22.3 degrees and a departure angle of 30 degrees. If I were to encounter a stream, I could ford 2 feet of water.
Here in Texas, however, I’m climbing up over rocks no other midsize SUV can tackle. A disconnecting sway bar means the independent suspension can have a bit more articulation, allowing the 265/60-series Goodyear Wrangler tires to keep better contact on the rocks. The Grand Cherokee 4xe only has 4.7 inches of travel at each corner, so the wheels are definitely up off the ground quite a bit, but the rear electronic limited-slip differential keeps things moving, putting up to 100% of the torque to the wheel that has the most traction.
When I can’t see what’s ahead of me, I can turn on the 360-degree camera system or just select a front-facing view. The image is crisp and clear — a great help when cresting hills and I don’t know what’s on the other side. The Trailhawk also features Selec-Speed Control, a kind of off-road cruise control that can keep a constant low velocity so drivers only have to manage steering inputs. It’s a good way for newbies to focus just on finding the correct line while letting the Jeep take care of everything else.
The thing to get used to when driving an EV in the dirt is that lifting off the throttle is essentially the same thing as applying the brakes. This works well in slower, rockier sections, but from experience, if you need to just coast over the top of a hill, you’ll need to keep your foot in the throttle just a tad longer than you might be used to. Jeep says that under EV power alone, the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe is able to conquer the infamous Rubicon Trail.
It’ll do so luxuriously, too. Spring for the Summit trim and you get heated, cooled, massaging seats, as well as real wood trim and fancy ambient lighting. Nappa leather wraps the chairs, there’s a bangin’ 19-speaker McIntosh sound system and this thing even has Berber floor mats.
There’s tons of tech inside, too, with screens on seemingly every surface. There’s a 10-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster and a center touchscreen running Jeep’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system, which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. Passengers are treated to a 10-inch screen that shows navigation and camera views, as well as entertainment options. On top of that, you can get a fancy-pants rear-seat entertainment system with Amazon Fire TV built in.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is by far the most off-road-capable plug-in hybrid you can buy today — well, save for the Wrangler 4xe. The 4xe starts at $59,495 including $1,795 for destination, and the Trailhawk 4xe comes in at $64,280. The top Summit will set you back $71,615. That’s a lot of coin, but considering what you get in capability, luxury and technology, the Grand Cherokee 4xe feels well worth the price.
Editors’ note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.