The Grand Cherokee name debuted for the 1993 model year, with the current, fifth-generation vehicle going on sale for 2021. The Grand Cherokee has, over the last decade or so, morphed from a medium-priced, mainstream vehicle to a high-end luxury crossover.
The current-generation is offered with familiar 3.6L-V6 and 5.7L-V8 FCA (now Stellantis) engines as well as a new Plug-in Hybrid variant that combines a 2L turbo four with a 17 kWh battery pack.
|Vehicle tested||Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe|
|Body Style||Crossover vehicle|
|Engine||2L-four and plug-in hybrid powertrain|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic transmission|
|Price as tested||$84,080 (Packages: Customer Preferred, Luxury Tech Group III and CommandView dual-panel sunroof)|
|NRCan combined fuel consumption||10L/100 km (42 kilometres of electric range)|
|Observed fuel economy||8.1L/100 km|
The new-generation Grand Cherokee is fronted by Jeep’s traditional seven-slot grille. The rest of the car is, with clean lines and little extraneous embellishments, a vision of restrained elegance.
The driver faces a configurable digital gauge package with crisp graphics. The centre of the dashboard is dominated by a large, semi-free standing screen that hugs the slanted contour of the dash centre stack. The bottom of the screen features a seven-sector strip with tabs for Home, Media, Comfort, Navigation, Vehicle and Apps, that can access multiple vehicle functions. Like many high-end vehicles, there is a multitude of possible owner preferences, like easy exit, door-mirror self folding and eliminating the horn beep when locking the car, that need to be gone through to add features that delight and delete features that annoy. The screen has black-on-white or white- on-black views, with the black and white being a bit pale and lacking in contrast for some observers. There is a combined audio and climate control panel below the screen. There are knobs for audio on-off-volume and tuning, toggles for fan speed and temperature and buttons for air distribution, heated seats, cooled seats, steering wheel heat, front defrost and rear defrost. Physical buttons on the horizontal surface at the top of the screen operate minor functions like the four-way flashers.
Much of the trim is in piano black and, while attractive enough, it collects dust and finger prints quite easily. There are numerous soft-touch surfaces in the car and the seats have leather side bolsters and faux suede centre panels. Trim fillets on the dash and door panels feature an unusual faux stone look that is overlaid with what looks like thin strands of silver.
Seating is comfortable front and rear, there is abundant legroom and cargo capacity is impressive. Rear seat riders have two USB and two USB-C ports, a 115 volt port and buttons for rear heated seats. There are vents for the rear seat passengers as well. With a big covered bin in the dash centre stack, under the front armrest and big door bins, there are lots of storage spots throughout the cabin.
When fully charged, the battery pack of the PHEV powertrain will operate in full electric mode much of the time; with the 2L gas turbo four coming online only when very brisk acceleration is requested. When the PHEV battery pack is depleted and the 2L turbo is the primary power source, refinement is disappointing for a luxury class vehicle. However, when pushed hard, the 2L emits a hard-edged metallic beat that is much more compelling than annoying.
The eight-speed automatic transmission just gets its job done without drama and the transitions from full electric power to gas hybrid mode and back again are very smooth.
Steering is nicely weighted and geared and holds its line reasonably well on the highway but lacks any kind of feedback from the road.
Despite the sophisticated air suspension, the ride of the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is disappointing. Passengers complained of being jostled excessively by less-than-monumental bumps at low to town speeds. On some disturbances like manhole covers, the impact harshness is such that you wonder if the suspension bushings have failed. Handling is steady enough but lean is greater than expected, which may seem more extreme because of the great height and prodigious weight of the vehicle. The Trailhawk models do provide impressive off-road ability by a single tick of the order box, but are generally less pleasurable to drive on road than conventional versions of the same model. Unless you have a compelling need for the impressive off-road capacity of the Trailhawk trim, you should pick a conventional model that should be less compromised for on-road use.
The regenerative braking system will shed speed when the throttle is released but won’t bring the vehicle to a complete stop. A full stop requires stepping on the brake pedal, which brings a spongy, non-linear response that does little to inspire confidence.
The air conditioner in the Grand Cherokee is strong but the small vents inside the cabin make getting enough cold air into the vehicle, under certain conditions, such as being parked in the summertime, difficult. The cooled seats work well. The performance of the Alpine-branded audio system in our Trailhawk trim vehicle was unimpressive.
The base Grand Cherokee, the Laredo, is nicely equipped. The Laredo Altitude package adds leather seating, bigger wheels, power tailgate and wireless cellphone charging, but is significantly overpriced. The Limited, which adds navigation, fog lights, a power passenger seat, remote starting, heated second row seating and a number of other items, is also overpriced. The Overland adds the Quadra-Trac II drive system, four-corner air suspension, a dual-panel sunroof, ventilated front seats, Nappa leather and a tow package, and is reasonably priced. The Summit range-topper adds four-zone climate control, a 360 degree camera system, 12-way power front seats, and a limited-slip differential and is good value. The Summit Reserve results in a very sumptuous vehicle, but lacks value for the noney asked. The V6 is standard on most trims, but the V8 is a $3695 option on the Overland and Summit trims
The new Jeep Grand Cherokee is elegant and, with plenty of room for four and abundant cargo space, a successful update to a perennial model. The new PHEV powertrain, if kept fully charged, is refined and, with observed fuel economy of 8.1L/100 kilometers, impressively frugal for a gigantic, heavy, family bus shaped like a brick. However, once the PHEV battery pack is depleted, refinement of the 2L turbo four is lacking in what is a very expensive, luxury-class vehicle. In addition, the Trailhawk package, while promising impressive off-road performance, hampers on-road driving pleasure to such an extent that, unless you drive on very challenging roads on a daily basis, should be avoided.