|Positives: Evolutionary and attractive exterior styling, upscale and high-tech cabin, potent powertrain, easy driving manners.|
|Negatives: Rough gas-electric transition, not as practical as a PHEV should be, seriously expensive.|
|Bottom Line: The PHEV version of the Grand Cherokee is a rough execution in terms of the powertrain, but it boasts excellent overall driving manners and a cabin fit for a king. It's just too bad the formula feels half baked. You're better off getting the gas version.|
What happens when you slot the Wrangler 4xe's powertrain into a more refined Grand Cherokee? You get plenty of power, some efficiency, and an even more noticeably rough transition between electric-only and gas-electric power. Just like the Wrangler 4xe, you can put the Grand Cherokee 4xe into an E-Save mode that defers to just the gas engine for off-roading so you can maximize efficiency on road.
Ride Quality: The ride is firm but not unsettling. The smaller wheels and all-terrain tires help with bumps and gaps.
Acceleration: 0-60 mph comes in at a quick 5.3 seconds, quicker than the Wrangler 4xe's 7 seconds, When it comes to moving from electric to gas-electric, there's weird pause and far too much rough noise that's exacerbated by the Grand Cherokee's quieter interior.
Braking: The regen brakes lack feel, but at least they're progressive and don't exhibit mushiness that's endemic to these systems.
Steering: There's some noticeable weight to the steering, but feel is largely absent.
Handling: Taking the Grand Cherokee 4xe is a manageable exercise thanks to the lower center of gravity. It feels stable, but you do feel some body roll, as well as the weight of the vehicle.
The Uconnect system, along with the passenger touchscreen, is a tour de force in the Grand Cherokee. Not only does the system look better than ever, but it also operates with a more intuitive flow. It's far better here than in the older system found in the Wrangler Rubicon 4xe we recently tested.
Infotainment System: Uconnect 5 Nav with its vivid 10.1–Inch Touch Screen Display has great graphics and excellent dash placement. It remains easily legible in bright sunlight, and the configurable home screen is very easy to read. The Front Passenger Interactive Display comes standard on the Trailhawk trim, and it's just as dazzling as the main screen. It also isn't viewable by the driver, so it helps to reduce distraction.
Controls: The climate controls are, thankfully, still physical buttons. The fact that they are all gloss black and have a totally vertical face with the buttons crammed in between the audio knobs makes them a tad challenging to use while driving. The large, knurled audio knobs, by contrast, are excellent. The rotary shift knob, Terrain Select switch, and the ride height switch are all large, well-situated on the center console, and easy to operate.
There's no denying that the redesigned Grand Cherokee is more upscale than the last generation. Its looks are shared with price Grand Wagoneer, and the result is a Grand Cherokee that carves its own American luxury SUV niche. The Trailhawk 4xe's style also backs up its high price tag with a high-tech and polished interior that leaves its predecessor wanting more.
Front: The 8-slat Jeep grille looks good clad in all black with the thin headlights incorporated into the frame. The blue tow hooks and the blue hood decal are nice touches. The front end isn't overly busy, which we like.
Rear: Simplicity seems to be the theme here, and the crisp LED taillights with the unifying bar look great. The blue badging and single blue tow hooks echo the 4xe theme nicely.
Profile: The side view shows off a two-tone theme with a black roof and pillars, as well as a single crease that runs from front to back. The lack of chrome looks proper for a rugged Trailhawk, but the overall look is still refined and attractive.
Cabin: The cabin is on the dark side, but materials are quite nice. The tapering of the dash into the center console is fluid, as are the shapes on the door card. There's a bit too much piano black for our liking, but the overall execution looks premium. Blue 4xe stitching all over the cabin matches the exterior coloring well.
There's a lot to love about the interior comfort of the Grand Cherokee. Materials quality is top-notch at this level, and you get quite a bit for the money. The brand wants to go after BMW, Lexus, Mercedes, Genesis, and Lincoln with this kind of interior treatment. There's plenty of space in the Grand Cherokee L, at least for the two front rows.
Front Seats: Seats are supple, supportive, and decadent with diamond-quilted leather, wide seatbacks, and massage functionality that keeps you awake on long commutes.
Rear Seats: The rear seats are excellent, even in the middle spot. Our tester even had standard 2nd-row heated seats. The 4xe doesn't come with a third-row option.
NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The engine can sound a bit rough at times, and it's very noticeable in transition. Road noise and wind noise are kept to a minimum at highway speeds thanks to solid levels of sound deadening.
Visibility: Visibility out the front is good with a low hood and a nice seating position. The sightlines out back are much worse. The C and D-pillars are overly thick, and the rear side window's shape with the noticeable uptick at the back doesn't help matters.
Climate: Despite the awkward climate controls, the heating and cooling work well. The vents in front are thin, but they move good amounts of air. The heated and ventilated seats are responsive, too.
The Grand Cherokee L hasn't been tested by the IIHS yet, but it did get high marks from the NHTSA testing body. It comes with a slew of great safety features, as well as diver assistance technology.
IIHS Rating: Not tested.
NHTSA Rating: The Grand Cherokee earns five stars from the federal government.
Standard Tech: The standard set includes: Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Active Lane-Management System, Full-Speed Forward-Collision Warning Plus, Surround View Camera System, Parallel and Perpendicular Park-Assist with Stop, Blind-Spot and Cross-Path Detection, Side Distance Warning, Intersection Collision-Assist System, Pedestrian / Cyclist Emergency Braking, Active Driving Assist System, and Drowsy Driver Detection
Optional Tech: Our test vehicle was outfitted with the Advanced ProTech Group II for $2,235 and includes Intersection Collision–Assist System, Night Vision w/ Pedestrian and Animal Detection, ParkSense Front and Rear Park–Assist with Stop, and an excellent Surround View Camera System.
If you're looking for a three-row that can swallow a ton of luggage and gear, the Grand Cherokee L isn't it, but that doesn't mean it won't work for most families. The load floor is flat, and there's enough space to road trip for a family of five.
Storage Space: We like the sizable armrest and the wireless charging cubby in the center stack. Door pockets are decently sized, and the front-row cupholders are nicely placed for easy access.
Cargo Room: The Grand Cherokee provides 37.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind row two and 70.8 cubes with the seats folded flat. The total is less than the Grand Cherokee L's 84.6 cubes, but it's still plenty of room for a family's luggage and gear.
The fuel economy scores are a mixed bag. We give the Grand Cherokee 4xe credit for its PHEV offering, but the all-electric utility gets hampered by intrusion by the gas engine no matter how little throttle seems to be applied or how gingerly you do it.
Observed: 17.9 mpg (gas); 22.5 MPGe.
Distance Driven: 181 miles.
The Trailhawk 4xe comes standard with an audio system that includes 9 speakers with a subwoofer and amplifier. Sound quality is good, and music and phone calls came through clearly and without distortion. It's not a premium system, but it's pretty good for stock.