Car reviews - Jeep - Grand Cherokee - 4Xe
Big and comfortable, supple ride, minimal interior noise, impressive performance, plush interior, generous standard equipment, looks impressive, capable off road
Room for improvement
Premium priced from $129,950, fuel economy claim ridiculous, plug anxiety (type) when recharging, EV range ambitious, where is the third row?
Electrified Jeep Grand Cherokee cuts the mustard across a range of driving environments
7 Feb 2024
OUR recent drive of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland short wheelbase (five-seater) proved surprisingly good as the big yank fourbie impressed on and off the road even with its wimpy petrol V6 engine leading us to hold high expectations for the top-of-the-range Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4xe PHEV, the first electrified “proper” 4WD from Jeep.
It’s getting right up there in price listed from $129,950 excluding on-road costs placing it among the capable 4WD ranks of the Land Rover Defender 110 P400e HSE from $139,300 and the Rangey Velar HSE PHEV with the same turbo petrol 2.0-litre electrified powertrain from $144,400 both excluding on-roads.
A bunch of big soft-road SUVs are also in the price frame but if you want an electrified premium fourbie these are the three you want to be looking at for the dosh.
The 4xe looks the same outwardly as other Grand Cherokee models apart from splashes of flash décor. It has similar standard equipment with pretty much the same safety and “digital” kit.
The exterior is differentiated by an exclusive trim treatment with a gloss black roof as part of the Summit Reserve 4xe standard specification to create a “floating roofline” effect accentuated by a new window moulding that begins at the base of the side mirror and runs to the rear quarter window extending to the base of the backlight.
Along with extensive advanced driver assist tech’, the vehicle is equipped with a range of convenient features to keep passengers connected while driving, some optional.
Luxury kit includes premium LED lighting with daytime/night-time settings, ambient lighting with a five-colour selection, McIntosh 19-speaker premium audio system and a hands-free, foot-activated power tailgate.
But most of the action is under the floor and the bonnet where you’ll find the 4xe has a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine lifted from elsewhere in the Stellantis Group and two electric traction motors pumping out up to a combined 280kW and 637Nm to the front and rear axles.
That’s a handy output in anyone’s measure and though beaten for outright kilowattage by the now defunct SRT8 Grand Cherokee for power (350kW), it beats the V8 for torque by 13 Neutron bombs.
Adding further to the 4xe’s allure is the top whack Quadra Trac II all-wheel drive with Selec-Terrain (the best set-up offered in a Jeep) along with Quadra Lift air suspension, again the best from Jeep.
The combo bestows super off-road capability on the big bush basher aided and abetted by its ground clearance, decent multi-purpose rubber and highly articulated suspension.
We still hold reservations about monocoque chassis’ and big heavy fourbies being driven off road or towing. It’s a lot of force being applied to what is essentially thin pressed metal, albeit notably reinforced in the GC’s case.
Jeep says that the 4xe has technology that “enhances the fun, freedom, and adventure that the Jeep brand is known for, while providing unprecedented performance, fuel economy and flexibility”, a statement we’d concur with.
But they are dreaming to claim it uses a combined average of 3.2L/100km which on test was more than double that in mixed urban, dirt/gravel, and highway driving. That’s still a good effort for a big, heavy 4WD that weighs in at 2582kg and can tow nearly 2800kg (braked).
The electrified powertrain feeds from a 400-volt 17.3kWh battery pack going through an eight-speed conventional Torque Flite fluid auto transmission with a claimed electric only range of 52km. Best we saw was 45km and that was driving with a feather touch.
In addition to the hybrid powertrain, fuel-efficiency is aided by the use of electric power steering and an electrically driven air-conditioning compressor that both remove load from the engine.
Keeping the battery at optimum temperature is a dedicated heating and cooling circuit that includes a heater unit and a chiller that uses the 4xe’s air-conditioning refrigerant to control coolant temperature when needed.
Jeep says charging time varies from less than 10 hours (Mode 2) to less than three hours (Mode 3 at 7.4kWh). We had trouble with the plug type that didn’t fit an NRMA charge station.
The 4xe has a number of modes for altering hybrid powertrain behaviour to best suit each trip, from daily commuting in pure-electric mode to extended highway road trips with the really good parts being no range anxiety and the ability to explore off-road trails in near silence.
When the battery is close to depletion, a default full hybrid mode is activated; regenerative braking helps replenish the battery pack and with 4x4 locked in, all four wheels feed torque for regenerative braking up to 0.25g, maximising the energy recovery.
Almost defying the laws of physics, the 2500kg 4x4 – with a small 2.0-litre four pot turbo petrol mill humming away under the bonnet – has a surprising amount of kick that continues delivering a rapid rate of acceleration up to who knows what speed.
Those two electric motors really lift the 4xe’s performance to a level approaching that of the deleted, V8-powered Grand Cherokee SRT8. It doesn’t sound as raunchy but inside the sensations are of the same order… being pushed back in your seat as the boxy 4Xe rushes forward like a sporty model.
It does this with minimal noise entering the cabin apart from a muted humming associated with the ICE engine spooling up. Jeep seems to have calibrated the 4xe’s powertrain on the side of caution not wanting it to “hard launch” from a standstill, preferring more of a “swoosh” effect akin to a limo.
We prefer the thing to get going hard as soon as the throttle is pushed… for safety reasons above all else.
The Torque Flite eight speed auto functions smoothly all the time almost predicting what ratio is needed for any given circumstance and the driver can over-ride if desired through the paddle shift.
Jeep says the 4xe will consume a combined 3.2L/100km to which we say - pffffft, not true. Driven carefully, the test model returned around 8.5L/100km of premium, still a respectable figure for such a large vehicle.
They must have tested it driving a short distance with an egg underfoot using the EV mode most of the time.
In other areas, the 4xe really shines particularly the air suspension which is the go-to preference for big off roaders as it covers off pretty much all contingencies with optimal ride and dynamic control.
The 4xe’s air suspension gives a supple and controlled ride at all times, even when hooking hard around tight corners on bumpy sealed roads. It’s even better off road isolating big potholes, rises and dips, rough gravel, and anything else thrown at it.
The same can be said of the impressive Quadra-Trac II 4WD (AWD) system that has a lock-up facility when needed and functions along similar lines to Toyota’s LC300 AWD system.
You can simply leave it in normal AWD mode and let the 4xe handle things or easily dial up choices from a selection of modes that cover engine power delivery, transmission calibration, suspension, and other aspects of the 4xe.
Other dynamics of the test vehicle were up to spec’ including brake performance and tyre grip across all surfaces. Jeep has done its homework on this one implementing lessons learned over decades of 4x4 production. It stands to reason really as this is the company’s first electrified fourbie with more including BEVs to follow.
The interior has a Range Rover air to it exemplified in the soft leather upholstery, multi-function wheel, wide screens including one for the front passenger’s personal use and comfortable fully adjustable and heated seats. The style of the décor is highlighted by a funky light brown faux wood fascia to the dash and door cards along with other panels. Very cool.
The audio is monumental in performance providing tonal acuity not experienced in a long time from many test vehicles.
The fact that the 4xe is a five-seater cuts both ways as some buyers don’t want or need a seven seat ‘bus’ configuration. Of course, others do.
As usual, some over intrusive driver assist (ADAS) features need to be dealt with every time you drive the beast. One day car companies might get it right and allow owners and drivers to lock in the set-up they want instead of taking the “Nanny State” option….
We like the look of the 4xe and its subtle differentiation from lesser Grand Cherokees as it is distinctive and handsome, going some of the way to justifying the premium price.
The big question here is would we buy one and on the face of it the Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV has plenty of appeal and is a genuine contender against its similarly premium priced direct competitors.
Or we’d buy a Toyota diesel fourbie for a lot less and enjoy the facility (300 dealers) and security (resale) of that decision.
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