Jeep’s latest Grand Cherokee has aspirations of grandeur. Over its generations, it’s gone from sensible-and-more-road-friendly Jeep to a more luxurious and opulent vehicle. This latest generation is continuing that trajectory.
But then it has to, especially if it’s going to compete properly in Europe with us fussy lot and with some properly fierce competition. Think Audi Q7. The Mercedes-Benz GLS. Range Rover Sport. Cars that suit a pair of wellies just as well as a tuxedo, all while under pressure to emit less CO2 than the fizz from a bottle of Bollinger.
So much so that the Grand Cherokee can be had in diverging specifications like the off-road focused Trailhawk, or the grandiose Summit Reserve (both of which we’ve driven here). Prices start at £69,900, with spec highlights like Trailhawk costing £73,900 and the Summit Reserve flagship setting you back £82,900.
So, we arrive at the inevitable – a Grand Cherokee with an electrified four-cylinder drivetrain that outsmarts and outperforms the trad V8. Jackson Storm to the established Lightning McQueen. It’s time to see if Jeep’s pulled it off.
You say the Jeep Grand Cherokee is luxurious – so let’s start with the interior…
Definitely plush, but still very American. While rivals like the Range Rover Sport promote a clean and serene cockpit, the Grand Cherokee metaphorically smacks you in the face with premium leathers, big veneer panels and technology (complete with buttons galore) on every surface. ‘Murica, etc.
Jeep Grand Cherokee interior
A prod of the starter button brings little aural drama in this plug-in model but there’s plenty of visual intrigue thanks to the neatly scalloped metal surround, which is shared with the on the backlit gear selector knob and looks very smart indeed.
There are big screens everywhere, including a massive 10.25-inch driver’s display and a near-square central infotainment display. Go for the plushest specs and you can even have a widescreen display for your front passenger.
Nothing creaks or squeaks, while the materials and switchgear all feel solid. But it’s all just so busy. There’s so much to look at it takes a little while to get used to where everything is – not least the bewildering amount of information and icons in the driver’s instrument cluster.
We’ve also tested this car in the US, where American-spec cars have a panoramic glass roof. We learned that, if you spec it, headroom isn’t brilliant in the back. You can improve this by reclining the seats, which makes the rear seats more comfortable but impacts on boot space. Either way it’s definitely comfier in the front – an odd observation, but one that sets the level of luxury the Grand Cherokee is expected to provide.
The ultimate in luxury is of course always experienced in the second row, while being chauffeured around, rather than driving yourself. So, this is an indulgence for drivers instead, and particularly those who want to leave the beaten track.
I thought fully electric was the future…
Well yes, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is more like the present, or if you’re feeling particularly mean: sort of the past. The big Jeep’s rivals have had plug sockets for some time now.
The Grand Cherokee has a pretty conventional set-up – a starter generator to make volts and an electric motor in the gearbox to use them.
Combined, you get 375bhp and 463lb ft of torque, which is more than the aforementioned V8 model, and more efficient, too. Its 20-odd miles of electric range is a bit last-gen PHEV but when the battery is full it provides suitable urban waft.
How does that plug-in hybrid powertrain feel?
In town, the 134bhp electric motor provides enough power but on faster roads you’ll more often than not tempt the four-cylinder petrol engine into life.
It’s quick enough, but you’re still at the mercy of the gearbox juggling cogs, even in electric mode (it’s so the Grand Cherokee’s off-road prowess is untarnished), and it can feel a little laggy from a standstill to kick into gear. Once you’re moving, though, it’s smooth and punchy enough – fitting that long-distance cruiser vibe nicely.
What’s the handling like?
Ah, well, as you may expect, long-distance cruiser doesn’t exactly scream handling prowess, but the Grand Cherokee has its merits.
Active noise cancelling does its best to reduce drone but the resulting soundtrack is a thin and whirring tone that makes the motor sound like it’s far away. On the motorway, the Grand Cherokee really is a proper cruiser – it’s where the ride is at its most compliant and that engine noise isn’t a huge distraction. And, even at slower speeds, the ride quality remains good – even if larger-wheeled versions introduce the odd sharper jolt here and there.
But the Grand Cherokee is B-I-G. It feels very wide when you’re at the wheel, and that PHEV system adds 350kg to an already heavy SUV. While the powertrain’s tech is mitigated a little by being situated low down, there’s no escaping its mass. Navigating it down skinny roads (including ones at our Spanish test location that had some gulp-inducing cliff edges) are a little nervy to squeeze your way down. Even so, body roll isn’t particularly strong for what is a heavy car.
The steering’s nothing special, though. It’s relatively consistent as you apply lock, but there’s no communication from the wheel on twistier roads. Very much a two-finger-resting-on-a-spoke kinda deal.
Is it still good off road?
It’s certainly up there with the most capable SUVs of this size. All Grand Cherokees have four-wheel drive with an active transfer case and you can specify one with an electronic limited-slip diff for the rear axle, too. All models also feature air suspension (complete with raising and lowering abilities for tougher off-road conditions or more aero at a cruise), and there are loads of different settings to choose from to make sure you don’t get stuck anywhere.
Trouble is, will anyone take it off-road that often? Given how upmarket the Grand Cherokee has become, it’s almost coming down with a case of Range-Roveritis; when a car is so expensive, it doesn’t feel right to venture too far off the beaten track…
Jeep Grand Cherokee: verdict
Jeep’s latest Grand Cherokee excels at being a laidback cruiser of an SUV – a relatively practical one at that – and can boast about its off-road presence until the, er… bison come home. It’s got presence and, in Europe, a bit of All-American appeal.
But that American-ness is also a downside. It can’t keep up, dynamically, with Europe’s best SUVs, its plug-in hybrid powertrain is only good enough and the interior is busy and sometimes complicated to work with.
In order to compete in a hotly-contested segment, you get the impression Jeep has thrown everything at its latest Grand Cherokee. But we’re not quite sure all of it sticks.