There are plenty of places where you can go off-roading in the United States, but few offer the striking vistas and endless opportunities for rock crawling found in Moab, Utah. That makes it an ideal location for the first drive of the new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. There are paved roads, gravel surfaces, and plenty of opportunities for heading off the beaten path, if you have a vehicle that’s capable enough for the challenge.
We spent the day driving up winding mountain roads, cruising along the highway, and avoiding rogue elk. The highlight of the drive was making our way over rocks on a somewhat precarious hillside. That last bit is the kind of thing many an SUV owner wouldn’t dare to try, but this is a Jeep and off-roading is sort of its thing.
Gallery: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee: First Drive
There’s no shortage of power under the hood of the Grand Cherokee. The base engine is a 3.6-liter V6 with 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It has plenty of grunt to get this large SUV up to speed. If you’re not satisfied with the V6, then there’s a V8 that becomes an option midway through the Grand Cherokee lineup. Numbers jump to 357 horsepower with 390 pound-feet of torque for stronger acceleration. Both are paired to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s responsive in either guise, but this is still a big, heavy SUV. A sports car it is not.
You might be wondering about the plug-in hybrid 4xe. So are we, but Jeep wasn’t quite ready to let us drive that one. It sat perched on a rock during the presentation, but that’s as close as we got to getting behind the wheel. When it does arrive early next year, it will have a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with a combined 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the V6 is 19 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 22 mpg combined. The V8 is unsurprisingly a bit thirstier at 14 mpg in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined. It’s not the most fuel efficient option in the segment and you’ll do better with the Toyota 4Runner, Subaru Outback, or Nissan Pathfinder (although none of those are even available with a V8).
A Stellar Interior
The interior of the Grand Cherokee is spacious with a decidedly upscale vibe. There’s seating for five people, but if you need a third row, just move up to the Grand Cherokee L. The L has seating for seven with more cargo room and all the trappings of its smaller sibling. While SUVs including the Toyota 4Runner and and Jeep’s own Wrangler go for tough, rugged, and minimalist interiors, the Grand Cherokee goes in the other direction with top trims boasting the look and quality of a luxury car.
The Summit Reserve has fancy heated and ventilated seats, with quilted Palermo leather, for both front and rear passengers. A massaging function is also on tap for those up front. There’s also open-pore waxed walnut on the dashboard, suede on the pillars and headliner, four-zone automatic climate control, and a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system. It’s an elegant offering, but it does come at a premium with a starting price of $63,365 (including $1,795 destination).
The interior of the Grand Cherokee is spacious with a decidedly upscale vibe.
If that’s a bit too much for your budget, don’t worry. The base Laredo starts at $37,390 with nearly half of the lineup coming in at under $50,000 – though with far less impressive materials and a bit too much hard plastic in the cabin. That’s on par with competitors including the Toyota 4Runner, though that aging rival doesn’t have the standard amenities of the Grand Cherokee, such as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, customizable LED lighting, a wealth of USB-A and C ports, and a slightly larger infotainment touchscreen with a far more advanced operating system.
In between there are four additional trims. The Limited at $43,710 adds Capri leather seating surfaces, an adjustable height power liftgate, and heated first and second-row seats. The off-roadiest Grand Cherokee, the Trailhawk, adds standard four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, skid plates, and sway-bar disconnect for $51,275. The Overland at $53,305 upgrades to Nappa leather with An-Teak trims and ventilated front seats while the Summit adds quilted Nappa leather seats, Absolute Oak trims, and 16-way power-adjustable front seats at $57,365.
Pavement Cruiser, Off-Road Master
Our day started with a brief highway drive followed by a route that took us up a twisting mountain road with tight switchbacks. That’s not generally a great experience in a large SUV, but the Grand Cherokee handled it all surprisingly well. You won’t forget that you’re not driving a hot little hatchback, but you also won’t regret it.
There isn’t a lot of body roll, even taking turns at speed, and steering is controlled so you never feel like the Grand Cherokee is going to get away from you if you’re not careful. It’s quiet and composed with a healthy rumble from the engine to let you know it’s doing some work. The next long-distance road trip with the kids will be nicer for everyone when you’re cruising in the Grand Cherokee.
The Grand Cherokee is built to do this stuff, imparting confidence off-road that similarly sized crossovers can’t match.
But it’s in the dirt where the Grand Cherokee stands out from much of the competition. The full lineup is available with a choice of rear-wheel or four-wheel drive, except for the Trailhawk and Summit Reserve, which are four-wheel drive only. If we’re being realistic, most people are not going to take their Grand Cherokee out into the wilds of Moab, and as we later learned, that’s their loss.
After a quick swap into a Trailhawk, we headed off into the desert. More accurately, we headed up as we took a narrow, rocky road to a fantastic overlook. Turns were tight enough to require spotters – remember how we mentioned this is a big SUV? – but the Grand Cherokee’s tight turning radius wove it between rocks where it honestly didn’t look like it should have fit.
The Trailhawk is the most off-road–ready trim of the lot. It has two front tow hooks, skid plates, sway-bar disconnect, a rear electronic limited-slip differential, and Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive. This includes a standard electronic two-speed transfer case with a low range for more challenging terrain. It’s also equipped with a Quadra-Lift air suspension that delivers up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance. We used every bit of that capability climbing over the rocks at the top of the lookout.
It wasn’t just a dirt road Jeep set before us. The route required attention and good throttle control as we balanced on two wheels navigating over uneven rock surfaces. The thing is, the Grand Cherokee is built to do this stuff, imparting confidence off-road that similarly sized crossovers can’t match, even if that means balancing like kids on a teeter totter while negotiating a rocky outcropping.
The downside to driving the Grand Cherokee off-road is its sheer size. At 193.5 inches long and 77.5 inches wide if you fold in the side mirrors, there are some places where it simply is not going to fit. Its approach angle of up to 35.7 degrees and departure angle of up to 30.2 degrees are good, but that won’t help you when the road gets narrow without the room to maneuver its bulk without scraping door panels.
Real Estate, For Screens And Beyond
The Grand Cherokee has a roomy interior for passengers and plenty of room for cargo. There’s 37.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats with 70.8 cubic feet behind the front seats, which is roomy but still not at the top of its class. You’ll find more cargo space in the Toyota 4Runner (47.2/89.7 cubic feet) and three-row Nissan pathfinder (45.0/80.5), but the Grand Cherokee is arguably better balanced with a roomier second row. Adding to its cargo flexibility are high tow ratings. Equipped with the V6 it can tow up to 6,200 pounds. Go with the V8 and that number increases to 7,200 pounds. The Honda Passport’s 5,000-pound limit can’t touch this.
The Grand Cherokee has the latest version of Stellantis’ Uconnect infotainment and it’s quite a high-tech experience. Base versions of the system get an 8.4-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa compatibility along with a six-speaker audio system. Midrange trims add in navigation. Optional on all but the Laredo and standard on the Summit is a 10.1-inch main screen and a 10.25-inch passenger touchscreen.
The passenger touchscreen made its debut on the luxe Grand Wagoneer and it’s a slick feature. It offers access to select functions and even lets the passenger watch videos. The driver can’t get distracted and sneak a peek, as the screen is only visible if you are sitting in the passenger seat. It imparts a level of futuristic luxury to the Grand Cherokee that makes it a standout. There’s also a dual-screen rear entertainment system for the kiddos.
The infotainment system itself is quite easy to use with responsive touchscreens and well-organized menus. It also offers an impressive degree of customization. Choose a screen layout and then it’s up to you what options are shown. You can choose to have the radio, navigation, or a connected device show on its own section of the screen for easy access. Even the menu bar icons at the top of the screen can be customized. Are the kids always asking you to turn on the WiFi? Put the hotspot icon into the menu bar and a quick tap of the screen will have the kids happily online.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee elevates what was already a solid off-roader.
The Grand Cherokee comes with one of four audio systems. The two lower-end systems are a bit basic, as expected.There’s also a 9-speaker Alpine system that includes a subwoofer that is standard from the Trailhawk on up. Also on the options list is a 19-speaker McIntosh premium high-performance sound system. It has a 10-inch subwoofer and 950-watt amplifier. If you want to drown out the world with your favorite tunes, this is the way to do it.
Advanced Safety is Standard
As the number of advanced safety features on the market increases, those features don’t always make it into the base trims of a vehicle. Instead, they’re offered through a series of options packages that can add thousands to the car’s sticker. The Grand Cherokee does have optional safety features, but its list of standard features is solid.
Automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with steering assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors are found across the lineup. The extras include a night vision camera that detects animals and people, intersection collision assist, and parallel and perpendicular parking assist. Sure, you can pay for the extra stuff, but the standard offering isn’t lacking.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee elevates what was already a solid off-roader with improved capability, advanced safety features, and an infotainment system that ensures everyone stays connected and entertained. It has a luxurious interior that makes road trips something to look forward to and the capability to choose the much less beaten path for those with a healthy sense of adventure.
Grand Cherokee Competitor Reviews:
- Nissan Pathfinder: 9.2 / 10
- Toyota 4Runner: Not Rated
- Subaru Outback: 8.0 / 10
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