Contributing Author: Craig Fitzgerald
- The Grand Cherokee 4xe combines everything you love about Jeep’s midsize SUV with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain.
- 25 miles of all-electric range, combining for a 56mpg equivalent.
- The same legitimate off-road capability as any other GC.
- Outstanding around-town performance
- Quiet on the road
- Superb interior quality
- Lofty price tag
- Less appealing Uconnect system than in prior generations
- Not-so-subtle hybrid integration
Who is This Vehicle For
The SUV buyer who wants to experiment with EV technology without jumping in with both feet.
- The Trailhawk trim moves exclusively to the 4xe
- Gloss black accents on the Trailhawk (versus gray in previous years)
We’ve been trying to figure it out forever: Why isn’t the plug-in hybrid the preferred drivetrain choice for every American shopper? You can be fervently pro-ICE or a zealot for EV technology, own a plug-in hybrid and still be happy. It’s true that plug-in hybrid sales volume did jump significantly in the 2021 model year. But that only represents about 165,000 sales, while full battery-electric vehicles shot up to somewhere around 435,000 vehicles in 2021.
Plug-in hybrids have simply never caught on, despite offering the best of both worlds: You can drive to your heart’s content, never experiencing the “range anxiety” that supposedly plagues BEV owners, and still do all of our around-town driving on nothing but battery power. And when the drivetrain combines, it provides significantly better fuel economy than the same vehicle with an ICE.
For a minute there, the Jeep Wrangler 4xe was the best-selling plug-in hybrid in America, and it lit a path for what these vehicles were capable of. Now, Jeep offers the 4xe drivetrain in the popular Jeep Grand Cherokee, which will likely overshadow the Wrangler in sales when normal sales years slowly return.
The 4xe uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, along with a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor. With a switch on the dash, you can operate the Grand Cherokee 4xe in hybrid mode, electric-only mode, or EV Save mode, which runs solely on the gas engine.
Beyond the drivetrain, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is exactly the same as the Grand Cherokee most of us are familiar with, from its ability to haul five people and their gear in relative comfort, to its near supremacy as an off-road unibody SUV, rivaled only by much more expensive entries from Land Rover.
The WL era of the Grand Cherokee arrived in the 2021 model year and it was evolutionary. It certainly has a more modern look than the WK2 it replaced, but all of the familiar Jeep iconography is there: The seven-slat grille, the more rounded body style, the wheels pushed out to the extreme corners to minimize overhang.
The newest exterior change for the WL lineup was the addition of the Grand Cherokee L, a long-wheelbase version that adds the third row of seats the GC has been missing since its introduction. We went for decades without requiring third rows, but it appears to be the opening ante for any midsized SUV in 2022, no matter how cramped and uncomfortable the third row of seats is in anything smaller than a Suburban or a minivan. We should note that there currently is no “L” version of the 4xe, since a lot of additional space is taken up with the 4xe’s 17kWh battery.
Aside from the trademark blue tow hooks and the extra fuel door that covers the plug on the 4xe, there’s really nothing much that would indicate that you’re looking at something any different than any other Grand Cherokee trim level. When a manufacturer restyles an iconic vehicle, it’s always an opportunity for failure, but Ralph Gilles and the Stellantis styling team got it right with the WL. At least we’re not hearing any complaints on the ground the way we are about the updated Ford Mustang. When we pulled the 4xe into a parking lot across from a Middle Eastern takeout joint in Portland, Maine, a few weeks ago, we got a compliment from the young guy behind the counter, which says something for its curb appeal.
If there’s anything that Jeep has nailed over the years, it’s the interior in the Grand Cherokee. Since the 1990s, it’s always been a premium experience, and the WL era is no exception. Our tested Grand Cherokee 4xe was the Overland trim, which included perforated leather seats with heat and cooling, which was appreciated when late summer in New England was so brutally warm. The dash has wood accents with brushed aluminum trim, elevating the cockpit beyond what you might expect from Jeep.
The second row in the Overland doesn’t get treated quite as well as it does in the top Summit trim level. There, you get heated and ventilated seats as part of a package for the second row, as well. Overland passengers only get heat in the second row, which is still a nice benefit. The perforated leather certainly helps the black leather seats dissipate some heat.
The cargo area is decent-sized at 37.7 cu.ft. behind the second row. It opens up to a maximum of 70.8 cu.ft. with the second row folded, plenty of space for hauling small pieces of furniture and other supplies to our vacation spot in Maine.
The 4xe uses a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, paired with a permanent magnet synchronous electric motor for a combined 375hp and 470-lb.ft. of torque. That’s more horsepower and torque than is available with the HEMI V-8, and it’s able to hustle the Grand Cherokee 4xe to 60 miles an hour in about six seconds. It’s not blisteringly fast, but considering this is a four-cylinder engine moving a vehicle that tops out at a staggering 6,900 pounds, it’s kind of mind-bending that it can get there this fast.
There have been some complaints about the sound of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine. “The engine whine is harsh,” wrote one reviewer. As far as we’re concerned, if you can hear the engine, the audio system isn’t turned up loud enough. This isn’t a Ferrari. Most people aren’t going to give a minute’s thought to what the engine sounds like.
The bone we will pick with the Grand Cherokee 4xe is how smoothly the hybrid drivetrain integrates in traditional hybrid mode. It can be a little clunky when the gas engine kicks in. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that aside from the Wrangler 4xe, there’s no other plug-in hybrid on the market that uses a conventional eight-speed automatic transmission. Every other one is a CVT that is – by its nature – going to deliver power more smoothly. There have also been complains about how the brakes feel. They do have a kind of on-off harshness that you wouldn’t expect out of a conventional drivetrain, but the brakes are regenerative and it doesn’t take long to figure out how they best modulate.
The drivetrain has three different modes: Hybrid mode makes the best use out of the gas engine and the electric motor together. EV Only allows you to use nothing but the electric motor, which is really handy when doing your local errands. You can exhaust the 25 miles of EV range on your weekend duties, plug it back in and do it again the next day without ever using the gas engine. The EV Save mode runs the gas engine only, and eliminates some of the hybrid’s clunkiness, but you lose the fuel mileage increase.
The other nice thing about a PHEV is that you don’t really need a Level 2 charger. You can easily recharge the 17kWh battery with a conventional 110 outlet overnight. A Level 2 will certainly charge it faster, but most people are going to charge overnight anyway, so the investment in a home charger really isn’t necessary.
The only difference between the 4xe and any other Grand Cherokee’s four-wheel drive system is the front axle disconnect. When the Grand Cherokee 4xe is driving around normally, the system automatically disconnects the front axle to save fuel. When the system senses it’s needed, it automatically re-engages the axle.
This is 100 percent subjective, but we liked the appearance of the old Uconnect 4 system versus the more monochrome Arial font look of the Uconnect 5. It’s fine. It does what it’s supposed to, and doesn’t bury functions in layers of menus the way other infotainment setups do. But the screen isn’t as pleasant to look at and navigate as the older one was.
What we do appreciate is the retention of the best redundant controls in the automotive industry. The volume is a big knob. The station control is a big knob. The volume and station seek buttons have remained on the back of the steering wheel, perfectly located so as not to press the voice command buttons the way so many other steering wheel mounted controls are. Temperature controls are rocker switches for cabin heat, and simple buttons for seat and steering wheel temperature, perfectly executed. Every other OEM: Study this and steal it.
The GC 4xe has all the Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth integration you’d expect, and it integrates easily.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe Overland is equipped with a range of adaptive safety equipment including Active Lane Management, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Advanced Brake Assist. It’s all standard on every Grand Cherokee 4xe trim level. The only things hidden behind a paywall on the Overland trim are Intersection Collision Assist and a Night Vision Camera, which are part of the Advanced Pro Tech Group on the Overland. The Summit has the Intersection Collision Assist function as a standard feature. The Night Vision Camera is pretty great. It’s been a while since we’ve last used one. This example picked up a particularly hard-to-see motorcycle in traffic in front of us, and provided a welcome second set of eyes on it when the streetlights got few and far between.
There’s also a $1,095 Front Passenger Interactive Display, which allows the front passenger to stream content through a screen on the dash that’s not visible to the driver.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe
- Base MSRP: $68,880
- Front Passenger Interactive Display: $1,095
- Advanced ProTech Group III: $2,235
- Total MSRP as tested: $75,555
- Delivery: $1,795
|2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe||Price:|
30th Anniversary 4xe: $64,960
Trailhawk 4xe: $65,655
Overland 4xe: $68,275
Summit 4xe: $72,990
Summit Reserve 4xe: $77,470
2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, permanent magnet synchronous electric motor
|Vehicle type: Midsize SUV|
|Driveline: 4-Wheel-Drive||Dimensions: |
Wheelbase: 116.7 in.
Length: 193.5 in.
Width: 84.6 in. (including mirrors)
Height 70.9 in.
Cargo Volume: 37.7 cu.ft.
|Horsepower: 375hp||Torque: 470 lb.ft. @ 3,000 RPM|
|0-60 mph: 6.0 sec (est)||Warranty: |
Basic: 36 mo/36,000 mi.
Powertrain: 86 mo/80,000 mi.
Hybrid Battery: 86 mo/80,000 mi.
Craig Fitzgerald began his automotive writing career in 1996, at AutoSite.com, one of the first online resources for car buyers. Over the years, he’s written for the Boston Globe, Forbes, and Hagerty. For seven years, he was the editor at Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car, and today, he’s the automotive editor at Drive magazine. He’s dad to a son and daughter, and plays rude guitar in a garage band in Worcester, Massachusetts.