- Car Reviews
- Grand Cherokee 4xe
Easy to use and live with, frugal when charged via plug, tax-friendly
Not quite as polished on-road as similarly sized Europeans
What is it?
It's the grandest Jeep sold in Europe, and it comes only with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. It's about the same size as a Mercedes M-Class (remember, we call it the GLE now) or Range Rover Sport. It's all-new, with a redesigned monocoque and many fresh tech features.
In America the Grand Cherokee can also be had as a LWB three-row, and with pure-petrol engines, and even as a RWD. But not in Britain, where it's five seats and plug-in 4WD only. Jeep doesn't want to be seen as a nameplate of supersized gas guzzlers, nor of faux-by-fours.
The plug-in hybrid drivetrain broke cover on the Wrangler last year and quickly became a market favourite even in petrol-friendly America. Part of the reason is credibility in the one thing that makes a Jeep a Jeep: off-roading. The silent, controllable torque of a four-wheel-drive electric machine is quite something.
Sports or utility?
In an age where lots of SUVs aim for sportiness, this definitely doesn't. If you want to take it into the rough, or do some towing, it's right at home. But most of the time of course it'll be on the road, and Jeep has trimmed it pretty plushly and loaded it up with tech and gadgetry.
Among the trim levels is Trailhawk, which bundles all the off-road features: chunky tyres, LSD at the rear, a decoupling front anti-roll bar, and skid plates. Then there's Summit Reserve, which is the lux version, touting Mcintosh hifi, a HUD and another display in front of the passenger where you'd expect the glove box lid to be.
How does the powertrain operate?
This isn't one of those hybrids where the one axle is driven by petrol and the other by electricity. Here, they both drive all wheels, for full Jeepular traction.
A four-cylinder two-litre petrol engine of 272bhp is at the front. Behind that is the 143bhp motor. Independent clutches allow either or both to drive the eight-speed autobox and transfer case, and thence to the wheels. The combined output (they peak at different revs so you can't just add their numbers) is a useful 375bhp and 470lb ft.
The transfer case allows you to choose normal high ratios for the road, or a low set for off-road crawling.
How much more efficient is it?
A 14kWh battery pack allows useful all-electric range: 31 miles in the official tests, which might translate into 20-25 miles in mixed driving. Or it supplements energy from petrol to make it stretch further. It can also capture regenerated energy.
On the WLTP it's about 100mpg depending on spec. But as with any PHEV real-world it entirely depends on how frequently it's plugged in. And running costs depend on the price of electricity.
What about the driving?
The engine isn't that refined but with electric backup you're mostly not stressing it. There's plenty of power for most needs.
There's an oddness to the steering, with a dead central band, that gets too quick once you've turned slightly. So you sometimes put too much input into a heavy car that really needs driving smoothly. It rolls less than you might expect but pitches if you're not smooth.
Still, a well-judged ride matters and it's got one, at least with the air-suspended version we tried.
What's the Grand Cherokee up against?
If you're heading off-road then you should be looking at the Land Rover Defender, Mercedes G-Class and Ford Bronco (outside the UK, of course). All handily tested side-by-side at this very link, along with the Jeep Wrangler. Rather depends on how much money you're prepared to throw at the problem.
None of those are PHEVs though, and they sit a league above in terms of ability. Chances are you will be mostly on-road with this, so think BMW X5, Audi Q7, Range Rover; that sort of territory.
What's the verdict?
PHEV powertrains are a popular choice for the user-choosers who buy big SUVs. Just take a look at the badges on X5s, GLEs and the like. The Grand Cherokee 4xe takes that potential frugality and adds another dimension, the off-road smarts.
It's not a sporty SUV but we're OK with that. There's lots of space, equipment and capability. Jeep is also playing a strong value card alongside the German and British opposition.