Expert Reviews

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee First Drive Review

The Wrangler may be the quintessential Jeep, but Canadians love their luxury SUVs.

One of the country’s top-selling midsize models is the Grand Cherokee, now redesigned for its fifth generation for 2022.

Jeep has done a great job on this. It’s the usual longer-wider-taller than its predecessor, but the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee has also shed some weight. You can get it stuffed with luxury and technology, but can also go full off-road-rough with the Trailhawk trim.

On sale now, it comes in five trim levels, starting with the Laredo at $51,545; it can be upgraded with an Altitude package for $55,040. The volume seller is expected to be the Limited at $59,045. Other choices are the Trailhawk at $63,645; Overland at $68,045; and Summit at $73,545, which can be topped with a Reserve package for $78,040. All prices are before a non-negotiable delivery fee of $2,095.

All come with two rows of seats. For those who need three, this redesigned Jeep also comes as the longer Grand Cherokee L. A plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version is coming next spring, using the same electrified drivetrain as the Wrangler 4xe.

If It Ain’t Broke

The overall package has changed, but what’s under the hood hasn’t. All trims start with a 3.6L V6 engine, making 293 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. On the Trailhawk, Overland, and Summit trims, you can add a 5.7L V8 for $3,495, making 357 hp and 390 lb-ft. Both use an eight-speed automatic transmission. There wasn’t any need to replace them – these are solid, proven engines used extensively across the Chrysler, Dodge, and Ram brands as well. The V6 is rated to tow 2,812 kg (6,200 lb), and the V8 can handle as much as 3,265 kg (7,200 lb).

For fuel savings, the V6 comes with automatic stop-start technology, which shuts the engine off when you’re idling (everything else continues to operate, such as the climate system and stereo), while the V8 has cylinder deactivation. The Ram 1500 and Wrangler combine the same V6 with a mild hybrid system, which further helps fuel economy. But Jeep’s reps say they hit their fuel targets with the Grand Cherokee’s weight loss (10.9 L/100 km in combined city-highway driving), and adding the system wouldn’t have made enough of a difference to justify the system’s extra weight.

Extra Space and Visibility, Less Weight

The Grand Cherokee rides on an all-new platform, with an extra 86 mm (3.4 in) of overall length compared to the last generation, and 170 L more interior volume.

I like the front-end styling with the iconic seven-slot grille, and it’s sleek in profile. I find the rear a bit dull, but it seems the rear window and lights were meant to evoke the original Grand Cherokee (and silhouettes of all five generations are tucked into one of the windows). But what I really like is that the beltline is lower, the windows are larger, and the rear-door pillar is thinner, resulting in a nine per cent visibility improvement. That, and the low straight hood, make it much easier to see what’s around you.

All the Digital Real Estate

The roomy cabin is handsomely designed, with a sweeping horizontal dash, and, in my Summit Reserve tester, open-pore wood trim. I could do with less gloss-black trim, but I guess enough people love this fingerprint-grabbing surface that it’s still considered synonymous with luxury.

The centre console is a bit busy but I can live with it, because most functions are handled with buttons or dials – including climate control, seat heating, and drive modes – instead of buried in the infotainment screen, where it’s distracting to activate them. You can get as many as three 10-inch screens inside: a digital instrument cluster, centre screen, and one in front of the passenger for entertainment, navigation, or other functions. For safety, whatever’s playing on it isn’t visible to the driver.

Trims range from efficient to extravagant. The entry-level Laredo includes such items as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated seats and steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitoring. At the upper levels, you can get ventilated front and rear seats, premium audio, diamond-tuft leather, massaging seats, and self-parking technology.

Highway Cruising Complements Off-Road Capability

The Grand Cherokee was always nice to drive, but now it’s better. It feels lighter, helped by responsive, well-weighted steering. It’s tight and cohesive, and the ride is smooth and comfortable. The V6 is more than enough, and moving up to the V8 is really only necessary if you need the extra towing capacity. The available air suspension lowers for easy entry or exit, or lifts to 297 mm (11.3 in) of ground clearance for off-road.

All models feature full-time four-wheel drive, with three systems depending on trim. The first splits torque 50/50 front to rear, and brakes specific wheels to put more to others when extra traction is needed. The second detects wheel slip and sends torque where it’s required, while the last has a limited-slip differential and can direct 100 per cent of rear-axle torque to either wheel when needed. All systems automatically disconnect the front axle electronically during regular driving when four-wheel drive isn’t needed to improve fuel economy.

The Trailhawk uses the last of the three, and I took one on an off-road course that’s always part of these media drive events. I can’t really see someone taking a $63,000+ vehicle out mud-bogging, but it’ll get you to just about any cottage, plus bragging rights. It includes 360-degree cameras, disconnecting sway bar, and slow-speed cruise control for going up and down hills on the trail.

Final Thoughts

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee competes on price and features with mainstream models such as the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, and Hyundai Palisade; and in the top trims, Jeep reps expect cross-shopping with nameplates like the BMW X5, Acura MDX, and Lincoln Aviator. The Grand Cherokee was a good vehicle that’s now even better, and it’s going to be a sharp competitor in this popular segment.