(The Car Connection) — Grand takes on new meaning with the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. With its first full redesign since 2011, the Grand Cherokee becomes more of everything: It’s larger, more capable, more technologically advanced, more efficient with the 4xe plug-in hybrid variant, and more than anything, it’s more luxurious.
And more expensive, of course. The base Laredo model starts at about $40,000, which is $6,000 more than last year’s starting point, but my range-topping Summit Reserve reached new peaks with a $73,000 price. Such a wide spread reflects how Jeep still caters to its base while striving for a slice of the luxury red velvet cake.
Like life, however, it’s not perfect. In my week of testing, it hit several Grand notes, but it also overshot in a few places.
Hit: “Is that a Land Rover?”
No. But in trying to understand why my friend would say such a thing, it gave me insight into the new look of a vehicle that has long been the benchmark for SUV design despite its unibody construction. I pulled up to her at a stop, so maybe she didn’t see the classic Jeep seven-slot grille slimmed down on a more blunt, vertical face. Maybe it was the gloss black roof over the Silver Zynith body, or the clean body panels with the slimmest character line running through the door handles. Most likely, it was the quilted Palermo leather and wood grain dash popping from the luxury-leaning cabin. Whatever the case, she wasn’t the only one disbelieving it was a Jeep.
Miss: It’s bigger
The new Grand Cherokee is 3.4 inches longer, 1.6 inches taller, 1.0 inch wider, yet, at 4,784 lb, the Summit Reserve 4×4 lost more than 200 lb from its similarly equipped predecessor. Yet the new Grand Cherokee that seats five rides as soft as a typical three-row SUV, though the three-row Grand Cherokee L is tuned much softer. Jeep offsets the Grand Cherokee’s larger dimensions with MacPherson struts up front and a more robust five-link independent rear suspension, as well as air springs that can raise the ground clearance from 8.4 inches to 11.3 inches for off-roading. I didn’t go off-road (check out our partner’s take on that at Motor Authority), but on pavement the system automatically adjusts shock tuning for a smoother, calmer ride. The driver can override it with five different height settings, or use the five drive mode settings (Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, Mud/Sand) easily accessible with center console toggles. In Auto mode, the big SUV leans into corners and buoys down the road, but it smothers road imperfections and isolates the cabin from road and wind noise. Sport mode lowers the air suspension, but it can’t overcome physics.
Hit: It’s bigger
The increased proportions make it much larger on the inside, affirming that especially in Summit Reserve grades, this off-road hero was built for comfort as much as capability. In that sense, it is like a Land Rover. The front has more shoulder and leg room, and the additional width gives rear riders a smidge more space, though I wouldn’t try to fit a third adult in the middle for anything more than a local trip. Still, passenger and cargo volume increases, with 37.7 cubic feet with the 60/40-split rear seats up; fold them down manually (power-fold is not an option, even on Summit Reserve) and it grows to 70.8 cubic feet, which is less than four feet shy of a Land Rover Discovery that seats seven.
Hit: Seat comfort
Of kings, Shakespeare said, “uneasy is the head that wears the crown”; of luxury cars Bill the Bard might’ve said, “easy are the backs that pay for luxury.” The front and back seats of the Summit Reserve come heated and cooled, and soft quilted leather up front complements massagers with a slew of coddling settings. The massager button on the door panel couldn’t be easier to reach, leading to frequent and welcome kneading.
Miss: Carryover powertrains, with an exception
The base 3.6-liter V-6 and available 5.7-liter V-8 carry over from the last generation, and they’re plenty powerful for anything from towing to off-roading to hustling. The prodigious 357 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque in the Summit Reserve’s V-8 helps it tow 7,200 lb and eclipse seven seconds in a 0-60 mph sprint, with all the American thunder you’d expect from a V-8.
But we live in fuel- and emission-conscious times and the V-8 with 4WD is rated at 17 mpg combined. Jeep knows the V-8’s time is nearly up, and since the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid makes 375 hp and 470 lb-ft, while carrying EPA ratings of 23 mpg combined and 56 mpg combined with electric power, there’s no reason other than nostalgia for the V-8.
Hit: Cutting-edge cabin
Jeep’s all-in on all the screens. A 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster is the most helpful, projecting up to five easy-to-see tiles ranging from trip meters to off-road gauges to driver-assist features, of which there are many. A 10.1-inch touchscreen running the latest Uconnect infotainment system sits in the center and is still easy to use even as Jeep deepens its functionality. The front passenger gets their own 10.3-inch touchscreen for navigation and entertainment, or for messing with the driver, who is shielded from view. My tester had the $1,995 Rear Seat Video Group with twin seat back screens with Amazon Fire TV compatibility. That’s a lot of screens, but it doesn’t overwhelm like Mercedes’ or Cadillac’s massive wall-to-wall screens. Additionally, the cabin is a lovely place to be, but I’d skip the Tupelo upholstery color because it washes out the wood dash.
Miss: $1,795 destination fee
While most mandatory destination fees—those slippery add-ons automakers add for delivering cars to dealerships without having to include them in marketing—hover in the $995-$1,295 range, even for cars imported from Germany, Japan, or Korea. Jeep and Ford consistently flirt with $2,000. The 2022 Grand Cherokee comes all the way from Detroit via what? Plane, train, truck, dirigible, derring-do? I’d pick it up direct from the factory if I could.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve scales luxury levels but isn’t priced as high as full-boat luxury SUVs from Germany or Britain. It retains its rugged American individualism and a V-8, for now. Wherever Jeep is going with the Grand brand, the Grand Cherokee’s toughest, most direct competition comes from within.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4×4
Base price: $39,185, including $1,795 destination for the base Laredo
Price as tested: $73,085
Drivetrain: 357-hp 5.7-liter V-8 with an 8-speed manual and 4WD
EPA fuel economy: 14/22/17 mpg
The hits: Luxurious features, sumptuous finishes, off-road easy, bigger and bolder
The misses: Expensive, boatlike, outrageous destination fee