Jeep threw us a curveball when it introduced the all-new WL Grand Cherokee, the fifth-generation model of the long-running SUV, with the stretched 2021 L model. The latter is the first-ever three-row Grand Cherokee.
It was a palm slap to the forehead moment for a brand celebrating its 80th birthday. Jeep has sold 7 million Grand Cherokees globally since 1992, and every one has been a five-passenger, two-row SUV. But 75 percent of the large SUVs the Grand Cherokee competes with are equipped with or offer a third row, so the Jeep was playing in a game where it wasn’t even swinging the bat in most innings. So yeah, we get why Jeep added the three-row L and launched it first.
Now, one model year later, we have the WL with the conventional layout that made the Grand Cherokee a household name and best-seller. Deliveries of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee have begun in North Americ, and all dealerships should have some in stock by the end of the year. The Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid follows early in 2022.
New Grand Cherokees—both two- and three-row—are being built at the new Mack Plant in the Detroit Assembly Complex. The Jefferson plant, which made the outgoing model, is being retooled and will be able to make the new two-row in 2022 while continuing to also make the current Dodge Durango. It certainly looks like Jeep expects to sell more Grand Cherokees with its expansion to a family of three versions.
Putting the 2022 Grand Cherokee Through Its Paces
Is the 2022 Grand Cherokee a leap forward? We spent a few days in Moab, Utah, for a little seat time in the WL, both on- and off-road.
The regular Grand Cherokee is offered in five trim levels plus two packages. The look has been updated inside and out with an impressive use of high-end materials and attention to detail.
The 2022 model is immediately recognizable for what it is—there are no big styling departures from the traditional look, and the powertrains, 4WD systems, and available air suspension carry over. But make no mistake: This is an all-new Grand Cherokee where every aspect was touched and enhanced in some way, right down to the metal gear shifter, now flanked by the controls for ride height and terrain select to emphasize the vehicle’s “Jeepness.”
New Architecture Tricky
For starters, the latest Grand Cherokees ride on a new architecture—the old one dated back a decade. Early reports had the SUV sharing underpinnings with the Alfa Romeo Giulia, which held the potential for some sublime on-road manners. The brands within Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) are encouraged to use existing architectures where possible, so the idea was explored, Vehicle Line Executive Tom Seel said. But in the end, Stellantis’ engineers felt Jeep and Alfa catered to customers at opposite ends of the spectrum: Jeep needs a level of off-road prowess that Alfa does not require, and Alfa needs an on-road dynamism that exceeds what Jeep needs to offer. To share a platform would require more compromise than either team of engineers was comfortable with. So Jeep got its own architecture, and Alfa engineers contributed to the tuning for on-road dynamics.
“Most competitors would do two different cars to cover the span that the Grand Cherokee covers,” Seel said of the need to straddle two very distinct forms of driving and do both well. “It makes it unique.”
Seel was told the architecture needed a 10-year horizon, which meant it must prepare for an electric and autonomous future, starting with the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid coming early next year, and eventually a pure EV. The 4xe hybrid will have an estimated range of 25 miles of all-electric range and a combined range of more than 440 miles. Jeep is slated to get its first pure battery electric model in 2023, likely a Wrangler, but eventually all models will have an electric variant.
The 2022 Grand Cherokee carries over its combustion engines. The base engine is the 293-hp, 260-lb-ft 3.6-liter V-6. The 357-hp, 390-lb-ft 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 is an option for the top three trim levels and comes with four-wheel drive standard. Both engines are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. We were happy with their performance in the longer, heavier L. Not surprisingly, they performed even better in the smaller SUV, which is about 250 pounds lighter and 1 mpg more fuel efficient.
Tinkering With Looks
The fifth-gen Grand Cherokee is lower and has a longer hood and tapered roof for better aerodynamics while maintaining interior space. Jeep is backtracking from the industry trend to high beltlines, so the GC’s line was lowered 0.4 inch, which translates to more glass for increased light. Improved visibility is a hallmark of new Jeeps, including the new 2022 Jeep Wagoneer and 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. Lowering the beltline meant lowering the powertrain. Engineers ran the front axle through the oil pan to reduce the engine’s packaging height and keep it as level as possible with the rear axle. Lowering the vehicle also has payoffs in how you feel sitting behind the wheel, and a lower center of gravity pays dividends in stabilizing ride and handling.
The SUV features a forward-leaning seven-slot grille and has a full suite of LED lighting front and back. There are eight wheel options sized up to 21 inches. Grilles also vary by trim; the top-end Summit has a glossy black fascia and brightwork to complement its 21-inch wheels with fat sidewalls. A black roof is optional on the Overland and standard on the Trailhawk, Summit, and Summit Reserve.
Jeep brand head of exterior design Mark Allen was conscious of the fact that every generation grows in size, and he was determined that the two-row Grand Cherokee still fit in the garage and be sized for off-road capability. The 2022 model is a bit longer, the track is slightly wider, and the wheels have been moved out, but the overall width remained intact. “There is a magic to the size of the Grand Cherokee,” said the man who has worked on them since the ’94 model.
The air suspension can be lowered to ease ingress and egress. The vehicle is more level as it descends (the old system rocked fore and aft as the body dropped) and lowers in seven seconds versus 14. By the time you turn off the vehicle and grab your phone and other items, the vehicle has lowered and is easy to clamber out of. No running boards needed.
Damping Always Welcome
The air suspension has added electronic damping to anticipate and sop up imperfections in the road or trail. It was put to the test in an Overland on a long stretch of dirt road, with smooth rocks pockmarking the largely washboard surface. The extra travel and damping were in constant use and especially appreciated where the road narrowed to a single lane on switchbacks with steep drop-offs.
On similar switchbacks but on paved roads, there was little body roll, and the independent front and rear suspensions have improved the ride. Hats off to the Alfa tuning assistance: This is the best on-road Grand Cherokee to date.
On the straights, acceleration with the V-6 is smooth and effortless. Dropping 250 pounds makes it a faster and leaner sprinter. The Pentastar engine emotes in an upper register compared with the throatier V-8, but it is a satisfying exhaust note, and the shifts are so smooth and seamless on hard acceleration that you have to rely on the aural changes to know they happened. The V-8 is, as expected, more powerful and visceral. A new feature, front-axle disconnect, will automatically revert to rear-wheel drive if the vehicle senses that the road conditions do not require AWD. Bottom line: If you need to tow, get the Hemi. But for most uses, the V-6 is more than up to the job.
The steering is nicely weighted, not too light as to feel unresponsive but not so heavy as to impede off-roading or make parking and the like a chore. Steering and braking are both standouts on the WL.
Building a Better Billy Goat
The Grand Cherokee was built to go off-road. Its engineers are disappointed if buyers don’t. As such, there are three 4WD systems: the single-speed Quadra-Trac I, Quadra-Trac II with low range, and Quadra-Drive II with a rear electronic limited slip-differential. All have an active transfer case to send torque to the wheel with the most grip. Lower trims have 4×2 as standard.
The Selec-Terrain traction management system offers off-road settings to adjust the torque split, braking, throttle control, steering, suspension, shifting, transfer case, and stability control. There are five terrain modes: Auto and Sport for pavement, Rock, Snow, and Mud/Sand for more treacherous conditions.
The SUV has up to 11.3 inches of ground clearance and 24 inches of water-fording ability. Being 11.4 inches shorter than the Grand Cherokee L, with a wheelbase 5.0 inches shorter and better approach, departure, and breakover angles, it is a more nimble billy goat, prompting Jeep to add the Trailhawk trim, something not in the Grand Cherokee L stable.
The Trailhawk has standard 18-inch wheels with Goodyear Wrangler Territory all-terrain tires, steel skidplates, red tow hooks, air suspension, and an off-road camera that shows where your tires will land—invaluable on a technical trail.
Anti-Roll Bar Disconnect Is a First
A secret weapon is the Trailhawk’s exclusive anti-roll bar disconnect to deliver extra articulation when boulders threaten to twist the body like a pretzel. With one wheel on a rock, there is still traction to the wheels not dangling in the air. It only operates in 4Lo and up to 18 mph.
We jumped in Trailhawks to climb an outcrop of signature Moab red rock. Preparation is easy: Choose Off-Road mode, put the truck into 4Lo, select “Rock” as the terrain mode, and push the button for anti-roll bar disconnect.
The trail was steep and intense, the kind that needs constant spotters, with no easy stretches between technical portions. A path where your eyes are glued to the Jeep in front of you to see how they did it, and where you realize you have forgotten how to exhale until it is over. The Grand Cherokee never flinched even when the driver did.
The big takeaway was how smoothly you can tackle obstacles. Neither acceleration nor braking are harsh or abrupt. It is easier to throttle in lightly than it is in a Wrangler, as the torque wends its way to each wheel as needed.
Another weapon: Selec-Speed Control, which is cruise control for off-roading. Set the speed, move the steering wheel paddles to toggle the speed up or down, take your feet off the pedals, and let the Jeep crawl at a steady pace.
Towing a Jeep With a Jeep
Towing was equally easy. The SUV has a max towing capacity of 7,200 pounds with the V-8. We pulled a trailer loaded with a 1941 Willys-Overland MB—the government jeep that was the basis for the first civilian Jeep—which only weighed 4,000 pounds. There was little drag, no trailer sway. The biggest surprise: how quiet it was. There were no noises, groans, or other clatter from the Jeep or the hitch.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes with a full suite of safety systems, including collision warning and braking, active lane management, blind-spot monitoring, plus optional night vision, intersection collision assist, drowsy driver detection, and Active Driving Assist, which is the basis for hands-free highway driving with a software update.
Inside the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee
We were impressed with the interior of the Grand Cherokee L when it was introduced, and the two-row’s cabin is no different. The design team stepped up to deliver a more cohesive cockpit and dash, as well as premium materials that balance warm leathers and woods with glossy trim and brightwork. It’s all executed with top-notch fit and finish. The extra few inches of length made it possible to increase interior cargo space.
The most sumptuous place to be is in a top-end Summit Reserve with Palermo leather in a rich tupelo honey; quilted seats that are heated, cooled, and provide massage; natural open-pore wood trim; slim and elegant HVAC vents; well-integrated screens in the dash; and the 19-speaker McIntosh audio system with an app so you can watch the dancing needles on the center screen. Credit the late Sergio Marchionne, former CEO of FCA, who was behind the partnership with McIntosh. Marchionne was an audiophile and had a McIntosh system in his home.
The Grand Cherokee runs Uconnect 5, which is five times faster and more intuitive with fewer steps and more personalized content. Entertainment includes Amazon Fire TV, the Jeeps are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and there is a wireless charging pad in the front center console.
Screens include a 10.1-inch digital cluster and infotainment screen in the realigned center stack. The front passenger now has a 10.3-inch screen and can send drive routes to the driver. In the back seat, additional 10.1-inch screens swivel for better viewing—there are no more flip-up displays.
How Much Does the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Cost?
Pricing starts at $39,185 for the Laredo, $45,505 for Limited, $53,070 for Trailhawk, $55,100 for Overland, and $59,160 for Summit. Pricing hits $68,455 for a Summit Reserve with the V-8.
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