The verdict: A redesign that brings the latest tech and standard advanced safety features is just what the doctor ordered for the aging Grand Cherokee.
Versus the competition: With such a broad range of trim levels, powertrains and prices (even without designated performance models), the Grand Cherokee’s competition ranges from relatively affordable mid-size SUVs to established luxury players — and it goes toe-to-toe with all of them.
The previous generation of the two-row Jeep Grand Cherokee lasted from the 2011 model year until 2021, but a new-for-2021 three-row Grand Cherokee L heralded the imminent arrival of new styling and updated comfort, convenience and safety tech for the two-row version.
That’s certainly what we get in the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
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I drove a Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve. It’s the most luxurious trim level of the new Grand Cherokee, adding an extra $4,000 worth of opulent options. Total sticker price: $73,085 (including $1,795 destination fee). Unfortunately, we haven’t driven any other versions of the new Grand Cherokee, be they lower trims, the off-roading Trailhawk or the new plug-in hybrid 4xe version.
Jeep says the new Grand Cherokee has all-new architecture: It’s longer, taller and wider, with a wider track to boot. Non-PHEV powertrains remain the previous 293-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 and 357-hp, 5.7-liter V-8, but power for both is down a few horsepower versus the previous generation. It’s not particularly noticeable, and the vehicle has shed more than 300 pounds. The Grand Cherokee still feels more substantial on the road compared with some of its mass-market competitors, and the driving experience feels largely unchanged. That, unfortunately, includes some forward visibility problems from my seating position, where both the A-pillars and the rearview mirror interfered with my line of sight.
The Grand Cherokee isn’t quick with the V-8 under the hood, but it does feel more than adequately powered — and it sounds lovely, with a nice, deep rumble. The eight-speed automatic transmission is responsive and had no problem finding the right gear for a given situation. Handling characteristics are pleasant, if not sporty, thanks to the rear-wheel-drive platform; other competitors use front-wheel-drive architecture and can be prone to understeer, even with optional all-wheel drive. The Grand Cherokee navigates corners pleasantly, if not eagerly. Perhaps eagerness will be reserved for future performance versions to replace last generation’s SRT and Trackhawk trim levels, but none have yet appeared — and federal fuel economy standards and a move toward electrification by Jeep parent company Stellantis may change what those versions look like.
Speaking of fuel economy, that’s still a weak point in the V-8 Grand Cherokee — even with what Jeep calls aerodynamic improvements in the name of efficiency for the new model. The V-8 is rated 14/22/17 mpg city/highway/combined by the EPA, while the V-6 fares somewhat better with a 19/26/22 mpg rating. Interestingly, that rating applies to both RWD and 4WD versions. (Four-wheel drive is standard on V-8 Grand Cherokees.)
The Grand Cherokee we tested was equipped with a top-of-the-line Quadra-Lift air suspension, which now features electronic semi-active damping. I’ve always found the ride in air-suspension-equipped Jeeps (and other Stellantis products) to be a bit stiffer overall, but with better isolation from bumps and less body roll in corners than I’ve felt in models with coil-spring suspensions, and that continues here. I would’ve preferred smaller wheels than the 21-inchers on our test vehicle, however, as they created a bit of impact harshness over road imperfections.
Being inside the Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve is mostly a delightful experience — as long as you’re sitting up front. High-quality Palermo leather (none of that Capri or Nappa leather you’ll find on the lower trims, no sir) wraps the seats, and there’s real wood and metal everywhere. Maybe too much real metal, in fact: The metal rotary gear selector gets cold in the winter (and, presumably, hot in the summer). The Grand Cherokee also uses a number of faux touch-sensitive controls that are actually piano-black physical buttons with illuminated icons. While almost all of the controls feel high-quality, those faux ones trade some quality feel for the sake of being physical controls — mostly because they’re plastic and other frequently used controls are real metal.
The massaging front seats were a nice luxurious touch. Another luxury touch in our test vehicle was an optional 10.25-inch front passenger display, which allows the passenger to control the audio, watch videos via Amazon Fire TV for Auto and control the navigation system (and even send navigation to the main center screen). The screen has a privacy filter to keep it from distracting the driver, as well.
The 19-speaker McIntosh stereo was also a delight to my ears even if its aesthetics don’t quite scream luxury; gothic fonts just aren’t where it’s at. My chief complaint up front, though, is that the centrally located controls are occasionally at odd angles, and the piano-black background can make it difficult to see the button labels.
The backseat, however, is still not the place to be in the Grand Cherokee. The seat sits very low to the floor, leading to awkward knee positions for occupants. To make up for it, our test vehicle came with an almost $2,000 Rear Seat Video Group I Package that adds displays for rear passengers, also with Amazon Fire TV for Auto.
Overall, the interior of the Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve feels as impressive as anything a more established luxury manufacturer might produce. Are Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz shoppers really going to consider a Jeep? They certainly should.
Two more good things happened to the Grand Cherokee with this new generation: It gained Uconnect 5, which is the latest version of the Stellantis brands’ infotainment system, and it got a host of now-standard advanced driver-assist technologies that were optional in the last generation.
UConnect 5 is intuitive, with clear and crisp graphics. For the most part, it was a delight to use on the Summit trim’s larger 10.1-inch touchscreen (an 8.4-inch touchscreen is standard on lower trims). I did encounter some minor instances of lagginess, and at one point I couldn’t get my phone to connect to Apple CarPlay, either wirelessly (wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard) or via a USB cable, but it was an isolated incident.
As for the safety tech, making features like adaptive cruise control, blind spot detection, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian and cyclist detection standard is a big leap forward for Jeep. Previously, features like these were optional on the Grand Cherokee, and only on higher trims.
More minor driver-assistance features were aggravating, however. I quickly turned off a speed-limit warning that chimed for far too long when the vehicle’s speed exceeded the limit by just a few mph. (You try driving in a city like Chicago and staying under the limit without antagonizing your fellow drivers.) And while warnings for things like school zones and red-light or speed cameras are helpful, the reason for those alerts’ chimes was hidden while using Apple CarPlay. I didn’t turn those warnings off, but I shouldn’t have had to consider it.
Regarding actual safety ratings, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has yet crash-tested the new Grand Cherokee.
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Given its overall improvement without sacrificing its strengths, the new Grand Cherokee is worth a look from luxury shoppers. The factors that made the ultra-luxe version of the Grand Cherokee that I drove better than its predecessor are also present in lower trims, so it’s likely there’s a new Grand Cherokee worth looking at for all sorts of mid-size SUV shoppers.
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