What is it? Jeep's first plug-in hybrid in Australia. The American brand renowned for its ‘go-anywhere' adventurous spirit has officially begun making the switch to an electrified future, which will all fall under the ‘4xe' branding umbrella. This will mean both fully electric models, like the recently confirmed Avenger, as well as this Grand Cherokee which combined a turbocharged petrol engine with a small electric motor. That means, in theory, that this Grand Cherokee can take you to your favourite off-roading spot using petrol-power and then you can silently explore the bush with the whisper-quiet electric motors powering your journey. READ MORE: New Jeep Grand Cherokee review What's Jeep's off-roading pedigree?
Jeep is a synonym for an off-road vehicle. The name Jeep comes from the the army term ‘jeep' which referred to any ‘General Purpose' vehicle, which were produced by multiple car makers during World War II. The WW2 Jeep inspired the original Land Rover, so most modern off-roaders can trace their existence back to this one model. Post-war Willys-Overland began making the ‘CJ' or Civilian Jeep and it became a sales hit and eventually spawned a brand of its own. Since 1987 the Jeep brand has been part of the Chrysler (now Stellantis) conglomerate but it retains its history as arguably the inventor of the 4×4 off-roader. What's under the bonnet?
The Grand Cherokee 4xe combines a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a small electric motor and 17.3kWh battery to create the plug-in hybrid powertrain. While that may not sound spectacular on paper, Jeep claims it makes a healthy 280kW of power and 637Nm of torque. Importantly, Jeep claims the 4xe can drive for up to 52km on electric power alone, although that figure wasn't quite achievable in our real world test. But, if you use the combination of electric and petrol powered you can achieve impressively low fuel consumption figures for such a big SUV – even if the official claim of 3.2-liters per 100km seems optimistic. On the road the PHEV powertrain works well, pulling strongly despite its small engine, with the effortless torque delivered by the electric motor helping it feel like there's a bigger engine under the bonnet. How does it handle?
The Grand Cherokee 4xe is only available in the high-grade Summit Reserve specification, but true to the brand's heritage it is loaded with off-road capability. This means it's fitted with Jeep's Quadra Lift Air Suspension, Jeep Selec-Terrain and Quadra-Trac II systems for maximum off-road capability. Jeep let us sample this new 4xe technology off-road, but it was a mild piece of trial and the Grand Cherokee made light work of the gravel sections and muddy terrain. The air suspension also means it rides well on sealed roads, with good composure and control that's a notable improvement from the previous generation Grand Cherokee. Where would you most like to drive it?
It was good of Jeep to let us experience the Grand Cherokee 4xe on some loose roads, with the silent electric motor making for a more peaceful journey and the near-instant torque making it effortless going. But, as we're about to discuss in more detail, this latest generation Grand Cherokee is a much more up-market proposition, with an obvious focus on luxury rather than rock crawling. Sure, it's still capable off-road, but who will happily take their SUV costing more than $100k and go get it scratched and dirty off-road? It's a bold and unconventional strategy from Jeep so it will be interesting to see how it plays out. What's the interior like?
As just mentioned, there's a clear and obvious focus on luxury with this new model. Gone are the old days of cheap looking and feel Jeep cabins and instead you find yourself in a leather-lined and quite pampering interior. It doesn't quite feel as modern as an Audi or BMW but it's certainly impressive in terms of the overall quality improvements. It's also very spacious, with good room in the second row for adults. Crucially, one advantage of the smaller battery of the PHEV is there is no reduction in interior seating or boot capacity between this model and the rest of the range. How much does the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe cost?
Make sure you're sitting down because this one will shock you. The Grand Cherokee 4xe Summit Reserve is priced from $129,950 plus on-road costs. That's a big sticker price for a Jeep and really cements in the luxury SUV market against the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz. The 4xe is $31,500 more expensive than the next most expensive five-seat variant (the Grand Cherokee Overland) and $10,500 more than the long-wheelbase, seven-seat Summit Reserve, so the hybrid powertrain comes with quite the price premium. Would I buy one?
If I had $130k to spend on a luxury SUV I don't think the Grand Cherokee 4xe would be at the top of my list. Not because it's a bad SUV, far from it. In fact, I quite like the flexibility of the PHEV powertrain as it would suit someone who spent the week doing a short urban commute but enjoyed longer weekend road trips. But it's hard to spend so much money on a Jeep given the brand's patchy recent history with reliability as well as the idea that it's now a luxury brand rather than a rugged off-roading one. After all, who spends $130k on an SUV with shiny alloy wheels and then goes bush-bashing? Jeep will need to work hard to lure buyers away from the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes-Benz GLE and Lexus RX now that it's decided to play in that market.