It had to happen eventually; Jeep couldn’t run the fourth generation Grand Cherokee any longer. having launched as a 2011 model, its 11-year run put it well overdue for an update. Unlike most vehicles though, it aged gracefully. Going into this test of the all new fifth generation model, my primary thought was ‘I really hope they didn’t ruin it’. To find out, we set out with a 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokeee L Summit for the first snowy week of the season.
The new Grand Cherokee is a significant departure from the previous generation in the looks department, now leveraging Jeep’s latest design language derived from the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer models. It has a more stately look than the previous model, which is welcomed, and a sharp upper body line runs from end to end, giving it a more truck-like appearance. It’s a handsome unit, but the massive black plastic lower grille and smaller upper ‘overbite’ play on the signature Jeep grille just looks awkward to me. Our top trim level Summit Reserve came finished in a very nice Velvet Red Pearl and sporting tasteful 21-inch alloys.
I always considered the interior of most previous generation Grand Cherokees to be a high point, and the new model absolutely does not disappoint. The design, materials and layout of the new interior represents a significant upgrade over the outgoing model. Our Summit Reserve came with gorgeous heated, cooled and massaging bucket seats with soft black Palermo leather beautifully stitched with contrasting light brown stitching. The leather and quilted stitching extends to the rear seats, door panels and dash, really tying in with the open pore wood trim.
The center console utilizes the piano black gloss trim, which I’ve never been a fan of, but that remains popular in pseudo luxury machines. The layout of the console is interesting with a large rotary dial gear selector and switches for the Selec-Terrain system and Quadra-Lift air suspension dominating the primary real estate. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of storage, two big cupholders, and hard buttons for controls like the heated steering wheel and seats, so we no longer have to struggle through the touch screen menu with cold fingers.
Speaking of screens, you can get as many as three 10-inch screens in the Grand Cherokee. The digital instrument cluster, primary centre screen, and one in front of the passenger for navigation or their entertainment. The one piece of tech I got excited about is the night vision, turning it on turns the majority of the digital instrument cluster into a very detailed heat-sensitive night vision camera. The picture is really clear, and the system is adept at highlighting pedestrians or animals. We also found the McIntosh 19 speaker 825 watt sound system outstanding.
From a functionality perspective, the interior offers some meaningful improvements over the previous model as well. Most notably, thanks to the lower belt line and thinner rear pillars, outward visibility is refreshingly good. The hood is also a lot straighter and flatter than we’re used to in modern SUVs, so the driver can clearly see to the end of the hood and get a good sense for the dimensions of the vehicle. Our tester, being the Grand Cherokee L is the extended wheelbase which offers third row seating and plenty of space for cargo. Jeep always does a good job in the cargo area and this is no exception with sturdy cargo hooks and power controls for the third row.
While the overall platform may be brand new, Jeep has not tried to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the powertrain. Just like the outgoing model, all trims come standard with the 3.6L-liter V6 engine making 293 horsepower and 260 lb-ft. of torque. Higher trim levels such as our Summit, the Overland or Trailhawk can be optioned with the 5.7L HEMI V8 which makes a healthy 357 horsepower and much more torque than the V6 at 390 lb-ft. These engines are time tested and reliable, and both come mated to the equally well tested eight-speed automatic.
Our tester came equipped with the optional HEMI V8 and it is quite a smooth operator. The V8 feels at home in the Grand Cherokee, and here its typical brash attitude found in other vehicles like the Ram 1500 or Dodge Durango is toned down to a much quieter, more reserved, but still just as powerful soul. The eight speed automatic is the perfect mate and responses quickly and smoothly to throttle inputs, so all the driver feels is the V8’s power.
Of course, with the HEMI under the hood the Grand Cherokee has plenty of power for whatever you throw at it. It’s likely overkill for regular commuting or kid hauling duties, but if you plan to use your Grand Cherokee for towing around toys, or any other strenuous activities, the V8 is a great option to have, and does unlock the max tow rating of 7,200 pounds.
One thing I loved about the previous generation was how solid and well controlled it felt on the road. That fourth generation platform was derived from the Mercedes ML during the end of the Mercedes / Daimler-Chrysler merger, and it’s one of the reasons the outgoing model managed to remain relevant for so long. Unfortunately, the new Grand Cherokee L has lost some of the study and weighted steering feel that I loved so much in the previous version.
The new model rides softer, steers lighter, and generates more body lean. It’s more comfortable for it, but doesn’t have that firm sense of control I was hoping for. That said, I have yet to drive the new short-wheel base Grand Cherokee, which my colleagues suggest does re-capture the more engaged and controlled dynamics I was looking for here.
I’ve mentioned the merits of the big 5.7-liter HEMI V8, but it does have one big downside, and that’s the fuel economy. The 5.7-liter equipped Grand Cherokee is rated for 14.1L/100km, but in my real-world week of driving, with about a 50/50 mix of city and highway, we observed 15.1L/100km. That’s full-sized pickup truck territory, and actually worse than a lot of modern pickup trucks. I am sure the cold snowy weather did not help, but the fact is, this thing is thirsty.
The gas station unfortunately isn’t the only place the Grand Cherokee will hit your bank account. The Jeep was never cheap, but plays in a space between the mainstream and luxury SUV segment; only now it does seem to be inching toward a more luxury oriented offering. The entry level Laredo starts at $52,000 and foregoes a lot of the luxuries that make the Grand Cherokee what it is. A Limited, which is expected to be the volume seller, starts a touch over $60,000, and from there you can keep stepping up trim levels until you reach the Summit, like our tester.
The Summit starts at $73,745, and ours is decked out with the Summit Reserve package ($4,245) which adds luxuries like the Palermo leather, McIntosh stereo, unique wheels, ventilated rear seats, tow package, etc. It also got the Advanced ProTech Group IV ($2,195) including the heads-up-display, night vision, auto-dimming digital display rear view mirrors and more. The HEMI V8 is an additional charge ($3,495) as well, and a handful of smaller options brought the total for our tester to $84,670. Believe it or not, you can option one of these up over $90,000.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee L Summit stands as a very interesting option in the three-row SUV segment. It’s not quite full blown luxury, but definitely more premium than the mainstream models, and a lot more capable off-road than just about any other three-row option, save for some very costly Range Rovers. Upscale enough for the country club, but still ready to take on the logging roads to the cottage or pull the boat in total comfort. The Grand Cherokee remains a top pick; I just hope that the short-wheel-base model gets back to the slightly firmer driving dynamics that I grew to love.