2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee First Drive Review: Back On Top

Updating an icon is tough. And make no mistake, the Grand Cherokee is Jeep’s modern day icon.

I mean no disrespect to the Wrangler, a vehicle so recognized it has turned “Jeep” into a de facto catch-all for off-roaders, like Coke is to pop, or Kleenex is to tissue.

But the Wrangler didn’t spawn an entire class of vehicles the way the Grand Cherokee has. The original was one of the very first mid-size crossovers, accurately predicting the market’s desire for smoother on-road manners paired with solid off-roading bones. Even as competitors multiply, the previous-generation Grand Cherokee has remained a success, selling over 200,000 units in the US every one of the last five years. It’s been with us for 11 years now though, high time for a ground-up replacement.

Meet the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. A thoughtful update on a successful formula, the promises are far reaching: more refinement, better off-road chops, and more technology, all without compromising on that Goldilocks-like appeal of the brand’s best-seller. Jeep flew us to beautiful Moab to sample (nearly) all of the new lineup and find out for ourselves.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Jeep Wagoneer First Drive Review: A Classic Name Takes Jeep To New Heights

What’s new?

A lot of what makes up the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee are known quantities, thanks to the three-row Grand Cherokee L that launched last summer. According to the company, the platform is not related to the Giorgio platform from sister brand Alfa Romeo; that may have been the original plan, and there may be a few under-the-skin similarities, but this is a setup tailor-made for the unique requirements of a Jeep. The percentage of high-strength steel is up, and parts like the tailgate and shock towers are hewn from aluminum.

The new GC is larger, too—because of course it is—though the existence of the L means the growth is reasonable. Overall, the 2022 is 3.4 inches (86 millimeters) longer: 2 inches (51 mm) between the wheels, an inch (25 mm) out back for more storage space, and almost half an inch up front for increased crash safety. Despite all this, Jeep has managed to slash roughly 250 pounds (113 kilograms) out of the Grand Cherokee, depending on trim.

Available in seven trims from launch (Lareo, Altitude, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, Summit Reserve), the 2022 Grand Cherokee adopts the current Jeep design language of minimal surface detailing and a focus on horizontal lines. It isn’t just a cut-and-shut Grand Cherokee L body, however: the two-row model features a unique D-pillar treatment, and the tailgate sits at a more aggressive angle than the more upright L’s cargo hold. Swing around back and a sliver of trim connects the thin taillights together. Jeep’s designers have also ensured the window line has dropped 0.4 inches (10 mm), to improve visibility.

A base-level ’22 GC comes equipped with the familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and rear-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive is an available option on most trims—with no less than three 4WD systems available—and standard on the Trailhawk and Summit Reserve. (In Canada, every trim is 4WD-only.) A more powerful V8 is available in the Trailhawk, Overland, and two Summit models. Both engines send their power through an eight-speed automatic transmission.

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2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee interior and comfort

Jeep’s steady march upmarket continues with the Grand Cherokee’s interior. It’s a tidier, symmetrical layout, emphasizing the horizontal just as the exterior does. I start the day in the mid-level Limited trim, which Jeep expects to be the volume leader. Leather is standard, covering the generously-sized seats. They’re supportive and plenty adjustable, plus they’re heated—same with the back row. There are some hard plastics very low and very high on the dashboard, but nothing egregious. There’s oodles of space for adults up front, to the tune of 39.9 inches (1,013 millimeters) headroom and 41.3 inches (1,050 mm) legroom. Even out back, riders only sacrifice half an inch of headroom, and roughly three inches of legroom.

This is a spacious rig. Jeep has carved out more storage space, too: 37.7 cubic feet (1,068 L) with the rear row up, and 70.8 cubes (2,005 L) with them folded down. Not the best numbers in the segment, but not far off, either.

If you want true fanciness, it has to be the Summit Reserve. In come quilted leather seats, open pore wood, a faux-suede headliner, four-zone climate control and ambient lighting. The seats even include a massaging function. In case it wasn’t clear with the launch of the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer: Jeep is shifting up-market. The Grand Cherokee makes a strong case for itself though, feeling wholly competitive with entry-lux options like the Acura MDX (which we just compared to the Grand Cherokee L). And that’s before we get to the Jeep’s substantial tech suite.

SEE ALSO: Jeep Grand Cherokee L vs Acura MDX Comparison

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee technology and features

Stellantis’ excellent Uconnect 5 shows up in the Grand Cherokee. The standard screen is an 8.4-inch unit, and it comes with wireless support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The system is a cinch to use, with clear menus, speedy response times, and plenty of customization. Want your own quick-access menu bar layout? Drop the necessary icons up top and bam, one-poke access.

An optional 10.1-inch infotainment screen provides more digital real estate, but it’s hardly alone. Standard in all ’22 GCs is a 10.25-inch digital instrument panel. Buyers can also spec a head-up display if they’re feeling it, too.

SEE ALSO: 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer First Drive Review: The Six-Figure Jeep Has Landed

Jeep is particularly proud of the passenger-side infotainment screen. Similar to the setup in the Grand Wagoneer, it allows whomever is riding shotgun to pull up music or navigation information, then push it to the central screen, where the driver has the option of accepting or ignoring it. No worries about it being a driver distraction either: like an old TV, the passenger screen is only viewable to those directly in front of it.

Another perk of the screen, as well as the available second-row entertainment screens: the Grand Cherokee includes full Amazon Fire TV support. This allows passengers to seamlessly pick up whatever they were watching in the house, which should keep kids happy. What’s more, all three screens can be set to their own entertainment, and then paired to Bluetooth speakers. The idea of everyone motoring along in their own entertainment bubble sounds a little dystopian to us. But on the plus side, that allows the driver to experience the full force of the available 19-speaker McIntosh sound system. It is superb.

Jeep includes a diverse suite of driver assists as standard, including automated emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and lane departure warning with steering assist, amongst others. Optional goodies include a parking assist, and a night vision camera.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee driving impressions

The day consists of on-road driving in both a V6-powered Limited model and a loaded Summit Reserve V8, and an off-road experience in the rugged Trailhawk V6.

On the road, the Grand Cherokee is well-balanced in both trims. There’s a good amount of weight to the steering, with positive, consistent responses making it easy to place on the road. It’s quiet inside too, especially the Summit Reserve, with all its trappings of luxury. Neither is what I’d call sporty, with a languid, easy-going ride, especially the Summit, with its Quadra-Lift air suspension. Sport mode wakes it up a bit, highlighting the V8’s woofly sounds. The brake pedal is surprisingly firm, which builds confidence right from the first use. All in all, the Grand Cherokee strikes a fine balance between control and comfort, and the signs point to it making a good base for the inevitable SRT version.

Thanks to a new front-axle disconnect that saves fuel on the highway, the 4WD V6-equipped Grand Cherokees now post 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and 21 mpg combined. The V8 is unsurprisingly thirstier, posting figures of 14, 22, and 17 mpg, respectively. The extra cylinders make for a 7,200-pound max tow rating, however; the V6 is rated to a still-healthy 6,200 lb.

The off-road portion of the day is where the Grand Cherokee really gets to show off. The Trailhawk boasts Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4WD system, along with an electronic limited-slip differential and the electronic front sway-bar disconnect feature from the Wrangler. Combined with the afore-mentioned air suspension, this gives the Trailhawk a huge 11.3 inches of ground clearance. Not only that, the unique front bumper affords it an approach angle of 35.7 degrees; breakover and departure are 24.4 and 30.2, respectively.

The Grand Cherokee climbs hills that I wouldn’t trust my own legs to conquer. The path is narrow, requiring spotters at some of the tighter hairpins, which then feed into what I can only describe as a wall of rocks. In 4-Low with the sway bar disconnected, the Jeep is sure-footed, finding grip no matter how uneven the surface, and showing off the huge amounts of articulation it’s capable of (134 mm of travel). The 4WD system is able to send up to 100 percent of the available torque to either rear wheel. This proves helpful at the top of the climb, where we get into the technical stuff, two-wheeling the Jeep over lop-sided crests and clambering over rocks. The Trailhawk’s front-facing camera helps on crests too, with digital tread lines acting as a virtual spotter when the nose is pointed skyward.

Jeep readily admits that most buyers won’t tackle the sort of path the Trailhawk just breezed through. But they want to know it can do it, and I’m happy to report it does so with ease.

While the plug-in hybrid 4xe Trailhawk is present in Moab, it’s for display purposes only. It uses the same drivetrain I liked so much in the Wrangler 4xe earlier this year, but it will arrive in dealerships in 2022, a few months after the rest of the Grand Cherokee lineup.

SEE ALSO: 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Review: First Drive

Final thoughts: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee First Drive Review

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee looks set to continue the nameplate’s success. It’s the right size. The on-road refinement is impressive; the off-road prowess, doubly so. The infotainment system is amongst the best in the business, too. High-end models get pricey, but they come with enough enough kit and caboodle to go toe-to-toe with premium competitors.

Need a mid-size SUV capable of pampering passengers and climbing over rocks in equal measure? Starting from $39,185 ($53,640 CAD) including destination, and running up to around $70,000 ($85,000 CAD), the Grand Cherokee lineup comes in enough flavors for you to find the right ratios of both talents.


FAQs

  • How much is a 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee worth? 
    • The new model starts from $39,185 USD for a rear-drive, V6-powered Laredo model, including the $1,795 destination charge. In Canada, where AWD is standard, buyers can expect a $53,640 CAD sticker. A fully-loaded Summit Reserve V8 will set buyers back $68,455 ($83,630 CAD).
  • When can you buy the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee?
    • The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee will be in dealerships by December 2021. The plug-in hybrid 4xe model will arrive early 2022.
  • Does the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee have a third row?
    • No it does not; what you’re looking for is the Grand Cherokee L.

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