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2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee first drive review: Better than ever

Jeep's bread-and-butter midsize SUV gets a number of improvements that help it on-road and off.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a stalwart among midsize SUVs. For 2022, Jeep's tried-and-true Grand Cherokee gets a number of improvements, with new features, better performance, and of course, improved off-road capabilities.

Available in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and Summit Reserve trims, the fifth-gen Jeep Grand Cherokee can be had with either two- or four-wheel drive -- and the latter includes three different four-wheel-drive systems. The Grand Cherokee has the same five-passenger seating configuration as before, though if you're looking for more people-hauling space, check out the three-row Grand Cherokee L.

This new Grand Cherokee is certainly a handsome fellow, with a lower stance and wider track than before. Jeep's traditional seven-slot grille is here but it too is wider and just a bit bigger. The windshield is raked back at a generous angle, and around back, the taillights are significantly more narrow for a cleaner look. In all, it's a design that conveys tough ruggedness without any sharp edges.

The real upgrades are on the inside. My loaded Summit Reserve tester has quilted leather, gorgeous open-pore wood, lots of ambient lighting and a kick-ass 19-speaker McIntosh sound system. The front seats are heated, cooled and have a few different massage functions. The Grand Cherokee is more upscale than ever before.

It's a lot more tech-heavy, too. The Grand Cherokee is available with a 10.3-inch digital gauge cluster, a digital rearview mirror, a 10.0-inch head-up display, a 10.1-inch center touchscreen, a 10.3-inch screen for the passenger and two 10.1-inch screens for rear seat occupants. Those back-seat screens come with FireTV and each passenger can watch something different. No more arguing over whether to play SpongeBob or Bob's Burgers.

Fancy leather and lots of screens. The Grand Cherokee is full-on luxury.

Jeep

Of course, not all of the Grand Cherokee's trims are so fancy-pants. The Trailhawk is more utilitarian in its appointments, but it's still pleasant. All Grand Cherokee models get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, full-speed cruise control, lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring, on top of a whole bunch of other safety features.

My Summit Reserve tester is powered by the 5.7-liter V8 with 357 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque. It's also equipped with Jeep's Quadra-Lift air suspension, delivering a fairly cushy ride. The eight-speed automatic transmission does it's job in the background and, while it's not a hustler, a sport mode tightens things up a bit, allowing the Jeep to tackle a tight mountain road with a modicum of verve.

The V8 is only available with four-wheel drive. New for this year is a front-axle disconnect that allows the Grand Cherokee to run in two-wheel-drive mode while cruising, improving fuel economy. The EPA gives the Summit Reserve a rating of 14 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined. Not great, but not bad.

Go on, pack all your gear.

Jeep

If you need to tow, the V8-equipped Grand Cherokee can handle a 7,200-pound trailer. When equipped with the standard 3.6-liter V6 -- which I'll talk about in a minute -- the Jeep can tow 6,200 pounds. The Grand Cherokee can carry anywhere from 1,147 pounds to 1,283 pounds of payload in its 70.8 cubic feet of total cargo space, depending on trim, drivetrain and engine.

When my on-road test takes me to Moab, Utah, I swap into Jeep's off-road-ready Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. Here I've got the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel-drive system, Jeep's best 4x4 system. This gives me an electronic limited-slip differential, Selec-Terrain traction management and a disconnecting front sway bar for improved articulation. Combined with the Quadra-LIft air suspension the Trailhawk easily holds its own on technical trails in Moab.

The Trailhawk has 11.3 inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 35.7 degrees, a breakover angle of 24.4 and a departure angle of 30.2 degrees. The only thing in the class that comes close to it is the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, and that is still down on approach, departure and ground clearance. The Grand Cherokee can also ford 24 inches of water, assuming you aren't in dry desert conditions like mine.

There isn't much the Trailhawk can't handle.

Jeep

The new sway bar disconnect feature is a game changer here, allowing the 265/60R18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory tires to remain in contact with the ground at more extreme angles than before. The electronic limited-slip differential needs a hot second to detect slip, but then it can throw torque to whichever rear wheel needs it most. This tech isn't quite as good as a manual locking rear differential, but it can split the torque evenly between the axles if necessary and gets the job done just fine. The Grand Cherokee doesn't have a locking front diff, but a brake-based torque vectoring system can send as much as 85% of the power to the wheel with the most traction to help the SUV up and over rocks and other obstacles.

Low-range four-wheel drive makes short work of a rocky hill in Moab and I don't even have to lower the tires' air pressure. At the top of the hill, I hit the sway bar disconnect and attack the natural obstacles. The Jeep earns its name every time, climbing up 12-inch rock waterfalls, doing the three-wheel Jeep wave and side-hilling like a boss. Sure, a manual locker would be better, but the Grand Cherokee can handle just about anything.

You can get the Trailhawk with Jeep's V8 engine option, but mine is equipped with parent company Stellantis' intrepid 3.6-liter V6, with 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It's fine in off-roading, where slow speeds dominate, but I imagine I'd want the V8 power if I were to take this 4,700-pound SUV to the dunes, where speed is necessary to keep on top of the soft sand. Regardless, the 3.6-liter returns much better fuel economy than the V8, with an EPA-estimated rating of 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined with four-wheel drive. Expect to do better if you opt for two-wheel drive.

The Grand Cherokee is super-duper good.

Jeep

You can get a base 2022 Grand Cherokee Laredo for $39,185 including $1,795 for destination; four-wheel drive adds another $2,000 to the bottom line. However, my Summit Reserve tester with the V8 starts at $68,455 with destination and the final price is just north of $70,000 thanks to a few extra luxury options. The Trailhawk starts at $53,070 including destination, but the V8 adds $3,295 to that price.

If you're looking for a midsize SUV that can really get you far off the beaten path, provides a decent ride on the pavement and has plenty of available tech features, the Jeep Grand Cherokee goes above and beyond. Look for the first two-row examples to reach Jeep dealers before the end of the year.


Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.