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2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee First Drive: Taking the Short Way Home

Jeepe Grand Cherokee 2022 | Photo: Jeep
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Vincent Aubé
This time it was the short version of the 2022 Grand Cherokee we got to test, and this time we took it into the woods

Auto123 gets in a first drive of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, this time in short version.

Port Hope, ON - The Jeep Grand Cherokee is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. The legendary 4x4 was launched in 1992 (as a 1993 model), and as part of the festivities to do with it leaving its 20s, it has been accompanied by a stretched L variant for a few months. That’s great for larger families, of course, but the real Grand Cherokee remains this one, despite the best efforts of the brand's strategists and the fact that many consumers with lots of folks and dogs to transport have gone for the longer of the two versions.

The Grand Cherokee SUV offers a well-balanced mix of comfort, smoothness and amazing off-road capabilities, and for 2022, which represents the debut of the model’s fifth generation, the bar is raised a bit higher, notably via the addition of a 4xe variant (coming a little later), but also by a more-premium design, a modern interior but still a formula that pays proper respect to the esthetic of previous generations.

I had the opportunity to drive this WL generation, which replaces the WK, in the beautiful Port Hope area, in the vicinity of the GTA. Here's what I learned from my first test drive of Jeep’s second most iconic model.

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2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, three-quarters front
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, three-quarters front | Photo: Jeep

Updated design
Launched in 2010, the WK version of the Grand Cherokee has actually aged quite well over the years, so much so in fact that Jeep decided to extend availability of that model for 2021, even as the new L made its appearance. That says a lot about the importance of the design of this off-road-capable SUV.

But you can’t stop progress. Jeep’s design department had to renew the regular Grand Cherokee's silhouette. Personally I find that this short-wheelbase variant looks better than the Grand Cherokee L. Just my impression, but there you have it.

Up front, the SUV's bumper is identical to that of its longer cousin, which is not the case when you look back of the front doors. In fact, the second-row doors are shorter, while the angular window blends well with a “floating” pillar. Jeep’s designers wanted better visibility on board and this lowered beltline allows for that.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, profile
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, profile | Photo: Jeep

As a proper midsize SUV, the Grand Cherokee is available in a variety of versions, from the base Laredo model ($51,545) to the new Summit Reserve variant ($78,040), which is as exclusive as it gets. Note that there are also Altitude ($55,040), Limited ($59,045), Trailhawk ($63,645), Overland ($68,045) and Summit ($73,545) variants. The objective is clear: to have the Grand Cherokee be a player both as a mass-market model and a premium SUV (with the Overland and Summit versions).

Two familiar powertrains... and a third one coming soon!
When the new model hits dealerships across the country at the end of the month, it will be available with two familiar engines. The 3.6L Pentastar V6 delivers 293 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and is very well suited to the vehicle's chassis. Then there’s the HEMI V8, the engine of choice for those wanting stronger performance and a beefier workhorse. With 357 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque, the naturally-aspirated 8-cylinder may not be as throaty as the Hellcat models, but there’s no denying it makes the Grand Cherokee quicker when you put your right foot down. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it actually changes the handling of the model, especially with the increased weight between the two front wheels.

Jeep’s Canadian division also confirmed that a 4xe variant will join the lineup sometime in 2022. It will borrow the plug-in hybrid powertrain already available on the Wrangler 4xe. Good for 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of peak torque, the plug-in option is likely to be popular when it arrives on our roads, especially considering its 6,000-lb towing capacity, which is only 200 lb less than the 6-cylinder Grand Cherokee. But the big gain will be in terms of fuel consumption, with the 4xe version said to be good for 4.1Le/100 km.

Note that all versions of the model are equipped with an 8-speed automatic transmission and a four-wheel drive system; buyers can choose from the Quadra-Trac I (one-speed transfer case), Quadra-Trac II (two-speed transfer case) and Quadra-Drive II (two-speed transfer case and electronic limited slip differential) systems.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, front
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, front | Photo: Jeep

Behind the wheel… on and off the road
Jeep’s first drive event took place in three stages. My first few kilometres on the road were in an Altitude version with a Pentastar V6 engine. The relatively affordable model (for the range) is certainly not as well equipped as the luxury models, but the list of equipment is quite long.

The SUV once again demonstrated why consumers appreciate its smooth ride. Despite the 20-inch wheels, the Grand Cherokee never gave a rough ride on the highway or on local back roads, although it would have been better if the vehicle was equipped with winter tires. The four-wheel drive system - which can even disconnect from the front wheels when it deems it appropriate - is excellent, but there are limits to how much traction a set of tires can accomplish.

After that, the off-road course at CTMP (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) in Bowmanville, Ontario was the perfect test for the Trailhawk's off-road capability. With an air suspension that can lift the vehicle even higher than before, the Quadra-Drive II drivetrain and the anti-roll bars that can be disconnected, the SUV didn't flinch a bit. I was also able to take advantage of the Selec-Speed system, which acts as cruise control for off-road driving up to 8 km/h. Using this, when going downhill or uphill, I didn't need to use the pedals at all. It's almost too easy!

The last portion of the day had me at the wheel of the most luxurious version, the Summit Reserve, with its V8 HEMI engine and four screens in the first row and two more in the back. The best-dressed model in the range felt like a true luxury SUV, heavier on the front wheels but also more powerful under the right foot. The sound of the 8-cylinder is also more convincing, as is the acceleration.

Specifications sheet of 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, interior
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, interior | Photo: Jeep

The last word
Our first contact was brief, but enough to show us that the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee handles very well, better anyways than its L cousin, which has to deal with excess weight and a longer platform. The Grand Cherokee L is a great truck, but the regular Grand Cherokee can also play the role of adventurer with its amazing off-road capabilities. Compared to other midsize SUVs, the 2022 Grand Cherokee is almost an outlier in that respect, in fact.

We like

A very successful design
Comfortable
A true 4x4 ready for adventure (Trailhawk)

We like less

High fuel consumption
Seats are too short in the front
Some controls are hard to see on the dashboard

The competition

Ford Edge
Honda Passport
Nissan Murano
Toyota Venza
Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, three-quarters rear
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, three-quarters rear | Photo: Jeep

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Photos:Jeep
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee pictures
Vincent Aubé
Vincent Aubé
Automotive expert
  • Over 17 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 60 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 200 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists