By: Jerry Vo
April 1, 2023
After thirty years as a strong perennial seller, Jeep’s latest efforts show a changing tide for their midsize family sport utility. The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe represents a new plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for the storied American automaker. It allows consumers to drive around with electric and gasoline-powered propulsion, and the Overland trim represents the midrange of the Grand Cherokee lineup. The Overland plunks itself above the base and Trailhawk and below the Summit and Summit Reserve.
Electric driving range on a full charge is good for up to 42 kilometres with a 17 kilowatt-hour (kWh) battery pack. This works out to an electric efficiency of 40.4 kWh/100KM, about double the energy use of smaller electric vehicles. However, for a family SUV that can tow and haul, it’s pretty well in the ballpark of what should be expected. In winter driving, expect the range to decrease by about 20 percent, and our observed cold weather range of about 33 kilometres is aligned with that.
Charging with a regular 120V outlet at “Level 1” is done at about 1.2 kilowatts, which means that a full charge from empty will take about fourteen to fifteen hours. For those who fully deplete their battery on their daily commutes, the slower charging method at the end of a workday may not net them a full battery by the following day. 240V “Level 2” charging at 3 to 7 kilowatts is highly encouraged at home for prospective buyers to charge quickly and efficiently. Because of the relatively small range, it’s not a great idea to rely on public charging stations where you can quickly burn too much range just getting to and from the charger.
With a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine taking the reins on the internal combustion side, the nominal full tank driving range is 761 kilometres without hybrid charging, meaning you’ll be able to kiss nearly 800 kilometres between fill-ups when on a road trip. Rated fuel economy is 10.3L/100KM in the city and 9.7L/100KM on the highway when using the gas engine exclusively. After a week of mixed driving and plenty of wintertime remote starting, our observed consumption came in at 8.7L/100KM. Driving only in electric mode was the goal for shorter trips, however, the internal combustion engine still needs to start and go through a warm-up cycle to provide cabin heat on a cold day.
Consumers who want to tow trailers with their plug-in hybrid SUVs will often find that towing capacities fall short for most offerings, with only a few exceptions. The Lincoln Aviator PHEV can do 5,600 pounds, but Ford’s hybrid system lacks refinement, and the rated range is only 34 kilometres. Conversely, the Grand Cherokee 4xe can handle 6,000 pounds and is much smoother when moving between gasoline and hybrid electric modes. The eight-speed automatic transmission is also one of the best in the business in terms of shift quality and overall feel.
The driving dynamics of the Grand Cherokee are bolstered by the Overland’s air suspension system, which Jeep calls Quadra-Lift. When parked, the system automatically lowers the Jeep to make ingress and egress easier and lifts to its standard height once you start moving. On the highway, the suspension also lowers slightly to promote more favourable aerodynamics, leading to improved fuel economy. When the going gets tough, off-road situations can call for raising the suspension several inches for extra ground clearance. In its highest setting, the Grand Cherokee can ford through water up to two feet deep, and all of the electric and hybrid system components are sealed from the elements. Light to medium off-roaders will enjoy using the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive system, which offers a low-range setting at the touch of a button.
Highway cruising with the air suspension is smooth as glass, and while the steering is relatively heavy, it shouldn’t pose an issue for those with less upper body strength. Regenerative braking, which recaptures energy back into the battery, is smooth, and a nearly one-pedal driving mode like most EVs can be enabled at the touch of a button. Plenty of power and torque is available when operating in gas mode only. The 2.0-litre turbo might actually be a bit gutsier than the base 3.6-litre Pentastar V6 which requires higher revs to get going. The total system output for the Grand Cherokee 4xe is 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque.
Inside, the Grand Cherokee’s Overland trim makes an excellent first impression, although some materials feel slightly cheap once touched. Plenty of screens are scattered throughout, with a 10.25-inch digital gauge cluster and an 8.4-inch UConnect 5 infotainment screen (a 10.1-inch screen is optional). For those riding shotgun, a separate entertainment screen can receive HDMI and USB video inputs. The 19-speaker, 950-watt McIntosh audio system had oodles of bass for those who like a lot of bump, but audiophiles might feel that the mid-bass (between 200 and 500 Hz sound frequencies) is too excessive. Even with the equalizer’s minimum (-9) setting, it was still too much. Overall, the cabin is a nice place to be, but you do feel a bit like it’s a lower-end SUV that’s been optioned out with all the extras.
The base price for the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe is $84,190, including the destination charge. Options included the $1,095 Off-Road Group II, which includes an electronic limited-slip rear differential, and skid plates for the front suspension, fuel tank, and transfer case. The $2,195 Luxury Tech Group IV adds four-zone automatic climate control, Nappa leather, driver’s seat massage, passenger power seat memory, rear door window shades, and wireless phone charging. Finally, the Advanced Pro Tech Group II package added active safety assists such as night vision with animal detection, a backup camera washer, a 360-degree camera system, a head-up display, an off-road camera, and Jeep’s Active Driving Assist system. The front passenger’s screen was $1,595, and along with a slight upcharge for the Velvet Red Pearl paint, the as-tested price came out to $93,760.
As the sum of its parts, the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4xe represents a paradigm shift as the world electrifies more and more vehicles. The 42 kilometres of rated range is enough to make a good dent toward reduced fuel consumption, and if buyers are looking to tow trailers, their options are fewer and further between. It drives well and handles long-distance drives effortlessly. Those who don’t need to tow may be better served with cheaper 4xe trim levels to make it a better bang for the buck. However, the general price range of the plug-in variant is quite close to many premium full-electric options, such as the Cadillac Lyriq, BMW iX, Audi e-tron, Genesis Electrified GV70, and the Lexus RZ. Those who need the flexibility of the internal combustion engine might do well with the Jeep, but the others are harder to say no to if electric-only works for you.