JEEP'S GRAND CHEROKEE EVOLVES
When a new Jeep to test arrived on my schedule, I couldn’t wait to take the doors and roof covering off Wrangler style and take to the wild. But when the new Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4XE arrived in my driveway, I reconsidered that dismantling strategy. Removing the doors from this full-size SUV, along with the wiring harness and hardware would be quite an undertaking. And for the roof removal, I’d have to employ an acetylene smoke wrench. Even if I patched it back together, the Jeep people would surely remove me from their reviewers’ list.
The Grand Cherokee moved to unibody construction and added occupant comfort while retaining its off-road ruggedness and has maintained robust sales and customer loyalty despite becoming surrounded by rivals from every automaker. The new Grand Cherokee is the fifth generation of the Jeep model and, like so many other vehicles, has grown in size, stature and retail price. I first thought they’d delivered the big new Wagoneer when I encountered its majestic girth and glamour, but there’s an even larger “L” version available with three rows of seating.
Our test vehicle was a plug-in hybrid version in this top-level Summit Reserve trim and came with $81,380 MSRP including freight. If that’s too much Grand for your Cherokee ambitions, the down-to-earth Laredo trim level starts at half that money. But don’t expect those keen 21-inch wheels, lovely leather accompanied with wood and don’t even think about the 950-watt, 19-speaker McIntosh surround sound system.
Jeep’s Cherokee model was launched in 1974 as a bit smaller version of the Wagoneer. Both were body-over-frame SUVs that could tackle off-road terrain. The Grand Cherokee model was literally launched at the 1992 Detroit Auto Show, climbing up the stairs of Cobo Hall and hurling through a giant plate glass window. Chrysler Corp president Bob Lutz was at the wheel with Detroit Mayor Coleman Young hanging on in the right seat. They just don’t do press introductions like that anymore. I’m blaming the lawyers.
Although the new Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve will unlikely do serious duty off the paved road, it is a Jeep and it’s Trail Rated. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll encounter another Summit in the wild while you’re rock crawling and fording two-foot-deep rivers, but it’s nice to know you can weather the next tropical storm with less worry. If off-roading this big galoot is really on your list, the Overland or Trailhawk are the best choices. With all these choices, there’s a Grand Cherokee for most any duty.
One of the attributes I liked in the 4XE version was its plug-in hybrid capability that allows the around town driving we do most often to be electric while also allowing longer trips without recharging worries. Jeep’s range for this local travel is 26-miles and I found that worked for my short errands. So if rugged potential in a full-size SUV along with potential fuel sipping is intriguing, it’s a solid choice. If you’re mostly staying on the pavement, an interesting alternative is Mitsubishi’s Outlander, a PHEV that has more range and a bit more modest MSRP.
THE FINE PRINT
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve
TYPE: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
ENGINE: 2.0-liter Twin-Turbo I-4
HORSEPOWER: 375 @ 5,250 RPM
TORQUE: 470 lb.ft. @ 3,000 RPM
BASE PRICE: $72,595
AS TESTED: $81,380
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 56-MPGe, 24 MPG-gas combined