2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Review
Jeep's plug-in hybrid SUV is a work in progress.
When you have places to go and things to do, a Jeep is designed to get you there and back and then some. These legendary off-roaders can tackle terrain most others can't, and though the company has expanded its lineup in recent years, most of its models have a standard four-wheel drive system and offer a version that earns Jeep's Trail Rated emblem on the front fenders. (The full-size Wagoneers are the only Jeeps that don't sport the emblem.)
The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a midsize SUV equipped with two or three rows of seats. It also offers a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) powertrain supplying an EPA-estimated 25 miles of electric driving range and 23 mpg when used as a traditional hybrid vehicle. Jeep calls the PHEV the Grand Cherokee 4xe, which is the focus of this review. You can reference this article if you're looking for a review of a Grand Cherokee with a V6 engine.
Jeep sells the 2023 Grand Cherokee 4xe in a standard level of specification similar to the Limited trim in the gas-only model lineup. In addition, you can get the 4xe in 30th Anniversary, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trim levels. The Trailhawk is the most capable version of the Grand Cherokee, and for 2023 it comes only with the 4xe's plug-in hybrid powertrain. This year's only other change is gloss-black exterior detailing, replacing gray accents with the Trailhawk trim level.
Thanks to its PHEV drivetrain, the Grand Cherokee 4xe is unique in the midsize SUV segment. The only direct rivals it faces in 2023 are the Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid and the Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid, and neither can match the Grand Cherokee 4xe's off-roading capabilities or maximum 6,000-pound tow rating.
The Hyundai and Kia, however, are significantly less expensive than the Jeep and offer more estimated all-electric driving range. So if you're not going to head far off-road or travel with a trailer, you may want to consider them. The new 2024 Mazda CX-90 PHEV is another alternative and is more affordable than the Jeep and looks and feels like a luxury SUV inside and out.
To buy a 2023 Grand Cherokee 4xe, you'll part with more than $60,000. That's because prices range from the low $60,000s to the high $70,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Detroit, Michigan, factory that builds it to your local dealership.
The Grand Cherokee 4xe qualifies for a $3,750 federal income tax credit, so that helps to lower the cost if you qualify for the credit. Still, the top trims overlap with vehicles such as the BMW X5 xDrive50e and Volvo XC90 Recharge PHEV models, and a Rivian R1S costs only a little more. My opinion is that this is a bold — and questionable — move by Jeep.
For this Grand Cherokee 4xe review, I test-drove the Trailhawk in southern California. It came with the Luxury Tech Group III, Advanced Pro Tech Group II, and a panoramic sunroof, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price to $72,630, including the $1,795 destination charge. Jeep provided the vehicle for this Grand Cherokee 4xe review.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Review: The Design
The 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee has a clean, modern design that draws just enough from brand and model heritage to be instantly recognizable. Every color but white costs extra on a Grand Cherokee 4xe, and the Trailhawk models get a standard black roof and sky-blue front and rear recovery hooks, decal accents, and badge details. The matte-black hood decal reduces sun glare while driving off-road, making it easier to see the trail ahead.
Unfortunately, the philosophy driving that decal decision doesn't carry over into the cabin, where reflections on the gloss-black surfaces can blind you and make it impossible to read the control markings. Not only that, but the shiny, screen-laden interior remained clean and free of dust and fingerprints for about five minutes.
In addition, there is quite a bit of hard plastic within the cabin. This cheapens the experience despite the luxury-level price tag. If you look at what you paid and then at what you got for the money, you may suffer a bout of cognitive dissonance and a pang of regret.
Jeep includes stereo volume and radio tuning knobs in the Grand Cherokee but embeds them on the climate-control panel below the 10.1-inch touchscreen display. Not only does the volume knob block the driver's view of the rear-window defogger button, but the infotainment controls force Jeep to employ toggle-style dual-zone climate control temperature adjusters rather than knobs. Fortunately, you can control cabin temperature using voice commands.
Above the touchscreen, you'll find a row of gloss-finish buttons aimed at the ceiling, making them hard to read. The Hybrid, Electric, and e-Save controls are low on the left side of the dashboard, where they are hard to see and impossible to use by touch. During my week driving the 4xe, I wanted to switch between these modes regularly, and it's not entirely safe to do when the Grand Cherokee is moving.
Overall, the Grand Cherokee's control layout is flawed, but I like the stereo controls on the back of the steering wheel spokes and the matte-black controls on the front of the steering wheel. More of that kind of thoughtfulness and glare-reducing surface material throughout the cabin would be welcome.
Trailhawks have standard leather upholstery paired with simulated suede inserts, eight-way power-adjustable heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. You should be comfortable no matter the season, and the standard all-weather floor mats effectively trap slush, mud, and sand, making for easy cleanup after the adventure.
Unfortunately, the front seats require a greater range of adjustment. As they are, they feel flat and featureless, and I couldn't adjust them to get the blend of height and thigh support I prefer. In the rear seat, the cushion is too low and short to provide much leg support, and legroom is in short supply. Hard-plastic front seatback panels with protruding grocery bag hooks don't help. However, the test vehicle had the optional rear window shades, which cover most of the glass and are effective when carrying children in the Jeep.
In-cabin storage space is adequate. In addition to a modestly sized glovebox, there are bins and cubbies in the usual locations, none remarkable for their configuration or utility. The lower door panel bins are surprisingly narrow and shallow for a vehicle like the Grand Cherokee, and the bin located forward of the transmission controller also serves as the wireless smartphone charger, so you can use it for one purpose or the other but not both. Aside from the four handy grocery bag hooks in the back, storage space is similarly unimpressive.
A power rear liftgate is standard on the Grand Cherokee 4xe and offers an available hands-free opener. Raise it, and this Jeep supplies 37.7 cubic-feet of cargo space. Fold the back seats down, and the Grand Cherokee 4xe can carry up to 70.8 cu-ft of cargo. These figures are conservative for the two-row midsize SUV segment and fall short of some compact crossovers. However, one noteworthy detail is the power closing button mounted low to the left of the cargo area where shorter people can easily reach it.
You must be mindful of what and who you load into a Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk. It has a meager 1,150-pound payload rating, so if you have four adults pushing 250 pounds, you can safely add no more than 150 pounds of gear to the SUV's cargo area and roof.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Review: The Technology
Jeep equips the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk with up to six digital displays. Standard equipment includes a standard 10.3-inch digital instrumentation panel, a 10.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and a 10.3-inch touchscreen embedded into the dashboard for the front-seat passenger to use. Options include a 10.0-inch head-up display and dual 10.1-inch rear-seat entertainment touchscreens with Amazon Fire TV capability. Collectively, they provide an impressive array of standard and optional features and functions.
The Uconnect 5 infotainment system includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Jeep Connect subscription services with access to a Wi-Fi hotspot, SiriusXM satellite radio, and a navigation system with voice control. A 10-speaker Alpine stereo is standard in the Trailhawk, and wireless smartphone charging is an available upgrade. As part of Jeep Connect, the Grand Cherokee features buttons on the ceiling, providing quick access to concierge services and SOS emergency assistance.
Overall, Uconnect provides a good user experience, though it could benefit from a larger display. I found it easy to pair a phone via Bluetooth, stream music, make calls, and adjust vehicle settings to personal preferences. Some menus are extensive, so go through them when you're not driving the Jeep.
The voice recognition system offers hit-and-miss success. For example, when I told the Grand Cherokee's digital assistant I needed to go to a hospital (using an urgent voice), the resulting list of nearby medical facilities did not parse the database just for hospitals. The system also could not find SiriusXM's reggae channel simply by telling the voice assistant I wanted to listen to reggae music or provide directions to a favorite restaurant simply by naming the establishment and the street name.
A front passenger screen is a rarity in any new vehicle, and it comes standard in the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. The screen is not visible from the driver's seat, allowing the front passenger to more capably serve co-pilot duty or view entertainment during the drive.
If the Jeep has the optional rear-seat entertainment system, the front passenger's screen grants control of the media served to the rear-seat viewers. In my household, where everyone uses their phones for everything, these extra screens are more of a novelty than anything else.
Other tech-related features include an available Night Vision system to help drivers identify pedestrians and animals on the road ahead. It shows data within the instrumentation panel, so to use it you must shift your focus and look at the display instead of the road. It would be better if Night Vision leveraged the 10.0-inch head-up display for this purpose. In addition, a digital rearview camera is available and works well when you've packed the Grand Cherokee's cargo area to the roof.
Jeep equips the Grand Cherokee 4xe with a comprehensive standard list of safety features. In addition to the expected advanced driving-assistance systems (ADAS), the blind-spot monitoring system has a steering assist function that actively attempts to prevent a driver from making an unsafe lane change. In addition, rear parking sensors with an automatic braking system are standard.
Upgrades for the Trailhawk include a surround-view camera system, an intersection-collision assist that can warn a driver and brake when other vehicles are entering the same intersection from either side, front parking sensors, and a parking-assist system that can steer the Jeep into parallel and perpendicular spaces while the driver handles braking, acceleration, and the transmission.
Jeep offers an Active Drive Assist system on the 2023 Grand Cherokee 4xe, but only with Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trim. It adds lane-centering assist and works with the adaptive cruise control to provide driving assistance when the driver is holding the steering wheel.
During my evaluation, the Grand Cherokee's ADAS worked best on freeways. However, the adaptive cruise control could have responded more quickly to motorists entering and departing the lane ahead of the Jeep. On dusty rural two-lane roads crossing farmland, the lane-keeping assist had trouble identifying lane markings, and on winding roads, the tech proved intrusive. In addition, the lane-departure warning and lane-keeping-assist systems frequently responded falsely to travel conditions, irritating me.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Grand Cherokee 4xe five-star ratings, except for a four-star frontal-impact rating for the driver and a four-star rollover resistance rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety hasn't explicitly evaluated the Grand Cherokee 4xe, and it isn't clear whether or not the
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Review: The Drive
To create the Grand Cherokee 4xe's plug-in hybrid powertrain, the automaker's engineers pair a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a 17.3-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery and a 100-kilowatt electric motor integrated into the eight-speed automatic transmission.
Together, these components make 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque when you use the Hybrid driving mode, returning an estimated 23 mpg. Switch to Electric mode, and the Grand Cherokee 4xe employs only the battery, motor, and transmission to provide up to 25 miles of electric driving range. You can also use the e-Save mode, which saves the battery for use later by running the Jeep only with the turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine. It can also recharge the battery while you drive the SUV.
Trailhawks have a standard Quadra-Drive II full-time four-wheel-drive system with a two-speed transfer case. Thanks to an electronic limited-slip differential, this system can transfer up to 100% of the available power to a single rear wheel.
Drivers can choose between five Selec-Terrain driving modes: Auto, Sport, Rock, Snow, and Mud/Sand. In addition, the Trailhawk includes hill-descent control, a front anti-sway bar disconnect system, and Selec-Speed off-road cruise control.
There is more to the story. A Quadra-Lift air suspension with semi-active damping is standard, lowering to provide an Aero mode on the highway and raising to supply up to 10.9 inches of ground clearance for off-roading. In its maximum-height position, Quadra-Lift gives the Trailhawk a 35.7-degree approach, 22.3-degree breakover, and 30-degree departure angle. In addition, the Trailhawk features a waterproof battery pack and higher air intakes to support 24 inches of water-fording capability.
I used a local loop, including city, suburban, and highway driving, to perform an electric-only range test. I live in a hilly area, so I chose as level a route as possible. The Trailhawk started with an indicated 26 miles, and when the battery reached its minimum charge, I'd traveled 21.2 miles. Unfortunately, after exiting the freeway on an uphill ramp, the gas engine turned on and remained running for about half a mile, so this isn't a "pure" assessment of the electric-only range.
I then drove the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk on my usual evaluation loop, which includes travel across the Santa Monica Mountains and a total elevation change between sea level and about 1,400 feet. Operating solely in Hybrid mode with the battery at its minimum state of charge, in the Auto driving mode, and with the air suspension in its middle height setting, the Jeep averaged 19.6 mpg, falling short of the official 23-mpg estimate.
Two years ago, I drove the redesigned Grand Cherokee Trailhawk in the red-rock hills near Moab, Utah, and can attest to this Jeep's impressive off-roading talents. The 2023 Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk reaffirmed this during my photo shoot, and the electric motor, with its instant torque, makes it even easier to cross challenging terrain.
I'm not as impressed with the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk on the pavement. It sits on Goodyear Territory all-terrain tires, which are best for grip off-road. In addition, the steering suffers a momentary delay between input and response, and then the response is sometimes too dramatic, given the Trailhawk's tires and center of gravity. That can make the Trailhawk feel slightly unstable, especially since the body leans in corners.
In addition, the turbocharged four-cylinder doesn't sound refined when revving, such as when climbing a mountain grade. Power delivery is sometimes uneven, with the electric motor providing a sudden and unexpected surge of torque as you accelerate from a stop. Also, the Grand Cherokee 4xe's regenerative braking system is touchy, making executing smooth, clean stops challenging.
Positive notes include a firm, connected, and communicative ride at lower speeds and a more compliant ride at higher speeds. Also, when driving a 4xe Trailhawk in areas with crumbling infrastructure, you worry less about frost heaves and potholes. Similarly, curbing a wheel is no longer a concern in most situations.
During my week living with this SUV, I regularly wanted to switch between the Hybrid, Electric, and e-Save driving modes. During a family trip to the beach, I changed into e-Save mode at the crest of the mountains and recharged the battery to more than 20% as we wound our way down the Pacific Coast Highway. In other situations, you might want quick access to maximum horsepower and torque, switching from Electric to Hybrid mode for only a few minutes.
Unfortunately, Jeep tucks the three mode buttons low on the left side of the dashboard, where they are difficult to see. You must bend down and to the left to find them, and on a sunny day, they're cloaked in darkness. I don't find it safe to use them while driving, which is a shame since I rarely adjusted the other driving modes or the transfer case.
Is the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe a Good SUV?
Conceptually, a plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokee is appealing, but the reality of the Grand Cherokee 4xe is less so.
From its flawed interior layout and finishes to the clunky driving dynamics, the 4xe comes across as a work in progress instead of a finished product. Jeep can get away with this in the rough and raw Wrangler 4xe, but Grand Cherokee buyers spending this kind of money likely expect something more refined.
In addition, Jeep has priced this vehicle out of the reach of some of the brand's most ardent fans and supporters, and it simply isn't sophisticated enough to command a price beyond $70K. But Jeep has done well in a segment that sits between mainstream and luxury with the Grand Cherokee, and it seems like it can charge whatever it wants as long as it has customers willing to pay the price.
Not only that, but a Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk is the only game in town if you plan to head deep into the wilderness and want to tow up to 6,000 pounds on the weekend while enjoying the convenience of a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle during the weekly commute.