Review: 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4×4
Something is afoot at Jeep. The American brand best known for dragging the antiquated Wrangler into the modern era is embarking on a new mission: Toeing the luxury line against the likes of Lincoln, Range Rover, and Lexus.
This process began with the Grand Cherokee L, a shapely three-row with room for growing families. Then came the heavy artillery, in the form of the Grand Wagoneer and Wagoneer siblings—all-new, body-on-frame brutes whose prices can easily blow past six figures, and whose knockout interiors cosset inhabitants.
Today, we have the third salvo: the two-row Grand Cherokee. Unveiled last fall, the all-new, fifth-generation G.C. employs a multi-pronged approach in spec, to appeal to vastly different customers. Jeep’s line of hybrid 4xe powertrains are on offer and should help lure eco-conscious consumers. Grand Cherokee Trailhawk models look ready to charge off-piste but bring none of the Wrangler’s live-axle quirks. It’s the third prong, however, that high-end luxury play, that might just be the most important. Today’s Grand Cherokee faces a far more daunting barrier than the Cobo Hall window pulverized by its forefather: This one has to shatter the expectations of buyers who might raise eyebrows at a $70,000 Jeep that brings no military roots and no seating for seven.
Our test rig for this review was a 2022 Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4×4. With an as-tested price of $69,395, this trim is basically maximum Grand Cherokee. Options present represented almost every box worth ticking, including premium Palermo leather (exclusive to Summit Reserve models), the nifty 10.25-inch passenger screen, a kickin’ 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, and more. The Advanced Technology Group ($1995) also scored our tester a head-up display and a night-vision camera that can recognize pedestrians and animals, plus an auto-dimming rear-view mirror that can display a camera feed of what’s behind you.
This is a more upright and broadly stanced machine than the outgoing, fourth-gen Grand Cherokee. While the new Jeep’s body is no wider, the 1.6 inches of added track and more rectangular form imply a girthier machine, thicker in the neck. Relative to its new three-row counterpart, which rides on the same platform (WL74 for the two-row Grand Cherokee, WL75 on the L), the smaller rig is down five inches between the wheels and more than 11 inches overall. The exterior evokes whiffs of Range Rover Sport, almost certainly an intentional move. The two-tone coloration comes across as faddish, but a black roof is mandatory here. The only way to get a monotone Grand Cherokee is to spec exterior paint in black.
Stellantis has been on a tear with interiors lately—revamps galore and huge bumps in quality. Gone are the bulbous surfaces and chintzy controls that put a damper on high-dollar versions of the last Grand Cherokee. In their place are forms and materials that walk the 70-large talk. The whole package feels tight and clean, with main features in easy reach and pleasing to the eye. Some controls lack the rock-solid feel of the same bits in, say, a Lexus, but you’re still working with physical buttons, not some glitch-prone, multi-screen affair. (Range Rover, we’re looking at you here.)
If you’re more than six feet tall, you might find the Jeep’s second row a bit crowded—but with a vehicle like this, that’s an outlier case. Five seats and four doors in a truck like this imply adult use of the second row, but statistically speaking, expensive SUV trims more often find the driveways of small families and well-off empty nesters. (Naturally, Jeep hopes larger families looking for clan-toting will be more likely to turn to the three-row.) Practical interior complaints are limited to the lack of second-row fold handles in the cargo area; if you’re loading the trunk but want the extra cargo space, you have to walk to a rear door and use the seat-mounted levers to fold the rear bench. This is a small detail, but luxury SUVs are all about convenience, and it feels like a miss.
Setting aside the turbo four and electric motors of the Grand Cherokee 4xe—we’ll review that vehicle soon—the nonhybrid G.C. gets one of two drivetrains: Jeep’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, an old stalwart good for 293 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, or a 357-horse, 390 lb-ft Hemi V-8. The Pentastar is standard, the Hemi a $3795 option. Both engines come paired to a ZF eight-speed automatic, with trim level determining which of Jeep’s three 4×4 systems you get.
Our tester had the Pentastar but needed the Hemi. The six gets the Jeep’s 4700-pound mass moving and produces plenty of pace, but it’s not a pleasant experience. Much of a luxury vehicle’s appeal lies in how it can make ordinary tasks seem effortless, and that thrashing V-6 comes off like a pep band in a cathedral. The Hemi—or better yet, the recently announced twin-turbo Hurricane straight-six—would go a long way toward making ordinary commutes feel as regal as the Grand Cherokee’s interior. (Stellantis will neither confirm nor deny that the Hurricane is coming to this model, but since the factory says the new engine can fit in place of any of the company’s longitudinally mounted V-6s, the add seems likely.)
The rest of the driving experience is well-sorted—occasionally even surprising. Summit Reserve models wear gorgeous 21-inch aluminum wheels and 275-section tires. That’s as much rubber as you get on a new Dodge Challenger Hellcat, which has more than double the Jeep’s power. Why that much tire is needed here, we don’t know. What we do know is that there’s remarkable corner grip, far more than most owners will seek out. And despite relatively shallow sidewalls, the Jeep soaks up pockmarked pavement remarkably well. Credit the truck’s Quadralift air suspension and semi-active dampers.
Those stout driving dynamics will likely be lost on most owners, who will be too busy enjoying this model’s tech features. Some are more useful than others. That dash-mounted passenger display screen seems like hard novelty, but it at least has a privacy cover to minimize driver distraction. (I thought my wife was poking at a screen that wasn’t on until I leaned over and saw it from her view.) Our tester also had second-row displays, part of the $1995 rear-seat entertainment package—a nice addition, but you’d be smarter to skip them and put the savings toward a Hemi. Stellantis’ UConnect is still one of the best infotainment systems in the business. The McIntosh sound system is a notable step up from the Alpine outfit offered in lesser Grand Cherokee trims, with clarity and depth befitting a luxury car.
With this latest Grand Cherokee, Jeep is asking a lot of its best-selling nameplate. History suggests Trailhawk versions will tackle dirt with ease; if the sales success of the Wrangler 4xe is any guide, a hybridized G.C. should be a popular choice. The luxury tack is the biggest question mark, and the greatest risk.
Is this machine a better idea than a comparably priced Range Rover Sport? Yes, provided you pick that Hemi. The main traits of a ritzy offering are all present. The design, driving experience, interior materials, and tech all stack up. And if that Hurricane six is indeed headed for the Grand Cherokee’s engine bay, we might be gifted a legit competitor to the BMW X5.
Can you picture one of these nestled into a country-club parking lot between Porsches and Bentleys? Hasn’t the Grand Cherokee always fit there, anyway? Someone from Jeep must have noticed that and decided to chase the untapped potential.
In 1993, it was a glass window. Almost 30 years later, Jeep has aimed its volume player at the glass ceiling under the luxury market. By the looks of things, it’s ready to break through.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit Reserve 4×4
Base price/as-tested: $66,575 / $71,080 (NB: Our test car was an early-production vehicle equipped with the “Reserve Group” package. As of this writing, the Summit Reserve is now its own trim, hence the price discrepancy between this build and the current configurator. Additionally, Jeep’s website does not list the rear seat entertainment package as an option. A company spokesperson informs us that this is because a chip shortage has made the package temporarily unavailable.)
Highs: Feel like a genuine step up for the brand, inside and out. Arguably the most well-rounded Jeep on offer. And while no trail-ready SUV needs to corner this well, who’s arguing?
Lows: Summit Reserve trim desperately needs a powertrain as refined as the rest of the package. (Come, oh Hurricane straight-six, and deliver us!) The few missing convenience features seem small right until you need them.
Summary: Flying upmarket on the wings of brand equity isn’t easy, but it works here. The wieldy Jeep in dress clothes.