The future may indeed be electric, but the realities of now still require a little dino-juice to meet all of our motorised needs. Thankfully, automakers have made massive progress with plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) options to give us a breath of tomorrow’s (promised) fresh air without the range anxiety or infrastructure inconveniences.
Stellantis recently made a huge splash in this space with the coming 2025 Ram 1500 Ramcharger Hybrid, which is the first PHEV to use the internal combustion engine solely as a generator for the electric powertrain.
While not nearly as revolutionary, the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is the latest sampling I’ve been playing with and, while it certainly presents a very convincing means for transition, I’m not sure I’m selling my shares in big oil just yet.
Exterior: None of my criticisms stem from the styling of this SUV. I was a fan of the boxy-over-bulbous pen strokes the design team opted for when this fifth-generation Grand Cherokee debuted and that hasn’t changed. It’s distinctive, elegant and commands attention in a way that most current SUVs and CUVs simply lack.
In 4xe guise you’ll spot a number of baby blue accents, the most notable being the tow hooks both fore and aft, that also clue you in that this is a Trail Rated Grand Cherokee. Appearing as standard kit on both the Trailhawk and Overland editions, those spots of baby blue with the “come hither” shape are purpose built and beefy enough to tug its (or someone else’s) 3,130 kg GVWR out of the muck.
The only slight I have against our tester is that the Midnight Sky paint job is just kinda “meh”, in my eyes. It hides too many of the GC’s handsome lines and features. Of the “free” colour options, both the Bright White and Silver Zynith do more to convey the presence this thing achieves but the $395 Hydro Blue Pearl is the standout, at least in my opinion.
Interior and Tech: The beefy, brawny and dirt ready exterior doesn’t exactly transfer to the insides. While the baby blue stitching delivers a nice segue, the Grand Cherokee is decidedly upscale for a rock-crawler.
The suede and leather seats are heated, cooled and extremely comfy. In GCs of yore (3rd generation especially), I always struggled to find a restful spot to plant my feet as the footwell was tight and angled in just the wrong way – this isn’t the case here.
The 10.4” gauge cluster/screen is expansive, well laid out and easy to read. There are several display options you can futz with via buttons on the steering wheel, so you can tailor the info your eyes have at the ready, but all of which deliver the vitals in terms of speed and range (both gas and electric).
Stellantis’ Uconnect 5 system controls the large, 10.1” main touchscreen and does a great job of juggling CarPlay, Android Auto and its home-baked user interfaces. There was little to no lag with anything I asked it to do and even in direct sunlight, the display was easy to read. Another screen sits above the glovebox, for your passenger, and they can even swipe directions over to the main screen via the navigation system, if needed.
Despite the prevalence of screens (our was even optioned with two in the headrests out back), buttons abound. HVAC, stereo, seating, and steering wheel temps can all be easily fiddled with without taking your eyes off of the road, which is greatly appreciated.
The only thing I’m not a fan of inside the GC 4xe Trailhawk is the use of piano black. Sadly, there are no other options available unless you pony up for a higher trim spec (Overland, Summit or Summit Reserve), but you’ll never escape it and its dust/fingerprint clutching properties entirely.
Powertrain and Drive: Pop the “Trailhawk” decaled hood and you’ll find a 2.0L, four-cylinder engine sitting in the bay. That four-pot is good for 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque which alone would be sufficient to tackle most chores. But this one is mated to two electric motors, one in the front and one in the rear, that bring combined output up to 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of twist.
Fed via a 17-kWh battery, you can summon those electric motors to handle all of the driving for you via Electric Mode, should you wish. With that, you can expect around 42 km of silent commuting. In my time with the 4xe, which was early November in Ontario, I managed to average about that number actually. With a full charge via a standard 110-volt plug overnight, and a relatively modest right foot, I could almost muster a gas-free trip into the office. If I weren’t located in the sticks, I’d wager most of my daily city driving could be battery driven.
With all of the power from gas and electric at the ready, the Grand Cherokee is decently quick but didn’t deliver the snap from a standstill that I was expecting (despite being quicker to 100 km/h than the Hemi equipped GC). It certainly won’t struggle to pass vehicles on the highway either, but again when at speed the rate of acceleration didn’t make any standout impressions. Don’t read that as a condemnation, though it was just a surprise.
The other surprise is that, after a week of mostly highway use over 735 km (226 km all electric and 507 via gasoline), my average mileage clocked in at 9.0 L/100 km. While certainly nothing to sneeze at for a big, heavy, and capable off-roader, I was expecting better. The 6.4 L Chrysler 300C I had right before this returned an 11.4 L/100 km average (over 521 km) and it was decidedly more fun in the process.
Through the twisty bits, you can feel the Jeep’s heft, but it remains confident and planted. Nothing is racecar precise, but that’s not what you want nor expect here.
I didn’t take the 4xe off-road at all, but I have previously ventured off-piste in the ‘22 (ICE-powered) Trailhawk and its capabilities didn’t disappoint. Regardless of the added weight due to the batteries, I have no reason to doubt this PHEV version to be just as adventurous.
Conclusions: I’m torn a bit between really loving the 4xe Trailhawk for its hybrid powertrain and ability to zoom around on electrons only, and quivering at its cost of initial outlay versus any potential savings down the line.
As spec’d, our tester rang in at just under $87k (including rebates) while a better equipped, equally Trail Rated, ICE-powered Overland (Trailhawks are 4xe only now) GC will cost around $7k less. If my math holds true (using the more powerful, less economical, hard-driven 300C’s economy numbers), that means a buyer like me would need to pilot the 4xe for just over 8 years (at ~20,000 km / year, with fuel costing $1.75/L) before seeing a penny back in their pocket.
Admittedly consumers in situations like mine are not the best use case example – I live beyond 50 km from my office, have no charging options when I get there, and most major errand running is done beyond my town’s confines. But this scenario isn’t unique either. As it sits, my results weren’t convincing enough to slot the 4xe ahead as the Grand Cherokee choice for people in my situation. However, if your lifestyle and needs are more accommodating, the 4xe is every bit as capable, plush, posh, and pampering as its ICE-powered stablemates.
2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe PHEV Trailhawk
Price as tested: $86,843.00 CAD
Configuration: Front engine/four-wheel-drive
Engine/transmission: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, electric generator/motor, transmission traction motor/8-speed automatic
Power/torque: 375 horsepower/ 470 lb-ft of torque
Fuel (capacity): Premium (71.2 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 10 L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 9 L/100 km
Website: Jeep Canada