2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee review
(Photo/Bryon Dorr)

First Drive: We Trail-Tested the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Moab

Our motors editor, Bryon Dorr, was in Moab, Utah, last week to experience firsthand what the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee is all about. He rallied it on some curvy mountain roads and crawled it over some big rocks. Here are his first impressions.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee is the fifth generation of the nameplate, and the most on- and off-road capable yet. Over 7 million Grand Cherokees have sold worldwide since it was introduced in 1993. This new Grand Cherokee is built on a new unibody chassis that allows for two different wheelbases and an electrified powertrain.

While I’ve already had some seat time in the first three-row Grand Cherokee ever, the “L,” the latest two-row, full-size SUV is what we’re going to talk about here today. I got some seat time in all trim levels of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee last week in Moab, Utah. This included time with the new full-size SUV on curvy backroads, muddy two-track, loose steep climbs, some rocky off-road obstacles, and even while towing.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

The latest Grand Cherokee is nearly the same size as its predecessor, but it did grow a bit. It is 4 inches longer, and it has a 2-inch longer wheelbase and a 1.4-inch wider trackwidth.

Besides the wider fenders, the body is the same width. The interior feels a lot roomier, though, as the wide dash elements and design make it feel wider while the much thinner front seats offer more rear passenger legroom.

A lower beltline and smaller roof pillars provide a more open and airy feel to the cabin while providing great visibility. A lowered roofline and new active grille shutters help with aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee

What I Love

There is a lot to love with the new Grand Cherokee. Let’s dive right in.

First off is the smooth, quiet, and responsive ride. This is especially evident on gravel and forest service-style dirt roads. The air suspension is a big reason for this, as are the lighter weight (250 pounds, to be specific), lower center of gravity (front axles actually go through the oil pan to lower the engine), and a new aluminum front strut brace that helps create 200% more lateral rigidity.

The driving experience is also really good for a big modern SUV. The steering has just enough weight to it and is pretty direct, while it is still pretty numb, like nearly all modern vehicles. The brakes are very linear and strong, while the throttle tip-in is pretty aggressive, something I really like.

The technology in the new Grand Cherokee is impressive. The Uconnect 5 infotainment system is faster to load pages than before and is super configurable to show you exactly what you want to see.

On offer are a passenger dash screen and two headrest screens for back passengers, keeping all in the vehicle entertained. The front passenger screen has Amazon Fire built-in, and you can watch a different video source on each screen in the vehicle at the same time.

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The available 950-watt, 19-speaker, McIntosh audio system is extremely good. It not only sounds great but also looks amazing.

Comfort is impressive in this full-sized SUV. You can even get 16-way adjustable heated, cooled, and massage front seats on the Overland and Summit models.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland off-road

Off-road capability is part of the Jeep DNA and hasn’t been forgotten with the 2022 Grand Cherokee. The Overland (with the Overland off-road package) and TrailHawk models both carry the Jeep “Trail Rated” badge. You get a class-exclusive disconnecting sway bar on TrailHawk, as well as an impressive 11.3 inches of ground clearance.

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A front trail camera with tire placement indicators doesn’t completely replace a spotter but is super handy when you’re trying to traverse off-road terrain efficiently. A 360-surround camera is super impressive and high resolution, and it really helps when trailering.

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The new 2022 Grand Cherokee two-row, full-size SUV also has more cargo room, which is better optimized for usability. On offer is 37.7 cubic feet of cargo space, 1.4 cubic feet more than the previous generation.

An example of better packaging is that the new Grand Cherokee can carry golf bags laterally in the rear cargo area if you’re into that sort of thing, something it couldn’t do before.

What I Don’t Love

Of course, no vehicle is perfect, and the new Grand Cherokee falls short in a few areas as well.

While I’m overall impressed with the driving experience, I’m not impressed with the rotary drive selector or the paddle shifters. The driver selector looks great and feels great to the touch, but it is not great for maneuvers like three-point turns, as it nearly always clicks into park instead of reverse.

The paddle shifters work great in terms of the gearbox and shifting gears on demand. However, I don’t like how tiny they are — and that you have to press and hold the right paddle to disable manual shifting mode, something that isn’t very intuitive.

I love that the Grand Cherokee has a big, bright, and configurable heads-up display (HUD), but I’m disappointed by how deep you have to go into the menus to make any adjustments. The display controls are found in a menu accessed through the left buttons on the steering wheel, a few clicks deep.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailHawk off-road

Only the Overland and TrailHawk models have tow hooks, otherwise, there really isn’t a good recovery point on the front of the Summit or Laredo trim levels. This is an issue if you plan to go off-road or even help recover someone out of a snowbank on your next ski trip.

When in low range, manually shifted into first gear, and going down a steep incline, the vehicle accelerates a bit too quickly and is able to sustain a higher level of speed than wanted for most off-road terrain. This is apparently something the engineers at Jeep know about and say that they’re working on for production vehicles, as I was driving a preproduction unit.

The air suspension isn’t exactly fast to adjust the vehicle height, but it is faster (twice as fast) as the last-gen version and is competitive in the industry. It takes 7 seconds to lower from standard to load height in the 2022 Grand Cherokee.

Best Adventure-Ready 2022 Grand Cherokee

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee V8 towing

If I were buying one of these new two-row Jeep Grand Cherokees, I’d configure it for long road-trip comfort and maximum off-the-lot, off-road capability. That narrows it down to the TrailHawk and Overland trim levels.

It also means the HEMI V8, versus the Pentastar V6, for me, as the extra power is appreciated both on- and off-road and while towing. The shift points are better calibrated on the V8, in my opinion — and, of course, the sound out of the tailpipe is considerably better.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailHawk interior

The TrailHawk is a slightly more budget-friendly option than the Overland, as it starts at $51,275 (+$1,795 destination charge). It also offers Select Speed Control (off-road cruise control), 2 inches more suspension lift, a disconnecting sway bar, and a rear tow hook that you can’t get on the Overland.

The TrailHawk also gets you more aggressive-looking tires, but the tire itself (besides its sidewall styling) is exactly the same. The interior of the TrailHawk is much more sporty, but it also feels less luxurious.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland interior

The Overland, on the other hand, can get you massage seats, the incredible McIntosh audio system, and L2 driver assistance, all features not available on the TrailHawk.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee with Mopar rock slider
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailHawk with Mopar rock slider.

Mopar rock sliders are a factory option on the TrailHawk and an optional dealer-installed accessory on all other trim levels. With the long wheelbase on this SUV, rock sliders are a good idea if you plan to tackle any real off-road terrain.

All of this is to say if you wanted to save a few grand, forgo a few luxuries, need a little more ground clearance, and want a more sporty feel, then the Grand Cherokee TrailHawk is for you.

I think I’d personally spend the extra money and get the massage seats (my back will thank me) and McIntosh audio system available on the Overland. I’d buy the 2022 Grand Cherokee Overland, with the Overland off-road package (gets you 18-inch wheels and more skid plates), and add Mopar rock rails at the dealer.

I’d also get the tow package and add a Factor55 HitchLink as my rear recovery point. Sure, this build won’t have the more “hard-core” off-road ability that the extra lift and sway-bar disconnect on the TrailHawk give you, but it will offer a super-plush and capable vehicle for hauling friends and family to any adventure you want year-round.

2022 Grand Cherokee Availablity

The 2022 Grand Cherokee starts hitting dealers’ lots in just a few weeks, with the Grand Cherokee L already available.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

A plug-in hybrid 4xe version of the Grand Cherokee is coming in early 2022. It will offer a 25-mile all-electric range, 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque, and 6,000 pounds of max towing capability.

A Grand Cherokee TrailHawk 4xe recently did Rubicon on all-electric power, which means it’s not only efficient but properly off-road capable. The 4xe will no doubt be the best overall daily and adventure machine in the Grand Cherokee lineup, and will probably be incredibly popular, just as the Wrangler 4xe has proven to be.

Bryon Dorr
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Bryon Dorr caught the outdoor adventure addiction through whitewater kayaking, and worldwide adventures to remote places ensued. He crafted his own professional path as a photographer, journalist, and marketing consultant in the automotive and outdoor industries, while full-time overland traveling for nearly 8 years. You’ll usually find him out exploring by 4x4, adventure motorcycle, or sports car while seeking out opportunities to ski, mountain bike, and kayak. Bryon now has a home base in Portland, OR, and runs our sister site AutoWise.com.