From 10 paces away, you might not be able to tell just how different the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee really is compared to the outgoing model. After all, it's still imbued with the same stubby front and rear overhangs, tent-shaped greenhouse, and trapezoidal fender openings that we know well. The cut of its jib is somewhat tougher owing to a slight forward cant to its requisite seven-slot grille. It's also a wider machine with wider tires and an even more wide-set suspension that pushes its wheels out flush with its flanks. But even if none of that catches your eye, you will understand that the new Grand Cherokee has taken a big step forward once you open the door and slide behind the wheel, especially if it's a loaded Summit Reserve, like our $71,080 test sample.
The outgoing Grand Cherokee's interior had been steadily updated over its approximate decade-long run, but the new fifth generation's top-tier Summit Reserve exists on a different plane. All but the base Laredo now come with leather seats of some description, and they get progressively plusher until you arrive at our Summit Reserve's sumptuous Quilted Palermo Leather seats, which have matching leather armrests and door trim panels paired with open-pore wood accents. The driving position is spot on, and the chunky, heated steering wheel feels good in your hands as it frames a 10.3-inch digital instrument cluster that's easily configured using the wheel's spoke-mounted buttons.
A 10.1-inch touchscreen that supports wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay appears draped over the middle of the dash. Set just below are the climate controls, rotary shifter, and air-suspension switches, and these bespoke-looking controls have a satisfying feel. The newest Uconnect 5 system has logical main controls and is suitably responsive, but the wealth of personalization capability built into the depths takes time to master. What's not hard to understand is the incredible McIntosh sound system, which delivers 950 watts of impeccable sound through 19 speakers spread about the cabin and comes complete with the brand's signature dancing blue output meters.
Underway, the Grand Cherokee impresses with a composed ride that largely denies the existence of the corroded asphalt its 275/45R-21 Continental CrossContact LX Sport tires are traversing. The multilink front and rear independent suspensions are comprised almost entirely of aluminum bits, with air springs and ZF adaptive dampers that are expertly tuned—the latter benefiting from a high 200-Hz sampling rate that enables them to quickly respond to surface changes. Bend this Grand Cherokee through corners and you'll appreciate the intuitive buildup of steering effort as the chassis takes a reassuring set. It's no track star, but there's far more available grip than in past Grand Cherokees. This matches our track test results, which netted 0.85 g on the skidpad and a 163-foot stop from 70 mph. Compare that to the 0.76 g and 181-foot results we got with the last-generation Summit V6 4x4, and you'll see just how far this new generation has progressed.
Tire and suspension changes loom large here, but Jeep also has lowered the engine in the chassis by some 1.5 inches via the use of a new oil pan that allows the front axles to pass through the sump. And the engineers have gone hard after weight reduction, too, with greater use of aluminum, more high-strength alloys, and a sprinkling of composites (as in the liftgate). Our loaded Summit Reserve tipped our scales at 4863 pounds, which is 122 pounds less than that 2016 Summit V-6 4x4 we tested.
But that didn't translate into any more quickness despite the familiar 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, identical eight-speed transmission ratios, and carryover 3.45:1 final-drive gearing. In fact, our 2022 Summit Reserve lagged by 0.3 second to 60 mph (7.4 seconds vs. 7.1) and by 0.2 second in both the 30-to-50-mph dash (4.0 vs. 3.8) and in the quarter-mile (15.6 vs. 15.4). Perhaps its fatter tires add a dab of rolling resistance, while the one-inch wider body punches a bigger hole in the air. This narrow loss is hardly a tragedy, though, because the V-6 4x4 feels spry enough in the real world and tows the same 6200 pounds as before. Besides, the 2022 edition returns 1 extra mpg across the board: 22 mpg combined (19 city/26 highway) instead of 21 (18/25). We'll take that. If you want more speed and another 1000 pounds of towing capacity, the V-8, which carries a combined rating of 17 mpg, is waiting on the options sheet.
A Summit Reserve like ours isn't the one to get if you plan to take it off road much, even though our Jeep has the same Quadra-Drive II system that combines Quadra-Trac II's active low-range transfer case with an electronically controlled limited-slip rear differential. Why? For one, all Summits have a more street-focused front fascia that has a less favorable approach angle (28.2 degrees in the highest mode versus 35.7 for the Trailhawk), not to mention its lack of front tow hooks. And then there are the 275/45 tires and vulnerable 21-inch wheels, which are far less off-road oriented than the Trailhawk's inch-taller 265/60R-18 Goodyear Wrangler AT tires and smaller 18-inch wheels. If the clearance and the rubber weren't enough, the Trailhawk also benefits from a new-for-'22 front anti-roll bar disconnect you can't get on any other Grand Cherokee. The difference was clear when we wheeled them both in Moab.
As far as rear-seat passenger space and gear-hauling goes, the second row of the new Grand Cherokee doesn't feel any more spacious than the outgoing model despite nearly a full two-inch increase in this Jeep's wheelbase, from 114.8 to 116.7 inches. The cargo space picture does improve a little, as there's now 38 cubic feet of cargo volume instead of 36 with the rear seats up and 71 cubes instead of 68 with the seats down. If you want more rear passenger room and cargo space, the new three-row Jeep Grand Cherokee L is where you should look. Doing that, however, sacrifices some off-road potential because the wheelbase swells to 121.7 inches, and there's no Trailhawk option.
Mostly, though, the cost for all the improvements that have been lavished upon the 2022 Grand Cherokee comes in the form of higher sticker prices. The model starts out reasonably enough if you look at a base Laredo with rear-wheel drive, which goes for $40,120. The Limited V-6 that's sure to be most popular is still within reach at $46,440, with a $2000 step-up to get four-wheel drive. But the Summit is on another level, with a starting price of $60,095 for a rear-drive example. Our four-wheel-drive tester with the $4480 Summit Reserve package and a few other baubles rang in at an eye-watering $71,080, and that would've been another $3795 higher with the optional V-8. For that money, it'd be nice if it looked the price on the outside, not just the inside. The new Grand Cherokee is comprehensively better than the one it replaces, but the Summit Reserve represents a luxurious new peak that may be priced out of reach for many current fans.