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Auto review: e-Xploring Virginia farms in the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Business News

URBANNA, Virginia — If you’re traveling to Virginia’s remote, historic Northern Neck, you may want to bring a Jeep.

“You’re free to check out the beach, woods and farmland. Be mindful the trail is grass, dirt, and may be muddy in places,” said a staffer at Rosegill historic farm in Urbanna.

“We have a Jeep,” I replied.

“Oh. Well, you’ll be fine.”

A Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid, to be more specific. Jeep is synonymous with “off-road” in any language, and the Grand is no exception. My standard 4xe rental was not a fully-armed Trailhawk (all-terrain tires, skid plates, detachable front sway bar, 11.3-inch lift, the works) but it was good enough with 10.9-inch lift, a low-speed transfer case and stout 265/60/18 rubber with six inches of sidewall — double that of, say, the low-profile tires on the Tesla Model 3 I last rented through these parts.

If I encountered anything too gnarly, I could just air down the tires to get out. Turns out that wasn’t necessary, and Mrs. Payne and I galloped around the property aboard our eager filly.

 

So celebrated is the Jeep brand that it plays in the premium space with my midsize Grand Cherokee clocking in at $63,630 — nearly 15 grand north of two superb, full-size, three-row SUVs I recently tested: the $47K Hyundai Santa Fe and $49K Chevy Traverse Z71. Pause for sticker shock. Batteries are all the rage, though, and 4xe qualifies for half ($3,750) of the federal $7,500 EV cash discount, making it $10,000 less than a comparable $70K BMW X5 xDrive50e plug-in.

A regular V6-powered Grand Cherokee is more affordable at $51.5K, but the 4xe’s 14.0 kWh battery-assisted, turbo-4 cylinder drivetrain is a fun toy to play with — and can drive up to 25 miles on electricity alone to soothe the social conscience of green consumers.

I picked up my spanking-new rental with ZERO charge at Reagan National Airport in D.C. No problem. I selected the HYBRID drivetrain setting and toggled SPORT from the blizzard of modes that also include AUTO, SNOW, ROCK, SAND/MUD and LUNAR SURFACE (kidding about that last one).

The heck with sitting at a 220-volt charger and gaining (maybe) 12 miles in an hour. The Jeep uses the electric motor (maximized in SPORT) to regenerate the battery while you drive. By the time I arrived at my destination in Stratford, Virginia, an hour and a half later, I had added 15 miles to the battery. Next to the HYBRD setting on the dash, I poked e-SAVE to preserve the electrons for another time.

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