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Jeep just unveiled its brand-new 2022 Grand Cherokee. This is the model’s fifth generation since debuting back in 1993 on the ZJ platform. Back then, the idea of a high-tech luxury Jeep was sort of novel. Today, the most interesting thing about the Grand Cherokee’s evolution is its optional 4xe PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) powertrain.

This new Grand Cher platform (WL) is an overall step in the right direction: the styling looks good, it’s available with three different powertrains, and features a hearty suite of off-road features. The latter piqued my interest, especially considering that you can now equip the Trailhawk trim with the plug-in hybrid engine.

Welcome to Headlight. This is a new Car Bibles daily news feature that lights up one current event in the car world and breaks it down by three simple subheadings: What Happened, Why It Matters, and What To Look For Next. We’ll be refining this over the coming weeks, but look for it in the morning (Eastern time) every workday.

What Happened

Jeep announced that prospective 2022 Grand Cherokee buyers can purchase the most off-road capable trim, the Trailhawk, with its 4xe hybrid powertrain. Also the Limited, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trims, but we’ll focus on the Trailhawk.

The 4xe outfit is a combination of the 2.0-liter Hurricane turbocharged two-liter inline four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, and a 400-volt battery pack. Net output is 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque, but the most impressive claimed spec is the fuel economy of an (estimated) 57 MPGe. Range is supposed to be about 440 miles, of which 25 can be covered on electric power alone.

The 17-kWh battery that holds all the electricity has its own dedicated cooling system, is waterproof, and hides behind skid plates underneath the vehicle. So, fear not if fording water is on the docket.

Why It Matters

Jeep launched the 4xe hybrid powertrain on the Wrangler some time ago. Not only did it prove capable, but apparently it’s been a hit at dealerships which of course is what the company really cares about. Seeing the 4xe lineup expand into more Jeep models like the Grand Cher, especially the off-roady Trailhawk one, would seem to indicate that the automaker is committed to expanding its plug-in hybrid efforts. And that feels like a good thing for those of us who like adventure vehicles but would also like to minimize our environmental impact.

From a practical perspective, PHEV can be pretty advantageous in an overlanding situation. The bigger the fuel range, the more miles you can cover. That’s why you see 4x4s with red fuel cans bolted to the side (at least, when they’re not mounted purely for decoration… you know who you are). Electric power can also be useful while traversing trails at lower speeds when increased efficiency is critical. This PHEV method of increasing range behooves enthusiasts to explore further and stay out on the trail longer, all while having less of an environmental impact.

Plus, one can utilize the instant torque of a 17-kWh, 400-volt battery to climb up more menacing features, and still with all the benefits of sending this power through a traditional four-wheel drive drivetrain with high and low gear sets, modern traction control, etc.

Jeep has even proclaimed that the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe conquered the famous (or infamous) Rubicon trail utilizing electricity exclusively, entirely under its own power. Impressive stuff.

Will more automakers up their fuel efficiency and tailpipe emissions game, and will this be a boon to all forms of off-the-tarmac driving?

What To Look For Next

Hybrid technology that can exclusively run on battery power is far from new automotive technology, but integrating it into off-road applications kind of is. The Subaru Crosstrek can be optioned with a similar system, though that’s not exactly a rock-crawling, high-grade-scrambling, full-on truck.

What I’ll be most interested to see: will Land Rover offer similar stuff in the Range Rover, Discovery, or Defender? The first two are due for a new generation, with the Range Rover already available as a PHEV, albeit it’s essentially only marketed as having benefits for in-city driving. Land Rover has more than enough development at their disposal, considering their sibling brand Jaguar sells the full-on-EV I-Pace.

I’ll also be interested to see if Toyota, Ford, and Chevy follow suit. Again, they all run some form of PHEV in their lineups, but nothing that’s as focused on off-road fun as what Jeep is doing.

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