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The mid-size plug-in hybrid Jeep was named Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year at Mudfest 2022.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - Yes, that is an electrified 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe going through the off-road course at the most recent Mudfest. It won the Northesth Outdoor Activity Vehilcle of the Year award.When I first learned that Jeep was going to start selling plug-in hybrid versions of its most rugged four-wheel-drive vehicles, I was a little dubious. The 2022 Wrangler 4xe and Grand Cherokee 4xe can go up to 25 miles on electricity alone, which is not a lot, especially considering the $7,500 federal tax credit does not completely offset their higher prices.

Silly me. In the first six months of 2022, the mid-size Wrangler 4xe became the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the country. It outsold the Toyota RAV4 Prime by nearly two-to-one, despite the fact the all-wheel-drive compact crossover can go up to 42 miles on electricity alone.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The more environmentally drivetrain was not a problem for the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe at Mudfest 2022.

But the Grand Cherokee 4xe, which was introduced later, is likely to outsell both of them. It was named the 2022 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year in April by the Northwest Automotive Press Association. The luxury mid-size SUV is already Jeep's best selling vehicle.

Jeep has the most loyal fan base in the world because of their vehicle's legendary off-road capabilities. It should not be surprising that those who enjoy the outdoors would want to protect it. That includes being willing to recharge more often and to save the electric range for when the pavements ends to protect the wildlife.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DOUG BERGER/NWAPA - The redesigned 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe performed all on the track at Mudfest 2022.

Both electrified Jeeps use the same powertrain — A 270-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine with 295 pound-feet of torque is assisted by a belt-driven 44-hp motor and another 134-hp electric motor that replaces the eight-speed automatic transmission's torque converter. Got that? Me neither. I don't pretend to be a electrical engineer.

But I understand performance and the result is a combined output of 375 horsepower with 470 lb-ft of torque. Those figures are higher than the 357 horsepower and 390 foot pounds of torque from the optional 5.7-liter V-8, but only for as long as the 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery has enough juice to contribute.

COURTESY PHOTO: STELLANTIS - The interior of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee is impressive in every version.

My tester was a 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe. I drove it beyond its 25 mile all-electric range a few times to see how much difference that made. Maybe if I was in a drag race the V8 would be faster, but for daily driving, the electrified turbocharged four felt plenty strong to me. It is the most sophisticated power plant Jeep has ever offered.

But in my mind, another consideration is how improved the redesigned Grand Cherokee is. It has always been Jeep's best selling vehicle because its handsome styling, comfortable interior, and wide range of options, including an unbeaten Trail Rated 4X4 system. The new version looks and feels much more upscale than before, with a state of the art infotainment system matched by a much greater attention to detail, especially when it comes to the interior materials. It is also available in a two-row or three-row L version.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: STELLANTIS - The plug-in hybrid verson of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee is likely to set sales records.

I first drove the Grand Cherokee 4xe at the 2022 Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year competition, better known as Mudfest. Members of NWAPA spent two days evaluating 20 SUVs, crossovers, and pickups on specially prepared courses at the Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington. The first day of testing consisted of on-pavement courses designed to allow evaluation of acceleration, braking, road manners, and handling. The second day was all about off-road performance, with challenges crafted to evaluate traction, clearance, articulation, and the latest in off-road technology.

When it was over, the 2022 Grand Cherokee 4xe was not only the overall winner, it won the Mid-and Full-Size Family category and the Electrified Utility Vehicle category, and was the runner-up in Extreme Capability category.

COURTESY PHOTO: STELLANTIS - The back seats in all versions of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee can be equpped with every luxury option.

"The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe marks a new era in the SUV market," says NWAPA President John Vincent of U.S. News & World Report. "It's a no-compromise vehicle that blends Jeep's legendary off-road capability with outstanding on-road manners, impressive fuel economy, and the ability to travel on electricity alone."

Not bad for the kind of vehicle Jeep just started making. I had wondered how a manufacturer so deeply rooted in tradition would adjust to the challenges of the rapidly-evolving electric vehicle market. The competition should be nervous.

COURTESY PHOTO: STELLANTIS - The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe gets up to 25 miles of range on a full charge of electricity.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Base price: $57,660

Price as tested: $64,280

Style: Midsize SUV

Engine: Electrified turbocharged 2.0-liter (375 hp, 470 lbs-ft )

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA fuel economy: 56 MPGe

Range: 25 all-electric

Modes: Rock, Sand/Mud,Snow, Auto, Sport

Length: 193.5 inches

Weight: 5,400-5,600 pounds

Final assembly point: Detroit, Michigan

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