Payne: Plug-in faceoff, Volvo XC90 Recharge vs. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 7, 2022

Clarington, Ontario — The federal government is forcing automakers to go all-electric, but even some of my green friends are balking at the idea.

“Why not plug-in hybrids so we can use electricity around town and gas on trips?” asks one.

“Electric doesn’t make sense. Are there plug-in hybrids?” asks another.

“I’ve heard plug-ins are a good middle ground,” says another.

Washington ain’t much for middle ground these days, so plug-ins are a nonstarter because (horrors) they use the demon gasoline. But manufacturers are listening to their customers, and for those who like the EV driving experience — but appreciate the efficiency of gas — there are good choices in the premium market.

Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne took the 2022 Volvo XC90 Reharge on a road trip to the famous Mosport Raceway in Ontario.

Consider the 2022 Volvo XC90 Recharge and Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe I recently put to the test.

Big and roomy, they are midsize family SUVs designed to do everything from haul the groceries home to haul the family on long excursions. For customers who need this kind of diversity, EVs don’t make sense. Who wants to wait for 45 minutes at a supercharger while the kids scream: “Are we there yet?”

Volvo has been particularly aggressive at going all-electric with compact around-towners like the XC40 Recharge and (sister EV brand) Polestar 2. But its midsize XC90 better fits the plug-in market given its road trip ambitions . . . road trips like my summer journey from Detroit to Ontario, where I was scheduled to race my Lola at one of North America’s epic tracks: Mosport International Raceway just north of Lake Ontario.

Battery power fits the Scandinavian brand that has long appealed to tree-huggers. A century after alcohol Prohibition, America is in the midst of a second temperance movement — this time focused on limiting carbon consumption. For luxe buyers who crave a Tesla Model X but need a plug-in’s versatility,  the XC90 Recharge satisfies moral and practical concerns.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk combines a 2.0-liter, turbo-4 cylinder engine with an electric motor for 375 horsepower.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe fits the bill too.

Jeep’s enormous brand bandwidth allows it to appeal to everyone from mainstream buyers shopping for a $25K Renegade to swells who want to arrive at the country club in a $110K Jeep Wagoneer.

Mention the Jeep Grand Cherokee in the same breath as Volvo, BMW, Audi and Cadillac. and my friends don’t flinch. The Jeep name has that kind of cachet. So Jeep has shrewdly brought its 4xe plug-in drivetrain to the Grand, where it offers a premium ride at $63K while still coming in well short of the Volvo Recharge’s (cough) $84K.

My testers were similar yet different. These brands play to their strengths.

Preparing for my trip across the border, I juiced both the Jeep and Volvo batteries on my garage-mounted, 240-volt charger. At about $2,000 to install, the 240-volt is an expensive but necessary accessory for plug-in buyers. It’s also a major reason battery-powered vehicles are best-suited for a high-income demographic.

Once charged, both Volvo and Jeep gave me the option to save the battery range for when I want to use it. With a 300-mile journey ahead to Mosport, I chose the Volvo and its superior 36 miles of battery-only range.

Like European nations, Canada is more militant than the United States on carbon prohibition, with plans to ban gasoline by 2035. Cities are proposing “zero-emission zones” allowing only battery-powered vehicles. While I would encounter no such zones on my trip to metropolitan Toronto, the XC90 Recharge could qualify — assuming I could switch over to EV power only.

The Jeep has a similar feature — which could be saved for, say, a silent run through Holly Oaks off-road park an hour up I-75. However, it’s only good for 26 miles compared to the Volvo’s 36. That’s a big difference — and the first of many reasons that the XC90 Recharge is priced $20K higher than the Grand.

After crossing the Canadian border at Sarnia, I selected the Volvo’s driver-assist mode and set the speed to 78 mph (Canadian speed limit is 60 mph but natives ignore it like Americans used to ignore 55). The green steering wheel icon in the digital ash indicated the car needed limited input from me.

The interior of the 2022 Volvo XC90 Reharge comes with panoramic roof, leather seats, and excellent materials. The immovable headrests, however, can be uncomfortable.

Casting my eyes around the cabin, I saw the Volvo was a lovely piece of work with its white leather interior, Orrefors crystal shift knob and big panoramic roof. Lovely, but uncomfortable for this 6-foot-5-inch driver, given that the headrest was immovable and forced my head forward. Fortunately, placing a pillow behind my back helped alleviate the discomfort.

The posh interior of the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk includes digital screens and tasteful materials.

The Grand Cherokee’s interior has come a long way from the previous gen and is a big reason I recommend it to luxury buyers. The design is upscale with a cascading black console that houses a small infotainment screen — not unlike the Volvo. These brands have eschewed the trend to ginormous screens. The Jeep also gave me choice of cruise controls — standard cruise or adaptive — though not an ambitious drive-assist system like the VC90.

After a lunch stop with Mrs. Payne, I put the pedal to metal and the Volvo merged with authority onto the interstate — its combined supercharged, turbocharged inline-4 and electric motor putting out a beastly 440 horsepower. This is a hot Swedish meatball.

When the 36 mile range battery gives out in the 2022 Volvo XC90 Reharge, there is 510 miles of gas-engine range on hand.

That acceleration is tempered in EV mode. Upon arriving at Bowmanville, Ontario, I switched over to my saved battery power. The resulting EV mode is all-electric — but doesn’t offer torquey, kick-in-the-pants acceleration like a big-battery, 75 kWh Polestar 2. Instead, the 14.9 kWh battery enabled smooth driving around town, if not lively performance.

In contrast, the Grand Cherokee 4xe’s EV mode only provides limited battery-only driving. Speed up over 60 mph and the gas engine kicks in to help. The Jeep apparently thinks you’ll use the battery at low off-road speeds (like a Wrangler 4xe) or in delivering the kiddies to school on moderate, 45-mph secondary roads.

The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk charges at night on a home, 240-volt charger.

For both plug-ins, the estimated battery range proved optimistic. I used up the Jeep’s 21 miles quickly around Metro Detroit, whereas the Volvo’s 36 miles only took me about 22 miles in real-world driving. For all Canada’s talk of an electric future, charging stations were rare east of Toronto.

I found a Hyundai dealership next to my Comfort Inn with a public 110-volt outlet that recharged my VC90 Recharge each night so that I could drain the battery the next day on my 22-mile round trip commute to the track.

I filled up the Volvo on the way back home from Mosport — the plug-in proving its worth with a big gas tank. The Grand Cherokee, too, would have been suited for the Ontario trip. But with its blue tow hooks, matte-black hood, and meaty off-road tires, the Trailhawk trim is better for an off-road rally driver instead of an asphalt, road-course jockey like me.

Heck, the Jeep could even do the rally itself.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger SUV

Price: $57,660 including $1,795 destination fee ($64,280 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-4 cylinder mated to AC motor and 14.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Performance: 0-60 mph, 6.8 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 6,000 pounds

Weight: 5,600 pounds (est.)

Fuel economy: EPA 23 mpg city/24 highway/23 combined; 26 miles on battery only

Report card

Highs: Attractive interior/exterior design; off-road moxie

Lows: Drivetrain lacks refinement; pure-EV mode limited to low speeds

Overall: 3 stars

2022 Volvo VC90 Recharge

Vehicle type: All-wheel-drive, five-or-seven passenger SUV

Price: $66,895 including $1,095 destination fee ($84,090 XC90 Recharge T8 Inscription as tested)

Powerplant: 2.0-liter turbocharged and supercharged inline-4 cylinder mated to AC motor and 14.9-kWh lithium-ion battery pack

Power: 455 horsepower, 523 pound-feet torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic/direct-drive

Performance: 0-60 mph, 4.5 seconds (Car and Driver); towing capacity, 5,291 pounds

Weight: 5,121 pounds

Fuel economy: EPA 25 mpg city/27 highway/26 combined; 36 miles on battery only

Report card

Highs: Pure-EV range; good power

Lows: Lacks latest Google-based infotainment system; 36-mile battery range is over-estimated

Overall: 3 stars

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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