CAUGHT: 2019 Jeep Grand Commander PHEV Mule:

Cherokee Based Chinese Model Goes Electric, But What Does That Mean For North America?

Since this article was written, it has been confirmed that the Jeep Grand Commander PHEV will debut during the 2019 model year.

The Jeep Grand Commander, which debuted this year, goes on sale in China at the end of the summer.  Our friends at Real Fast Fotography caught this forbidden-fruit Jeep being driven around on Michigan streets. Thanks to platform and parts sharing, the recently announced Grand Commander PHEV (plug-in hybrid) will use many of the components and lessons learned from the popular Pacifica Hybrid.  The Grand Commander PHEV will use a similar continuously variable transmission with two motors, but instead of using the 3.6-liter V6 connected to a one-way clutch to drive the vehicle when the batteries are low, it uses a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder making 265 horsepower (the same engine will soon be in the Wrangler and Cherokee as well).

Early 2019 Jeep Grand Commander PHEV Mule. (MoparInsiders).

The hybrid’s batteries will likely be floor mounted, as in the Pacifica. Fuel economy, using the new European Driving Cycle, is rated at less than 2 liters per 100 kilometers, which converts to a whopping 117 miles per gallon.  That seems unrealistic, but it is probably safe to assume that it would probably be rated pretty close to the Pacifica Hybrid’s 80 MPGe on electric (32 mpg combined on gasoline); if sold in the U.S.

China-Only 2019 Jeep Commander PHEV Pre-Production Tester. (MoparInsiders).

While we love the look of the Grand Commander, it simply won’t pass specific requirements for Jeeps here in the US. Specifically, the approach and departure angles must be better to allow for a Trail Rated version.  Instead, we feel it would make the basis of a great Chrysler. MoparInsiders has heard many rumors that the current Dodge Journey would be replaced by a three-row, Chrysler-branded crossover, based on the same Compact U.S. Wide (CUSW) platform as the Cherokee, Grand Commander, and Pacifica.

Early 2019 Jeep Grand Commander PHEV Mule. (MoparInsiders).

Speaking of that, the Grand Commander was not the only vehicle the boys at Real Fast Fotography caught;  They also spotted one of the original test mule vehicles for the Grand Commander still running around the Auburn Hills area, doing what we assume is powertrain and/or suspension testing.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. (Real Fast Fotography)

The test mule vehicle you see here is a highly modified Jeep Cherokee.  The wheel base has been extended to support three rows of 5+2 seating.  The exhaust layout, which is similar to the Grand Commander, is noticeably different from the average Cherokee, which leads us to believe that this mule may have a different rear suspension setup. Is this test mule finalizing a U.S. market specification engine and suspension for that possible vehicle?  Are the Grand Commanders that are being seen on the streets of Michigan doing final tuning for the Chinese model, or are they being used as part of a project to build a similar vehicle for U.S. applications?  Will this be FCA’s second Chrysler Hybrid sold in the U.S.?  We will keep you up to date as more information becomes available.

2019 Jeep Grand Commander PHEV Prototype:

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Mike Volkmann

Michael Volkmann, a mechanical engineer in the steel industry, autocrossed and road-raced Neons. Michael has drag raced his 1971 Duster 340, 2015 Dodge Charger SRT392, 2009 Challenger R/T, and Neons, of which he’s owned seven — one SRT4, three ACRs, and three Sport Coupes.

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