The Grand Cherokee’s true off-roading potential has been unleashed.
– Cleveland, Ohio
Jeep’s iconic Grand Cherokee gets two new trim levels for 2017. The first is a luxuriously appointed, range-topping trim named Summit (for which we had high praise in our review) and the second is this, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
This is the third model to which Jeep has affixed a Trailhawk badge, the first two being the Cherokee and Renegade (the fourth will be the all-new Compass). The name bestows its wearer with a rugged appearance and athleticism more befitting Jeep’s off-road reputation, thereby ensuring the brand doesn’t look soft as the real-deal Wrangler becomes more and more outnumbered by less-capable car-based Jeep crossovers.
- This is the real deal. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk isn’t just a trim-and-paint affair that gives you the look of adventure without the capability to get you there; it will get you anywhere. It’s fitted with Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system that supplies an electronic limited-slip differential and drive modes for sand, snow, mud, and rock. The Trailhawk also gets a special version of the Grand Cherokee’s air suspension that improves suspension travel and articulation while off-roading (check out our comparative slider to see the difference). There’s up to 10.8 inches of ground clearance with the suspension fully raised, and you can remove the lower front fascia to achieve a maximum approach angle of 36.1 degrees. For comparison’s sake, a new 2017 Land Rover Discovery Sport only manages 8.3 inches of ground clearance and a 25-degree approach angle.
- I wouldn’t even be mad if the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk were just a trim-and-paint affair. It absolutely looks the business, if your business is ignoring road laws and driving over medians. And everything you see is actually functional, from the deep tread on the 18-inch, Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Adventure tires to the red tow hooks in the front fascia to the anti-glare decal on the hood to the optional Mopar rock rails.
- It’s still a Grand Cherokee. Underneath the Trailhawk’s bravado is still my favorite five-passenger SUV with the industry’s best infotainment system, a comfortable-yet-commanding driving demeanor, and enough safety features to satisfy anyone with a family to protect.
- This is the real deal. Forgive me for parroting my first Pro, but you shouldn’t buy the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk for its looks alone. If you don’t plan to drive it off-pavement, you’ll be saddled with an SUV that makes real compromises in areas like comfort and efficiency for talents you never intend to tap. Tire noise, for instance, is noticeably loud inside the cabin, especially on the highway where a persistent drone is always audible. Also, while this V6-powered version shares the same combined rating of 21 miles per gallon with other 4x4 Grand Cherokees, I experienced lower numbers.
- Speaking of that engine, it feels less powerful and performs less efficiently than its numbers on paper promise. Jeep claims it produces up to 290 horsepower and 260 pound feet of torque, but it felt short of that while driving around town in terms of pick up and passing power. There’s a solution for this: choose the optional 5.7-liter V8 with 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque for an additional $3,295. There’s also a solution for its efficiency shortfall: choose the other optional engine, Chrysler’s excellent 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 that achieves up to 24 mpg combined (though costs an extra $4,500).
- My only other Con is that the Grand Cherokee feels a wee bit small on the inside. Rear seat room can be cramped, especially if the driver or front passenger are tall. While it competes with other two-row, midsize SUVs on price and features, it feels more akin to compact SUVs in terms of how much room is available for guests and cargo on the inside.
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Photos: John Neff / Motor1.com