Jeep’s Cherokee has been an overwhelming success for Fiat-Chrysler of America (Chrysler’s new name that now goes by FCA). With its running lights that look like headlights and its headlights that appear like running lights, this unique light assembly has not deterrent folks from buying them in record numbers. In fact Jeep admitted that it didn’t expect to sell as many as they have and in fact are using the production lines that made the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart, to make more Jeep’s.
As for the hot selling Cherokee, they’re offered in Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk that was tested, and top-line Limited. Of the foursome, the Trailhawk is the off-road package version that includes such traction goodies as Jeep Active Drive Lock, Select Terrain System, Hill Start/Descent, Select Speed Crawl Control, Off Road Group/Suspension, Electronic Roll Mitigation and a low range gearing, locking differential and more. And this doesn’t even include other niceties like UConnect voice command infotainment that is standard with an 8.4-inch display. This allows Siri Eyes Free capability, a drag/drop menu bar and a nifty Do Not Disturb utility that forwards your phone calls to voicemail, which can send an automatic reply to text’s.
Trailhawk’s also gets leather seating, front passenger fold flat seat with in-seat storage compartment (nice), a driver’s knee bolster bag, cargo management system, blacked-out hood decal and considerably more standard features. To this you can optionally add more features but they jack the price way up there in the full-size Grand Cherokee SUV price zone. For example and on the test vehicle, the Safety Tec Group will add $1,045 but includes such desirables as Park Sense (rearview camera), Blind Spot/Cross Path Detection; Cold Weather Group consisting of heated front seats/steering wheel, heated mirrors, Engine Block Heater and Trailhawk Offroad accessory kit; Comfort-Convenience Group gives you remote start, power liftgate and seven more ($1,695); leather seating ($1,295); 3.2L V6 with electronic start/stop ($1,745); UConnect GPS nav and satellite radio ($845); 9 speakers and woofer ($395) plus delivery ($995), all of which raises the $30,595 base price to an eye-lifting $39,255.
Of course you can compromise on items to lower the price. For instance, you can replace the 3.2L V6 that generates 271-hp and 239 lb/ft of torque, with the standard 2.4L, four-cylinder with 184-hp and 171 lb/ft of torque. Both connect to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The 3.2L tested garnered EPA mileage ratings of 19 city, 26-highway mpg.
If you’re planning on any light towing, the V6 is the preferred engine as it’s rated for 4,500 pounds. As is, it exudes good acceleration and power from a standing stop and during highway passing maneuvers. Presumably, the four-cylinder would be breathing hard to carry four people plus its 4,028 pound curb weight. But the Pentastar V6 moves its 4,108-pound curb weight with ease.
Trailhawk’s front seats are supportive and comfy. And the front passenger side seat bottom flips up offering underseat storage. That’s a nifty feature that can hold a modest size woman’s purse or laptop computer. Step-in is 20 inches after traversing an 8-inch door sill (Note: Keep it clean or it’ll soil the back of pants legs).
Cargo load height is a mild 32 inches after opening the power lift gate with cargo space being rated at 54.9 cubic feet with the back seats folded or 58.9 if including the depth when flipping the flat folding front passenger seatback. The former equates to 33.75 inches of depth, 40 inches of height and 28.25 inches high. Flip the back seat and depth stretches to 62 inches.
Cherokee’s 4WD system is one of the better ones on the market and a rotary console mounted knob offers Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock modes. Then a separate knob has 4WD Lock and Rear lock modes for when the going gets really tough.
Ride wise and despite its heavy-duty underpinnings, the Trailhawk rode quietly, smoothly and had a relatively tight turning radius for easy parking. Taking sharp turns at speed requires a throttle down before entering a turn. A sports car it’s not. This vehicle is designed for offroading, so don’t expect both.
Cherokee Trailhawk comes with good safety ratings. It received four (out of a perfect 5) stars for an overall vehicle score; four for both driver/passenger frontal crash; five for front/rear side crash and four for rollover. Added to this, FCA offers a 5-year, 60K powertrain warranty and a 3/36K basic limited warranty.