If there is one 4WD SUV that has endured over the years and remains a top seller, it’s Jeep’s Grand Cherokee. This mid-size capable SUV was and is still, the benchmark for all sport utes. And in fact, Four Wheeler Magazine named it their 2017 SUV of the Year.
The Grand Cherokee is offered in Laredo, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, hot SRT and ultra hot Trackhawk that puts out 707-hp from its 6.2L supercharged V8. Jeep says it can do the 0-60 mph in 3.5 seconds.
Of all the fine traits the Grand Cherokee (GC) has, its major one is its proven 4WD system. If anyone has 4X4 down pat, it’s Jeep. And the Trailhawk comes with Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II/QuadraTrac II systems that offer five modes of Auto, Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock. all selectable by a rotary dial on the console. The system also includes rear Electronic Limited-Slip differential with Jeep’s special Quadra-Lift air suspension that improves suspension articulation and travel.
This off-road prowess is assisted by an 8.7-inch undercarriage clearance and the Quadra Lift of Off-Road1 raises the vehicle approximately 1.1 inches, or select Off-Road2, and it lifts it 2.2 inches for better rock crawling clearance. All total, the air suspension provides 10.6 inches of ground clearance.
Then there’s Aero Mode that lowers the vehicle approximately 0.5 of an inch and Entry/Exit mode that lowers it 1.6 inches through Jeep’s UConnect touchscreen system. All driver selectable.
Lest we forget, the Cherokee has an acute approach angle of 25.7 degrees, a breakover angle of 27.1 degrees and a departure angle of 27.1 degrees and there’s also a skid plate. Plus, Trailhawk puts down a wide 8-inch footprint with its Goodyear Wrangler 265/60R18-inch deep treaded tires. All contribute to sure-footedness both on and off-road. Of course the Trailhawk, like all GC’s, is Trail Rated and carries that noted badge on its fenders.
Grand Cherokee is available with a choice of four engines: a 3.6L V6 with 295-hp and 260 lb/ft of torque (18/25 mpg); 5.7L with 360-hp and 390 lb/ft of torque 914/22 mpg); 3.0L diesel V6 with 240-hp and 420 lb/ft of torque (21/28 mpg) and a 6.4L V8 with 475-hp and 470 lb/ft of torque (13/19 mpg).
We tested the 3.6L V6 with Start/Stop system and it proved to be a decent performer despite its hefty 4,869-pound curb weight. It transfers power to the wheels through an 8-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters) for its 18 city, 25-highway mpg rating is about on par with others in this SUV class. The combination is capable of towing up to 6,200 pounds and it carries a GVWR of 6,500 pounds.
After a 21-inch step-in and over an 8-inch threshold, you’re treated to exceptionally supportive leather and sueded heated/ventilated Recaro-type front seats embossed with the Trailhawk logo. Your eyes will quickly go to the massive 8.4-inch touchscreen with Chrysler’s UConnect system that offers 3G Wi-Fi hotspot capability, rearview camera and a host of standard apps. There’s also an Auto Park mode for those who have trouble parallel parking.
The heated back seat is comfy for three adults, but the center most portion is only for short statured folks as the console leaches into the area somewhat. But there’s ample leg and head room.
Back in the cargo area that is rated at 36.3 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 68.3 with them folded. Perhaps more meaningful, the area measures 38.5 inches deep, 45 wide and 30.5 high. Flip the 60/40 seat backs by simply pulling a handle and the headrests flip down and seats flip forward automatically. With them folded depth extends to 72 inches or a full six feet. Built into the cargo wall is a convenient LED flashlight and under the floor is some small item storage around the full-size spare tire.
Although the Trailhawk is equipped for off-road adventuring, it rides as smoothly as a luxury sedan on-road. It’s tight, holds the road like super glue and emits a safe, secure driving/riding feel. And because of that, the GC Trailhawk garnered a full five-star overall vehicle score from government safety testing, five each for driver/passenger frontal crash, five for front/rear side crash and four for rollover.
Price wise, the Trailhawk carried a base of $43,095 with a very long list of standard features. To this was added a Customer Preferred package ($2,695) that included many niceties including a panoramic sunroof; Active Safety Group ($1,495) that added advanced brake assist, full speed forward collision warning, lane departure warning, Park Assist and much more; Rock Rails ($895); UConnect with GPS nav, satellite radio ($450); Blind Spot/Cross Path Detection ($595) and delivery ($995) brought the bottom line to $50,220. About the same price maybe somewhat less than many comparable SUVs on the market.
For the money, you’re getting a proven, capable, safe SUV that can go where many others fear to tread.