2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Quick Review

By Ash Westerman, 15 Nov 2016 Car Reviews

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will hit local showrooms next year, but what happens when you bolt a slew of off-road gear onto Jeep’s popular large SUV? Do the gains in bush-bashing capability lead to a compromise in performance on the blacktop?

TELL ME ABOUT THIS CAR 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is the most off-road capable variant of Jeep’s full-size 4x4 SUV. Trailhawk adds extra underbody protection, increased ride height, additional axle articulation and ultra-tough tyres to take you into extreme off-road terrain where a regular Grand Cherokee may struggle. 

STRENGTHS 

  • The adjustable air suspension allows you to raise the Trailhawk 62mm higher than other models in the Grand Cherokee range. This extra ground clearance allows you to tackle far steeper, more rugged or rocky conditions.    

  • Trailhawk’s suspension has extra ‘axle articulation’, meaning the suspension has a greater range of movement, increasing the chances of a driven wheel remaining in contact with the ground on rough terrain, and therefore maintaining traction and drive.   

  • The tyres fitted to Trailhawk have Kevlar reinforcement in the sidewalls, allowing them to absorb serious off-road punishment, and resist tears from rocks, etc.    

Jeep Grand Cherokee

  • A terrain selector allows you to choose between rocks, sand, mud and other conditions. The vehicle then choose the optimum ride height, throttle mapping, etc, best suited to that particular environment. 

  • The underbody of the Trailhawk is protected by four additional steel plates. This ensures rocks don’t damage driveline components. The underneath of the sidesills are also protected.     

  • A crawl function, that works both uphill and down, removes the need for the driver to control the throttle in very rugged ascents and descents.  

  • Despite the extra off-road ability, Trailhawk remains composed and refined on the road.  

Jeep Grand Cherokee

WEAKNESSES

  • For a large SUV, the rear seat is not especially commodious, and a slightly low seat base makes taller passengers feel their knees are bent at an acute angle. 

  • Some cabin trim can feel a bit budget.

  • The Trailhawk’s specific tyres and suspension settings do take away a small amount of on-road precision. For keen drivers who only do light-duty off-road driving on firetrails, etc, one of the regular Grand Cherokee models may be better suited.

Jeep Grand Cherokee

  • The extra protective equipment adds weight, so Trailhawk is a fairly heavy vehicle, and this adds to consumption and dulls acceleration slightly compared regular Grand Cherokee models. 

  • This current Grand Cherokee series has been the subject of numerous recalls to rectify faults, casting a shadow over the vehicles’ reliability. However Jeep insists this is behind them now, and the company says it has also moved to improve service times and parts supply. 

ANYTHING ELSE I SHOULD CONSIDER? 

For comparable off-road ability, you’ll need to look at the Land Rover Discovery, but to stay within the price bracket set by the circa-$75,000 (estimated) Trailhawk, that means the entry-level TD V6 model, which is not as well equipped as the Jeep, so you’ll need to hit the options list. However, Discovery is on the cusp of replacement with an all-new model. 

The Toyota Prado VX TD is priced about on par with the Jeep, and should deliver typical Toyota bulletproof reliability. However its 2.8-litre four-cylinder diesel puts out slightly lower outputs than the Trailhawk’s 3.0-litre V6, and its on-road handling is not as assured, due to its separate-chassis underpinnings, compared to the monocoque design of the Grand Cherokee.  

The Volkswagen Touareg V6 TDi delivers comparable outputs from its 3.0-litre V6 diesel, and has an outstanding sense of interior quality and craftsmanship. Also pretty handy off-road. However it’s a vehicle very late in its model life, with an all-new version, sure to be lighter, on all-new architecture, due next year.      

Then there’s the Mercedes-Benz GLE. It has plenty going for it, but to stay anywhere near the Jeep on price, you’ll be in the base GLE250d, with a 2.1-litre diesel four, and you’ll still be paying at least $10K more before you’ve even looked at the options list. It’s also likely to turn tail at really nasty terrain the Jeep will eat up.  

Now read the full review on the Jeep Grand Cherokee range.