“The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk managed to fly below my radar for a while. But having spent a week with it, and its little brother—the Renegade Trailhawk, I’m convinced that Jeep offers the coolest and most capable crossovers in the business.”
2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk – This Size Fits All
My first time behind the wheel of a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk happened during a media event in Texas a few months back, and the setting was a ranch with similar weather conditions to a scene from Matthew McConaughey’s “Interstellar”. Hot. Dusty.
I was so impressed with the Jeep during my bumpy 5 mile drive, that I promptly contacted the right people about spending some time with the Cherokee back at home, and with the real judges—my family. Fast forward a couple of months, and we had the chance to do just that.
Is it an SUV or is it a Jeep?
First of all, I have to praise FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) for putting out such a radical and aggressive design. This Jeep looks like nothing else on the road, and to me—that’s a good thing.
For starters, what I love the most about this unique-looking machine, is its ability to be nonchalant when needed, and mean and rugged (for the lack of a non-family-friendly word) when desired. Seriously, alike the Renegade, the Cherokee can cruise smooth, brake with confidence, and do all the fabulous things that mainstream SUVs do, but should you leave the safety and comfort of paved roads, it turns into a wildly capable off-roader.
Ultimately, the only “Jeep-ish” trait the Cherokee Trailhawk couldn’t hide, was its relatively poor fuel-efficiency. After a week and a few hundred miles in the odometer, the 271-hp, 6-cylinder engine delivered 19mpg combined.
As a kid I only knew of two Jeeps, the iconic Wrangler, and the Grand Cherokee. One because it was really cool, and the other because it was what grown-up Jeep lovers owned. Which explains why I never thought of Jeeps as being family-friendly. Boy was I wrong…
As I mentioned before, even in the Trailhawk configuration the Cherokee possesses excellent road manners, but the entire vehicle comes alive when you start paying close attention to details. For example; do you need a place to keep road-trip snacks, gloves, charging cords, or in the case of my youngest—Shopkins? Then simply lift up the seat cushion of the passenger seat, and you’ll find a weirdly-placed but highly-effective storage bin.
Do the kiddos need a power source for their many electronics? You’re in luck, because there’s a 115-volt, household-style plug in the rear center console. Do your kids get hot or cold in the back seat? The Cherokee’s got you covered with rear dual-ac vents.
Other small details like: glow-in-the-dark USB and AUX cord plug-ins, a discreet dash compartment excellent for sunglasses, receipts, toys (I know), etc., and even a fully folding second row truly highlight the utilitarian and family-friendly capabilities of the Cherokee.
You’ll find two sets of LATCH/ISOFIX anchors in the rear seat, and plenty of cargo room (54.9-cu ft.) in the trunk to fit a stroller, suitcases, camping gear… or more toys.
Technology & Comfort
“That’s a really steep hill” my friend and colleague Chad, said.
I’m not a big tech-geek by any means, but I do love a nice and responsive touchscreen with easy to use features, and the Cherokee has that. Though it’s impossible to speak of technology without highlighting the astonishing off-road tech that makes the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk uber-capable.
Back to the “really steep hill”. We took the Jeep to an off-road park to experience some of its off-road wizardry, and quite early into our journey we realized that the question wasn’t “can it do it, but “how easily can it do it?” At the foot of the hill I shifted into neutral, selected 4wd-low, tapped the Crawl Control button, and I let the magic happen. The Cherokee Trailhawk climbed a muddy and slippery hill, which our highly-mathematical minds calculated was a about a 25 to 30-degree incline.
No wheel-slip, no drama. In fact, we felt like total nerds for making such a big deal about it before the climb.
Shall you desire to perform all of these highly exploratory off-road adventures while listening to your favorite jams, and with your buns and hands toasty, you’re in luck—again! Whether you’re cruising to work, or tearing up the sand dunes, the Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system offers a beautiful and responsive touchscreen as portal to the XM-HD radio, apps, climate controls, Bluetooth connectivity, backup camera, etc.
Given the 30 to 40-degree weather during our test, the plush and supportive leather seats were mainly experienced with the heated function on, as well as the heated steering wheel. Heck, even the wiper blades were heated!
Remote start, heated seats, heated steering wheel and heated wiper blades. Suck it, winter!
Commonly I get to spend time with vehicles that I’ve always loved and desired, and sadly, it’s even more common to realize they’re not all I thought they’d be.
What isn’t all that common, and it’s in fact—extremely rewarding, is to enjoy and admire a vehicle that you never paid much attention to. And that’s exactly what happened with the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. It simply is a great SUV on the road, it’s spacious for the kids, it’s safe (4-star overall NHTSA score), it’s good looking, comfortable, and if the fuel-consumption really annoyed me all that much, Jeep also builds the Cherokee with a much more efficient but less powerful 4-cylinder engine.
In the end, there is one problem. If I owned one, I’d want to off-road all too often, and that’s certainly a recipe for disaster…
- Extremely versatile.
- Can just about go “anywhere”.
- Grown up vehicle, but still fun to drive.
- Easy to use onboard technology.
The not so great:
- USB charging ports in the back would be nice.
- 9-speed transmission would never shift into 8th or 9th gear (even at cruising speeds).
- Could never figure out when the electronic parking brake would engage automatically or not.
- Starts at: $23,395
- Price as tested: $37,565