Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 2017 review

RACV RoyalAuto magazine

Jeep Grand Cheroke Trailhawk

Snapshot

Price: $74,000 + $6415 (est.) ORC.
Engine: 3.0L turbo-diesel, AWD, 8spd auto
Safety: ESC, seven airbags, reversing camera, tyre pressure monitor.
Economy: 8.5L/100km.
Value: ***1/2

Jeep has a new Grand Cherokee range, and while all six models benefit from design enhancements, improved safety features and refreshed interiors, not all have the off-road attributes typically associated with the brand. 

There’s a two-wheel-drive Laredo from $47,500 plus on-road costs catering to those looking for a durable wagon for basic family duties. Its 3.2-litre V6 petrol engine is shared with the Laredo 4x4 ($52,500) and Limited 4x4 ($62,500), while a 3.0-litre diesel option adds $6500 to the two four-wheel-drive models. 

At the other end of the range is the sporting SRT from $91,000. Beyond the swag of luxury features, the SRT has Chrysler’s 6.4-litre Hemi petrol V8, Brembo high-performance brakes and active suspension damping. 

Serious off-road focus

It’s in the middle of the range that Jeep has positioned two models, both diesels, focused on serious outback touring – Trailhawk and Overland. The 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel engine delivers 184kW and a hefty 570Nm, driving through Jeep’s eight-speed automatic transmission. They have a rated towing capacity of 3500kg and electronic trailer sway control, plus a new hitch camera view to monitor trailers and loads on the move. 

From $80,000, the Overland leans towards luxury with a Nappa leather trim package and dual-pane panoramic sunroof. It also comes standard with an active safety package including adaptive cruise control, blind-spot and cross-path detection, lane-departure warning, park assist and advanced brake assist. 

Our test vehicle, though, is the new Trailhawk, the model described by Jeep as the most off-road-capable Grand Cherokee. Its standard equipment specification includes features focused on track work in lieu of the active safety package. Badged as “Trail Rated” – in Jeep parlance, that means it’s completed the Rubicon Trail, one of America’s most difficult 4WD courses – Trailhawk comes with Jeep’s most advanced Quadra-Drive II 4x4 set-up, which continually shifts drive to the individual wheel with the most traction. Also included is an electronic limited slip rear differential. 

Choice of five settings

Unique to Trailhawk in the Grand Cherokee line-up, Quadra-Drive II allows drivers to dial up five settings for improved traction and response on different off-road surfaces, plus it can raise or lower the vehicle using a unique version of the Quadra-Lift air suspension developed specifically for Trailhawk. It provides improved wheel articulation and up to 260mm ground clearance. Trailhawk also comes standard with heavy-duty engine cooling, all-terrain tyres, four underbody skid plates, front recovery hooks and hill ascent as well as hill descent control.

Jeep’s 3.0-litre diesel engine, in particular its strong 570Nm of torque at 2000rpm, underpins good all-round performance and flexibility, despite a hefty 2200kg kerb weight. Performance on and off road is enhanced notably by the eight-speed auto, which complements the low-speed engine torque, providing an appropriate gear for every occasion and slick responsiveness when needed in traffic or on steep roads. For off-road work, the driveline also features low range, providing more gear ratios than any other model when tackling slow bush tracks and difficult rock crawling. 

Surprisingly economical

You can never ignore the Jeep’s not inconsiderable unloaded weight during take-off and when braking, but the most surprising aspect of our diesel Jeep’s performance was the fuel economy. The Trailhawk averaged just 8.5L/100km and consistently dipped below 8.0L/100km on the open road, the eight-speed transmission with its free-wheeling characteristic when not under load again proving its worth. A 93-litre fuel tank is another good touring feature.

Trailhawk is most enjoyable and clearly right at home when touring on an open country road. Suspension settings are firm in order to provide suitable body control and yet it still manages to deliver good ride and handling compliance over rough roads. The electric power steering is well weighted and direct, which aids suburban driving, but you can never completely ignore or escape the effects of the vehicle’s bulk in daily commuting.

Jeep Grand Cheroke Trailhawk interior

Solid and spacious

When you climb into a Grand Cherokee, there’s an overwhelming feeling of solidity, of thick pillars and chunky features. Entry and exit can be aided by the adjustable ride height as there’s no step. The five-seater cabin is spacious and very comfortable, with particularly good head and leg space up front thanks to long electric seat travel. There’s a large centre touch-screen, gearshift paddles and multiple steering-wheel switches, which all work well once you’re familiar with them. Alternative four-wheel-drive modes are easily selected via a dial in the console. 

The usual hard plastic trim panels, which in our test car produced a constant buzzing sound, are thankfully broken up in presentation with a soft dash pad, and leather inserts for armrests and the like. The only truly disappointing aspect at the wheel is the antiquated left-foot park brake, which precludes the inclusion of a left foot rest, a particularly desirable feature for off-road driving.

Grand Cherokee is a good size with space and comfort for three across the rear seat, despite the appearance of two individual cushions. Features such as individual overhead lighting, two USB outlets, seat-back and door pockets, and easy-to-access childseat mounting points, including ISOFIX, are appealing for rear occupants. There’s a flexible load area with split-fold seating providing a proper flat floor. There are also protection rails in the rear compartment and an accessory power socket. Access is via a powered tailgate and it has a full-size spare wheel. 

The verdict

Trailhawk is the Grand Cherokee most ready and capable for off-road work. Engine and gearing easily cover all performance needs, and extra standard equipment is orientated to bush work. It has a new five-year warranty, but dealer backup is less prevalent in remote regions. Pricing puts it head to head with top-end competitors, yet you only get advanced safety features by optioning a $3250 safety pack.

JEEP GRAND CHEROKEE TRAILHAWK

Price

$74,000 + $6415 (est) ORC. Premium paint $650. Model range $47,500-$91,000. 

Safety

ESC. ABS. 7 airbags. Reversing camera. Front/rear sensors. Auto lights/wipers. ISOFIX fittings. Tyre pressure monitor. Trailer sway control. Hill ascent/descent control. Daytime running lights.

Connectivity

8.4” touch-screen. Sat-nav. Digital radio. USB/AUX/SD input.

Vehicle features

Dual-zone climate-control. Leather trim. Heated/ventilated powered front seats. Powered tailgate.

Driver features

 

Fully adjustable steering column. Keyless entry/start. Trailer hitch camera.

Specifications

Drivetrain: 2987cc, V6 turbo-diesel engine. All-wheel-drive. 8spd auto. 184kW@ 4000rpm, 570Nm@2000rpm. 
Performance: 0-60km/h, 3.6sec. 0-80, 5.6. 0-100, 8.1. 50-80, 3.3. 60-100, 4.9. 0-400m, 15.9. Stopping from 80km/h, 24.1m. 
Fuel: 8.5L/100km (RACV test); 7.5L/100km (govt test). 93L tank.  
Wheels: 18” alloy, 265/60 R18 tyres. 245/65 R18 steel spare.
Towing limits: 3500kg (braked trailer). 350kg towball limit.
Environment: 198g/km CO2

Category ratings

Pricing                                            ***
Features & equipment          ***1/2
Presentation                                ***
Comfort                                       ****
Space                                          ****
Noise                                            ***
Performance                             ****
Economy                                   ****
Handling & braking                   ***
Safety (ANCAP)                       *****

Service/Repairs

12-month/20,000km capped-price services.
5yr/100,000km warranty.


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Written by Ernest Litera
September 15, 2017