Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 2018 road test review
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Big, well appointed and unsurprisingly capable when the going gets rough, this premium SUV nonetheless has a few quirks to be aware of.
Road test report: Ernest Litera
Jeep's recent history has been about diversification. Despite a name that resonates with toughness in military combat, today's Jeep Grand Cherokee line-up ranges from family adventures to raw emotive performance.
An eight-model line-up starts with a more conventional two-wheel-drive SUV, the 3.6-litre petrol Laredo from $47,500 plus on road costs, and tops out with the high-performance 6.2-litre petrol V8 SRT Trackhawk from $134,900.
The electric power steering is great on a rough bush track, but woefully vague and insensitive on the freeway.
In the middle of the range sits the Trailhawk which, as its name suggests, is the model best equipped to tackle the worst off-road conditions. Therein lies a conundrum: there are aspects of the Trailhawk's design and features that are orientated to off-road driving, which in some instances are to the detriment of everyday use, and visa-versa.
For example, the electric power steering is overly isolated from bump feedback, which is great on a rough bush track, but woefully vague and insensitive on the freeway. Equally disconcerting is the throttle response. It can lurch from a dull crawl to a sudden surge of turbo power if drivers are less than sensitive with inputs. Good launch feel in a heavy vehicle is one thing; however, the lack of smooth transition from fuel-saving shut-off on overrun to a turbo-charged pickup surge is not what you want on a difficult track.
Overall, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is a smart, well-equipped and nicely presented 4x4 wagon. It features a comprehensive list of safety equipment and a five-star ANCAP rating, together with practicality in accommodation, storage compartments, load-carrying space and child seat installation.
Warnings, cameras and intervention systems abound, and not always in a reassuring manner
From the outside it looks no larger than the competition, but step inside and it feels decidedly more substantial, albeit almost boxed in by its thick-set pillars, narrow glass and dark, chunky trim, which emphasise bulk. Outward vision can be an issue, and there's also a lot for drivers to take in.
Multiple functions are available in stepped computer programs, along with the 8.4-inch touch screen and a comprehensive array of switches and controls. Curiously, an audio volume controller has been omitted from the steering wheel. Warnings, cameras and intervention systems abound, and not always in a reassuring manner. Hyperactive parking sensors can be distracting, as is the blind spot warning being activated when using the indicator in a multi-lane turn.
Familiarisation will be the driver's first task, followed by finding somewhere to put your left foot, as the transmission housing significantly compromises the footwell space, which also houses an antiquated foot-operated park brake.
Nicely separated from the busy dash and dominating the centre console are the Trailhawk's full range of electronically selectable off-road controls. Included are four different track surface conditions - high/low range, crawl speed, and hill descent with paddle shift control.
The Trailhawk employs Jeep's most advanced 'Quadra-Drive 11' 4x4 system with an electronic limited-slip rear diff, Quadra-Lift air suspension for 260-millimetre ground clearance, underbody skid plates and Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear tyres. Tyre pressure sensors and readout are invaluable for a 4x4 touring wagon.
Power comes exclusively from a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel offering 184kW of power and an impressive 570Nm of torque delivered from just 2000rpm, via a conventional eight-speed automatic. It's more than sufficient to make the Trailhawk's not-inconsiderable 2340-kilogram kerb weight feel quite lively in daily use, and there's certainly adequate grunt to handle the 3500-kilogram braked towing capacity. Fuel economy in empty commuting form ranged between 8.1 and 10.1 L/100km.
Overall, the Trailhawk is a smart, well-equipped and nicely presented 4x4 wagon.
The cabin presentation, apart from a dodgy glovebox lid in our test vehicle, is smart and upmarket, with front-seat occupants riding in well contoured, heated and fully electrically adjustable Nappa leather seats with perforated suede inserts. The rear seats are also heated and air vents, pockets, overhead lighting and easy child seat access are also thoughtfully included. Although not particularly spacious, the rear is more than adequate for adult comfort - yet thick pillars plus dark glass and trim continue the closed-in feeling.
One real eye opener is the Trailhawk's cargo volume, particularly when employing the 60/40 split-fold rear seat. Its square walls, hard and flat floor, power socket and spotlights in the powered tailgate are a joy for anyone who needs to carry stuff. True to its 4x4 mantra, there's a full-size alloy spare and tools under the rear floor.
We note scheduled service intervals for the diesel have been extended to 20,000 kilometres or 12 months, while petrol models are at 15,000 kilometres. This is at odds with general servicing recommendations for vehicles travelling in arduous outback conditions. According to Jeep, they are also putting a concerted effort into building a larger stock of spare parts, a more rapid supply and distribution network, and reducing servicing costs. Clearly these are issues that have previously niggled owners travelling in remote areas.
Emotive, accommodating, well equipped and more than competent off-road, the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk scores consistently well in its overall star ratings, which glosses over myriad niggles that make it less satisfying to live with.
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