Test Drive: 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk—Adventure Hauler


2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
(Photos: FCA)

With its specific off-road features, the Trailhawk, adds real go-anywhere capability to Jeep’s civilized midsize SUV.

When you think of automotive brands, Jeep is one of the most recognizable. Conjuring up images of rugged outdoor activities and getting away from it all in a vehicle that won’t let you down, it’s a powerful projection—probably why Jeep has successfully endured for more than 70 years.

Today, as part of the FCA umbrella, Jeep provides a range of SUV offerings to suit virtually all tastes and budgets and the mid-size Cherokee, introduced for 2014 arguably fits the needs of most.

Featuring distinctive styling and innovative features such as a segment first 9-speed automatic transmission and de-coupling front axle on 4×4 models, the Cherokee stands out amid a sea of generic soft-roaders reinforcing the brand’s reputation as tough, innovative and genuine.

The Trailhawk model further accentuates that image, incorporating an extra inch of ground clearance than other versions, as well as standard front and rear skid plates, locking rear differential and standard tow hooks. Distinctive black finished 17-inch aluminum wheels, lower body cladding and centre hood stripe add to the rugged, all-business persona, while a universal module rack in the cargo area and available features such as a tow rope, gloves, foldable cooler and a first-aid kit mean this Trail Rated Jeep can be spec’d fully-equipped for the Yukon right off the showroom floor.

Our particular test victim stickered at a base price of $31,595 which included all the standard Trailhawk hardware—9-speed automatic transmission with Active Drive II 4×4 system; Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control, Electronic Roll Mitigation, All-Speed Traction Control; anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes; back-up camera, active head restraints, and Uconnect system with a 8.4-inch touch screen, plus SiriusXM satellite radio and a multitude of airbags including multi-stage front air bags, front seat knee bolsters and supplemental front and rear seat side airbags.

Optional equipment included the 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 engine with stop-start and a 3.25:1 final drive ratio; Cold Weather group (heated front seats, steering wheel, washer nozzles), Technology group (including Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Advanced Brake Assist, Lane Sense departure warning, adaptive cruise control and parallel and perpendicular park assist), Comfort and Convenience Group,, Trailer Tow Group, Leather Interior Group, Command View sunroof, memory seats and upgraded stereo, which along with taxes and fees brought the total to $44,430 out the door, highly competitive considering that in this segment, the Trailhawk doesn’t have any true competitors and represents a distinctly affordable showroom traffic builder for Jeep retailers.


So it looks tough, but how will your customers view it once they get behind the wheel? Based on our own assessments, probably very well. Out of the Cherokee’s two available engines, the optional 3.2-litre V6 is arguably best suited to this mid-size SUV, providing significantly more power (271 hp) and torque (237 lb-ft) over the Tigershark II Multi-Air four-cylinder, (184 hp and 161 lb-ft) while delivering good observed fuel economy (13.1 L/100 km in the city, 9.6 L/100 km on the open road). By comparison, unless driven very gingerly, the four-cylinder Cherokee won’t likely achieve better than 11.5 L/100 km in town and 8.6 L/100 km on the highway, so for customers shopping for the Trailhawk the extra power and torque, plus the 4,000 lb towing capacity the V6 provides, is something to bear in mind.

On the road, the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk understandably exhibits a little tire noise from its Firestone Destination All-Terrain rubber but is otherwise, pleasant, refined and very agile by mid-size SUV standards. Seat comfort and ergonomics are sound; the driving position is good, as is outward visibility and control access and functionality (including the 8.4-inch touch screen that’s more intuitive to use than most). An additional benefit is the folding 60/40-split rear seat that features adjustable tracks to add flexibility for those with growing families or a preference for weekend camping trips.

The technology group is likely to still prove a bit polarizing for some buyers, though at a $900 cost represents decent value. We found the parallel and perpendicular parking assist useful for those not accustomed to maneuvering in tight confines, while the auto high beam headlight function and LaneSense lane departure warning features proved welcome safety editions, specially when driving longer distances.

What really sets the Trailhawk model apart however, is when it’s time to leave the tarmac. With 8.7-inches of ground clearance, combined with approach and departure angles of 29.8 and 32.1 degrees respectively, drivers can easily have the confidence to tackle trails a little more challenging than your average gravel road. With five customized settings offered on the Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system, (Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock) the Trailhawk allows you to select your preferred mode and carefully modulates engine speed and braking, enabling the driver to simply steer and focus on the terrain ahead.

While it isn’t quite in the same league as a Jeep Wrangler, nor does it pretend to be, as far as mainstream modern SUVs go, the Cherokee Trailhawk is far more comfortable driving through the backcountry than most and justifiably earns its Trail Rated status.


Vehicle: Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Price as Tested: $44,430

Engine / Transmission (as tested): 3.2L V6/ 9-speed Auto

Noteworthy Features / Important Selling Features:

3.2-litre Pentastar V6 engine, 9-speed 948TE automatic transmission, One-inch factory suspension lift, Jeep Active Drive lock with locking rear differential, Active Drive II 4×4 system with Selec-Terrain, standard front and rear skid plates, P245/65R17 all-terrain tires, black 17-inch wheels, CommandView dual-pane sunroof, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist, Advance Brake Assist, LaneSense lane departure warning, Uconnect 8.4AN multi-media system.

Fuel Economy (advertised): 12.2 L/100 km (city), 9.0 L/100 km (hwy),

Fuel Economy (as tested): 13.1 L/100 km (city), 9.6L/100 km (hwy)

Chief Competition (top 3): Ford Escape SE; Hyundai Sante Fe Sport; Toyota RAV4 XLE

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