The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the top of the line Jeep model. It’s one of the best mid-size SUVs out there that can handle both on-road and off-road situations. That being said, until the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk ($43,095 starting MSRP) came around, there wasn’t a designated off-road model. All Grand Cherokees can handle trails, but a hardcore off-roader was lacking from the lineup and off-road enthusiasts had to go with the Wrangler Unlimited, the Cherokee Trailhawk, or Renegade Trailhawk. The Grand Cherokee fills what is probably a fairly small but important niche.
Recently we had a chance to take the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk for two quick spins. One on road and another on a closed course off-road trail. Seeing as how we’ve driven the majority of the other Jeep models, we were excited to see how the trail-ready version of the Grand Cherokee stacks up to its siblings.
How Does It Look?
The Trailhawk has more of an angry look than many of the model’s other trim levels. Jeep got rid of most of the chrome on the exterior and interior of the vehicle. Where chrome usually sits, Jeep went with darker materials: mat finish metal or plastic, and little red accents. This helps to pull the Grand Cherokee closer in with the rest of the Trailhawk pack from a visual standpoint.
The exterior features a mat black finish on the hood to reduce glare when driving and red tow hooks up front. Aside from that, you get a blacked-out grille, mirrors, accents, and logos. Inside, the model gets leather and suede-trimmed seats, red accent stitching throughout the cabin and brushed black plastic in some areas.
How Does It Drive?
No matter how good the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk looks, what really won us over about the vehicle is how it handles off-road and on-road driving situations with ease. We had the pleasure of driving the vehicle in both settings.
On road, the Jeep offers a quiet and composed ride. It feels civilized and comfortable despite its off-road tires. Steering is a bit vague, and if you try to get after it on a twisty road, you’ll notice that the Kevlar-reinforced tires don’t play too well with the pavement. However, it’s more than capable for most peoples’ day-to-day driving needs and can double as a family hauler whenever necessary.
Off-road is where the vehicle shines. The model was built to go off the beaten path and sports a lot of special off-road equipment. It has hill ascent and descent control, Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case and Selec-Terrain dial, a limited-slip rear differential, a bunch of skid plates, and up to 10.8 inches of ground clearance thanks to adjustable suspension.
The short off-road closed course we drove the model on had been specially carved out to showcase the model’s prowess. We climbed over hills, slowly descended down steep grades, and even did a little bit of mild rock crawling. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk conquered all obstacles with ease.
The hill ascent and descent control
Should You Buy It?
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is the off-road ready vehicle that you get when the Wrangler Unlimited feels a little too bare bones for you. It’s a smart choice for the person with a family who wants to go off-road but also has to spend a considerable amount of time on pavement.
The folks who’ve bought Renegade or Cherokee Trailhawks should be thrilled they have something to upgrade to as well. They can jump up to the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk when they need something a little larger and more upscale.
In short, yes you should buy it. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is excellent. But it’s not the vehicle you should buy if you only plan to drive on pavement. If you hardly go off-road, there’s really no point in spending the extra money. You’d likely be happier with a different trim level of the Grand Cherokee, one that has more of a road tire and less designated off-road equipment. If you’re chasing the badass factor that comes with the Trailhawk, just pony up the bucks for the Grand Cherokee SRT. It’s got way more of it and would be a riot on any road, though it is quite expensive.