It wants to take your antique purchase home and then conquer the trails

2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review

The takes on the off-road and on-road and wins

By: Amos Kwon

Web2Carz Editor-In-Chief

Published: December 23rd, 2015

What happens when you take a polarizing design and outfit it with all manner of perceived and actual toughness? You get more Jeep DNA and tradition than the base model of the Cherokee and you slap a "Trail Rated" badge on it. That's what the Trailhawk delivers, and Jeep bets that you'll be tempted to do more with it than just haul medium-sized home furnishings back home from Ikea.

We drove it recently to see what the extra dough the Trailhawk asks for his worth its mettle both on the highway, twisty roads and some hardpack.

  • Exterior: Trailhawk is Cherokee's Best Look

    When the Cherokee first came out, the design was a bit shocking. It's grown on us, and the Trailhawk version adds a beefier look and more serious internal features. The Trailhawk gets an extra inch of clearance, more pronounced black trim along the wheels, rocker panels and grille, chunky Firestone Destination All Terrain tires, more aggressive approach/departure angles and bright red tow hooks.

    • The new exterior details and the higher ride height give the Trailhawk a dose of testosterone the other Cherokee versions can't match
    • Matte finished hood bulge is almost a prerequisite
    • Manageable dimensions despite its perceived size
    • The right design for a modern Cherokee, eschewing the old boxy ethos
    • Unconventional headlight layout puts them below the driving lights, a bit confusing

  • Interior: Busy But Comfortable

    The Cherokee Trailhawk's interior isn't what you'd call good or bad. There are a lot of shapes going on, and the lack of good visual flow hurts the aesthetics. But it is comfortable, if not luxuriously so. Trailhawk emblazoned seats are big and soft but could use a bit more firmness for improved support. Oh, and there's a lot of gray in there.

    • Touchscreen is responsive but is visually busy.
    • Climate controls are big and easy to use.
    • The gearshift knob is strange in the hand and unnecessarily massive.
    • Seats are big and comfy with interesting flip-up storage we're not sure anyone will use.
    • The cabin could use more contrasting colors to dress up the very grey environment.

  • Driving Impressions: Good on pavement, great on trail

    The Trail-Rated Trailhawk is meant for off-roading, but Jeep took the time to make a big SUV that handles pavement pretty well. The big all-terrain tires do a very respectable job of providing road feel and low highway noise. The fact that it can handle turns better than most SUVs is a welcomed surprise. Take it into the dirt and the Trailhawk shines.

    • Accelerates quickly and responds well to driver input.
    • Nine-speed automatic transmission has two too many gears.
    • Great brake pedal feel that's progressive and predictable.
    • Upholds the Jeep reputation when the roads disappear.

  • Final Impressions: Jeep goes bold but still stays true

    There aren't many SUVs left that can take punishment off road while still giving a healthy dose of comfort and driving enjoyment. Thankfully, Jeep's Cherokee does a more than solid job of doing both. The Trailhawk version might not be taken off road that much, but it has the looks and the abilities to do so while also possessing the ability to drive you and your family every day in comfort. Other than some aesthetic drabness, the interior really lacks for nothing in terms of space, seating and amenities.

    The fact that it's loaded and not even kissing $40K means you get a lot for your money. The Trailhawk also happens to be the best looking Cherokee you can buy, and you can rest peacefully knowing that if things get rough out there, you've got an SUV that does more than just crest strip mall speed bumps.

  • Price & Specifications

    Engine: 3.2-liter naturally-aspirated V6

    Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual shifting

    Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, four-wheel drive

    Power Output: 271 horsepower / 239 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 19 city / 26 highway

    Base Price: $30,595

    As Tested: $37,565 (incl. $995 destination)

    Options on our test vehicle:

    Customer Preferred Package 27E: SafetTec Group - ParkSense Rear Park Assist System, Blind Sport and Cross Path Detection, Power Multi-Function Mirrors with Manual Fold-Away Exterior Mirrors with Turn Signals; Cold Weather Group - Heated Front Seats, Heated Steering Wheel, Windshield Wiper De-Icer, Power Heated Mirrors, Engine Block Heater, Trailhawk Off-Road Accessory Kit; Comfort/Convenience Group - Power Liftgate, Remote Start System, Keyless Enter-N-Go/Passive Entry, A/C Auto Temperature Control with Dual Zone Control, Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror with Microphone, Power 6-Way Driver Seat, Power 4-Way Driver Lumbar Adjust, Security Alarm, Universal Garage Door Opener

    Individual Options: 3.2-liter V6 24-Valve VVT Engine w/ Electric Stop/Start - 700 Amp Maintenance Free Battery, Dual Bright Exhaust Tips, Uconnect 6.4 Nav - GPS Navigation, HD Radio

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