The Cherokee is a very capable little SUV, especially when optioned with the V6 and the Trailhawk package.
The current iteration of the Jeep Cherokee is one of those vehicles that has slowly grown on the public over the last couple of years. At first, the polarizing styling was just too big of a departure from the Cherokee had been known to be; a boxy no-nonsense SUV. The Cherokee stands out from the crowd – its unique design, Jeep heritage, and unrivaled off-road capabilities make the truck a truly unique offering in what has quickly become a very crowded segment. Curious as to whether the off-road oriented Trailhawk trim just made the Cherokee look tough or not, we grabbed the keys to this 2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 in Leather Plus guise.
Though still not “pretty”, the Trailhawk package sort of makes the Cherokee’s awkward looks work. The black 17” off-road style rims, extensive matte-finish body cladding, bright red rubberized tow hooks, and flat black hood decal do a great job of making the Trailhawk look the part of a serious off-roader. This all also serves as a bit of a distraction from the few awkward lines and towards some of the Cherokee’s more interesting exterior traits. The standard LED daytime running lights (on all models); oddly, when combined with the headlamps below, and the fog-lights below that form an interesting looking stack of three-bright lights. Our tester also was equipped with a nice looking dual outlet exhaust with polished stainless steel tips.
The Trailhawk branding is carried inside as well, with red stitching and the “Trailhawk” lettering stitched into the fine Nappa leather seats, which by the way are surprisingly soft compared to the leather you’ll find in most of the Cherokee’s competitors. The front seats are heated and ventilated, which compliments the leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. There’s also an off-road accessory kit included in the cargo area, which is mounted to a rail you can use to tie stuff down to keep it from bouncing around on while you’re on the trails. Unfortunately, the setup does encroach a bit on the cargo space.
Like most two-row midsize SUVs, the cargo area is plenty deep, and the rear seats fold flat making for a decently sized loading area. Storage up front is good with deep door pockets, a usable centre console storage, deep cupholders, a small storage tray up near the front of the console and even a little covered storage bin built into the top of the dash.
While the interior is functional, it’s also a pretty nice place to spend time. The dashboard and most panels are made of a soft-touch plastic that does a decent job of emulating leather. The design makes use of a lot of organic shapes, but they don’t necessarily flow, which means the interior doesn’t feel quite as refined as it could. There are a few pieces of silver finish accents thrown about, and the dash is dominated by the 7” touchscreen, which runs the optional UConnect 8.4” infotainment and navigation system.
FCA’s UConnect is one of the benchmarks in the industry, but it’s still a gripe how the heated seats and steering wheel need to be controlled through the touch screen – please just give us a button like those in the RAM 1500 (reviewed here). The rest of the controls are simple to operate, including the audio which sounds great through the optional amplified nine-speaker system. My tester came equipped with the ($1600) Command View dual-pane glass roof as well, which is a great touch and brightens up the cabin significantly.
Jeep offers the Technology Group, which for a mere $995 adds all the latest in driving aids including the coveted adaptive cruise control. It also includes forward collision warning and active brake assist, rain sensing wipers, lane keep assist and park assist. For the small price, we recommend this package as an essential for potential buyers.
Powering this Trailhawk is the optional 3.2L Pentastar V6, which puts out an impressive 271 horsepower. With a cost of only $1,600 to step to the V6, it’s a no brainer over the standard 2.4L. The Pentastar does lack bottom-end torque, but thanks to the Trailhawk’s 3.517 drive ratio gears, the shorter gearing does a good job compensating. The nine-speed automatic feels better than when it first debuted, but it’s still not where it needs to be from a refinement standpoint. It has a tendency to gear hunt, and simply changing from park to drive results in occasional delayed engagement.
As alluded to earlier though, the Cherokee is a very capable little SUV, especially when optioned with the V6 and the Trailhawk package. There are three different 4×4 systems to choose from, the most serious of which comes on the Trailhawk. This includes a locking rear differential, low range mode, and a neutral mode so the Cherokee can be flat towed behind an RV as many adventurers would. The off-road suspension allows for 8.7” of ground clearance, and adds skid plates protecting all of the most vulnerable areas underneath the Jeep.
In addition to the 4×4 system, the Cherokee also comes with the Selec-Terrain system, allowing drivers to select the type of terrain, and the Jeep’s systems can optimize control. We didn’t get any snow during our test, but in the interest of thorough testing, we exercised the low range 4×4 capability by crawling the Jeep through a heavily rutted and partially frozen field. The Trailhawk made light work of the fairly tough terrain.
Off-roading isn’t the Cherokee’s only trick. When optioned with the V6 and the $495 Towing package, which includes cooling system upgrades, the Cherokee (reviewed here) is rated to tow up to 4500 pounds. This number is heads and shoulders above the majority of the Cherokee’s competitors, and enough for most travel trailers, small boats, and snowmobiles.
Building a capable SUV is one thing, but building one that’s also decent to drive on the highway is a different game, and it’s one that the Cherokee has been excelling at for years. From behind the wheel, even in Trailhawk trim, it’s not obvious that you’re piloting something properly equipped to head off-road. It’s quiet, there’s no tire hum from the beefy all-terrains, steering is responsive, and the ride is exceptionally complacent. Highway driving is confident and relaxing, making this the kind of Jeep you can happily drive hours to a remote trail, enjoy your off-road adventure, and get right back on the highway without ever feeling out of place.
All this capability is going to cost you in two places. The first place is at the dealer, as the Trailhawk starts at $35,645. Stepping up the more luxurious Leather Plus version brings the price to $38,640 – add to that the few options my tester has and you’re quickly looking at $45,000. The other place the Trailhawk specifically is going to hit you is at the fuel pumps; we averaged 12.2L/100km, compared with the 9.6L/100km average we squeezed out of a front-wheel drive Cherokee V6 (reviewed here). I credit that difference to the additional weight of the 4×4 system, increased ride height, shorter gearing and all the Trailhawk ‘kit’ that you’re lugging around.
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 is one of the few true go anywhere, do-anything SUVs left on the market today. Yet somehow, it’s as refined and as easy to live with as any of its competitors are, which genuinely is a tough act to beat. If proper versatility is what you’re looking for in a “right-sized” SUV, it’s difficult to look anywhere else other than Jeep.
2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 Gallery