As spring weather finally arrives in Toronto, thoughts are turned to summer adventure and big family outings, and what vehicle is better for the job than the Jeep Grand Cherokee? The Grand Cherokee has served as Jeep’s flagship family SUV for over 25 years now, combining refined luxury and legendary Jeep capability in a family friendly package. New for 2017, the folks at Jeep claim they’ve built the most capable model ever, the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
The Grand Cherokee’s smaller sibling, the Cherokee, has been offered with a Trailhawk package (reviewed here) for a couple of years now, and it has not only proven itself with strong sales, but also impressive off-road ability with little on-road compromise. Hopefully, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will live up to the same standard.
The Grand Cherokee itself is a handsome looking SUV that manages to avoid the all-too-common “sporty, round crossover” look by maintaining more traditional SUV proportions and Jeep styling cues. For 2017, all models get a minor facelift to the fascia, but the Trailhawk package takes the Grand Cherokee’s looks in a much more rugged direction with prominent grey body cladding, a flat black hood decal, bright red rubberized tow hooks and unique 18” alloy wheels wrapped in aggressive looking Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires. Finished in bright Redline Pearl, this tester garnered lots of attention.
Inside the Trailhawk there is very little change from the standard Grand Cherokee, with the exception of the seats, replaced with some great looking black leather buckets complete with suede inserts, red stitching and “Trailhawk” logos. The seats are a bit on the hard side and actually not as comfortable as the standard units. Otherwise, the Trailhawk benefits from interior space that is very well thought out. Controls are all well placed, the driving position and visibility are good, and there is no shortage of storage space whether it be up front or in the large cargo area.
A typical Grand Cherokee trait, the cargo area has some exposed aluminum “ribs” which help to make sliding cargo in and out easier, and also do their part to protect the plush carpeting. The rear seats can be folded flat, and are adjustable on sliding rails to allow for extra legroom or cargo room depending on your needs. Materials inside the Trailhawk are aligned with the other midrange trim levels, whereas stepping up to the pricier Summit trim will get you even more leather and a gorgeous faux suede headliner. The Trailhawk gets by with more soft-touch plastics and a black cloth headliner.
There is no shortage of gadgets to keep everyone comfortable and entertained inside the Grand Cherokee. The Trailhawk comes standard with a heated steering wheel, heated seats all around, and ventilated seats up front, a 506-watt nine-speaker stereo with subwoofer, and the 8.4” Uconnect infotainment system. Adding the $2,995 Luxury Group delivers even more goodies, with a dual pane panoramic sunroof, rain sensing wipers and a full scale lighting upgrade on the outside of the vehicle. This includes bi-xenon auto adjusting headlamps, LED fog lamps and LED daytime running lights.
The test truck also came equipped with a $2,150 DVD entertainment system for rear passengers, Mopar rock rails at $1,195 and the Active Safety Group at $1,495 which includes adaptive cruise control among other driving aids. The base price of the Trailhawk is $57,245 and with the above options, plus a few more add-ons the as tested price comes out to $68,980, which is more than the starting price of a Summit trim level Grand Cherokee. One would need to choose their preferences carefully between the Trailhawk’s rugged off-road merits and the luxury of upper trim models like the Limited (reviewed here). It’s also noteworthy that as the prics creeps closer to $70,000, that puts this particular Grand Cherokee up against some tough competition if one was interested in cross-shopping any of the German offerings, or even the larger Chevrolet Tahoe (reviewed here).
One of those little add-ons mentioned happens to be the legendary 5.7L HEMI V8 engine, a $2,400 cost to upgrade from the standard 3.6L V6, bringing a brawny 360 horsepower and 390 lb-ft. of torque. The engine upgrade is well worth the cost for anyone who enjoys the confident thrust of acceleration that the V8 can deliver just about any time, anywhere. Either engine is mated to the eight-speed TorqueFlite transmission, which is one of the smoother and quicker shifting mainstream transmissions out there today, and it feels right at home behind this powerful V8.
The HEMI does come with the FuelSaver MDS system which cuts the engine down to four-cylinders while cruising at highway speed and additional power is not needed. It then seamlessly switches back to all eight cylinders when you need the power. The system combined with the eight-speed’s efforts of keeping the RPMs down helps to keep the HEMI’s fuel consumption at bay. While not exactly thrifty, the Grand Cherokee delivered a very acceptable 14.2L/100km after a weeklong test.
Holding the title of the most capable Grand Cherokee ever isn’t something to take lightly, and the Trailhawk has the kit to back up its status including the Quadra-Drive II 4×4, which includes a proper limited-slip differential. The Trailhawk also gets its own version of Jeep’s Quadra-Lift air suspension which adjusts the ride height between five available modes from its class-leading 274mm maximum off-road setting, to a special lower setting for easy exit and entry. There’s even an aero mode which automatically adjusts to reduce drag at higher speeds. This all means better traction and maximum articulation over obstacles for the Trailhawk.
This also means you don’t need to compromise on the road either, as the Trailhawk proves itself to be a very comfortable, quiet and competent highway cruiser. Despite the beefy all-terrain tires, the cabin is nearly completely silent, and steering remains tight and responsive considering the dimensions and weight of the Grand Cherokee (reviewed here). The ride on the air suspension is just that; airy, as the Trailhawk does an excellent job of minimizing even the biggest city potholes.
Strictly on tires alone, there would certainly be a difference between the road manners of the Trailhawk and a regular Grand Cherokee, but short of driving them back to back, no significant differences were noted. If both on-road and off-road capability isn’t enough, the Grand Cherokee also boasts best in class towing with the ability to tow up to 7200lb. when properly equipped. All models come with trailer sway control to help make towing just a bit more confident.
This trim level does one heck of a job defending the Grand Cherokee’s lore as a family hauler with serious capability, making it the perfect tool for the adventurous family, provided that they can palate the cost. The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk upholds the original sentiment of the SUV as a true do-anything, go anywhere vehicle, only with the added touch of modern luxury and refinement that the Grand Cherokee has always been associated with.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Gallery