REVIEW: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 -Two Rows, Eight Cylinders, Zero Compromises

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For those that include true off-road capability as a requirement, this may be the best two-row premium SUV in the world at any price.

What is it? 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is a rugged, two-row premium SUV. The line offers a wide range of trims, drivetrains, and interiors to cover a broad range of budgets.

Pricing and trims

Starting with the $31K RWD Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, and ending at the $76K Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT Signature Trim, the Grand Cherokee is many things to many people. There are no less than ten individual trims and within these trims V6 and V8 gasoline engines, as well as a diesel to chose from. Not to mention the choice of rear or 4-wheel drive.

Our 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 came with all of the comfort and convenience options one would look for in a premium two-row crossover like the class-leading Lexus RX 350. The Trailhawk name, when applied to a Jeep indicates a true off-roader. A vehicle capable of the most extreme off-road conditions and our tester had that content and ability. With its many luxury, safety, and off-road options, plus the optional HEMI V8 engine, our test vehicle came to just $53,515. A Mercedes GLE 400 with similar capabilities would cost $30K more than this Jeep.

Safety

The Jeep Grand Cherokee does not come standard with forward collision prevention (FCP) and automatic braking, but our tester had that and more.

The $1,495 Jeep Active Safety Group option package added Adaptive Cruise Control, Full-Speed FCP, Advanced Brake Assist, Lane Departure Warning Plus, and parking assist. The Luxury group added Bi-Xenon HID headlamps with Auto High Beam Control and Auto Headlight leveling. A stand alone option added Blind Spot and Cross Traffic Detection, and a backup camera is standard. Other than a crash helmet and parachute, this Jeep had every possible safety device an on-road or off-road driver would ever need.

Unfortunately, the Grand Cherokee only managed to score Marginal on the IIHS Small FrontalOverlapp Test. The Grand Cherokee’s forward collision prevention system is also rated only Basic by IIHS, though we suspect that it may have evolved a bit since the last test.

Performance

The optional V8 HEMI engine in our Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 was powerful and torquey. Having driven the diesel version of the Grand Cherokee, this is my personal favorite. Its 390 hp dramatically surpasses the V6 and EcoDeisel engine’s and its 390 ft-lb of torque is very close to the diesel as well. The V8 has a 7,400 pound maximum towing capacity, the same as the Grand Cherokee when equipped with the EcoDeisel. Combined fuel economy is 17 MPG, but taken in context, that is not unexpected. Our V8-equipped Nissan Armada tester last week had a 15 MPG rating (though it was larger).

Throttle response is excellent. From a stop, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 starts off sedately if given a soft input, or can surge ahead if the driver wants instant speed. Beyond just quick and fast, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk feels as if it is unstoppable. At no time does it ever feel unwilling, and a push on the power pedal brings on a lot of speed in a very linear way.  There is no turbocharger delay and then head snap, but rather a smooth ramp of ample power. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk feels like a grown-up’s performance vehicle. If you dislike stop-start fuel saving technology you will be glad to hear that the V8 does not have it (though the base V6 does).

The complex drivetrain in the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 is made simple to use. The 8-speed, paddle-shift equipped transmission has an intuitive and familiar shifter mechanism. Below that is a rotary knob that allows the driver to easily select the right settings for the given terrain, including snow, mud, sand and rock.  The 4WD Low setting is accessed with a simple single button. The ride height can also be adjusted with the easy and simple up and down buttons to the right of the knob. The Hill Descent Control button is the one in the lower left corner of the image.

Ride and handling

Unlike the AMG G-Wagon we tested earlier this winter, the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4X4 always feels in total control when driven assertively on-road. While not a sports car, the Grand Cherokee can be driven hard and still feel like a very capable-handling crossover does. Driven at normal speeds and in an adult manner, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 is wonderful around town and on the highway. It feels like a premium crossover and is a real pleasure to drive. The 18″ Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure tires were very smooth on-road and the 60-series “high profile” tires sucked up potholes and broken roads admirably. We did not have the opportunity to test the vehicle off-road. However, many have, and this vehicle’s off-road chops are not in question.

We had a chance to drive the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 in every possible winter weather combination. In an inch of icy slush that caused mayhem in our area and numerous accidents, the “Snow” mode of the Jeep got us home trouble free. In 16″ of snow with medium water density the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s 4X4 system was brilliant and the tires a superb choice by Jeep. Heading into the New England Motor Press’ annual Winter Test Days voting, this vehicle will be my choice for category winner and overall best. It is hard to imagine how this vehicle’s level of foul-weather performance can be improved upon.

Seating

The power front seats in our tester had both heat and ventilation. The soft cloth seats had a decidedly premium, upscale feel and reminded us of the microfiber suede in some very expensive vehicles we have tested. The seats and steering wheel retract for easy exit and entry. The seats are easy to adjust and the lumbar support can be moved up and down. We found the seats comfortable, but the bolsters are a bit firm. The steering wheel’s leather wrap is superb and it feels great in one’s hands. We also thought the interior plastics and dark wood trim pattern were classy. Jeep can take this interior up one more notch if you want it, but not in the Trailhawk trim.

The rear seating area of the Grand Cherokee offers ample room for adults. Its 38.6 inches of legroom is a half-inch more than that of the Lexus RX 350. The rear passenger area has its own HVAC ducts and the outboard two seats are heated. The rear seat passengers also get two USB ports plus a three-prong 110 Volt outlet. In the image, you can see the waterproof all-weather floor mats that Jeep includes. These are in both the front and back. Jeep didn’t skimp on the details of this premium SUV.

Cargo

Let’s start at the end. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has a full-sized spare tire. Bravo Jeep!  Above the tire is the typical cargo area but with metal and rubber ribs to help keep your stuff from flying around in back. The rear cargo area is large for this class, with 68.3 cubic feet behind the front seats. A Lexus RX 350, by comparison, has just 56.3 cubic feet of area.

Infotainment and controls

Ask any autowriter which manufacturer makes the best infotainment systems and FCA’s brands will be at the top of their short list of favorites. This writer’s opinion is that Jeep and its fellow FCA brands have the best in the business – and with no qualifications. The luxury brands overdo infotainment with unnecessary console-mounted mouselike controllers that are a hassle to use even after time learning them. The Jeep’s large 8.4-inch touch-screen is intuitive, fast, clear, and just seems to be laid out the most logically. The 560 Watt audio system was crystal clear and packed serious bass. Our phone synched in record time. We have only one small suggestion for improvement; Divorce the heat/cooling controls for the seats and steering wheel and use instead mechanical switches that can be left on forever if the driver wishes. Other than that one suggestion, we feel this is as close to perfect as any system in the world.

Overall

Some vehicles are just done right and any tester can feel it when they drive even a short distance. The Jeep Grand Cherokee is for sure in that category, but its excellence goes further. Jeep adds amazing off-road capability in the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4, but without any compromise to the vehicle’s daily drivability on-road.

Not everyone who shops for or buys a Grand Cherokee will need the Trailhawk’s capabilities. For those owners, Jeep has many other choices. However, for anyone who wants serious off-road ability in their Grand Cherokee, but still needs the vehicle to be very enjoyable during all of one’s other transportation needs, this trim answers the call. That Jeep can offer all of this luxury, capability, and enjoyment at just $53,515 is what makes this vehicle stand out from the pack.

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4

Base price: $31K

Price as tested, $53,515 including $995 destination charge:  

Options:

Trailhawk Luxury Group: $2,695
Upgraded Headlights
Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof
Power Tilt / Telescope Steering Wheel

Jeep Active Safety Group: $1,495
Adaptive Cruise Control
FCP
Lane Departure Warning

Park Assist

5.7-Liter HEMI V8 Engine: $3,295
3.09 Rear Axle Ratio
700-Amp Maintenance-Free Battery
Heavy-Duty Brakes

Rock Rails By MOPAR: $895

U-Connect 8.4 Infotainment With NAV and SAT RAD: $450

Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert: $595

Likes:

  • Value
  • Active Safety Suite
  • Combined Off-Road Capability and Luxury Amenities

Dislikes:

  • Seat Temperature Controls Should Be Separated Out From Infotainment and Have an “Always On” setting.

 

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John Goreham

John Goreham