Road tested: 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Jeep's Cherokee Trailhawk is one of the most capable SUVs you can buy for the money.


SEATTLE, March 14, 2016 — To be honest, this is a vehicle I really did not want to like but after spending time with it, it’s easy to see how one can easily fall in love with the Cherokee Trailhawk. There are a few reasons why this reviewer was slightly off-put by the Cherokee, namely, it seemed a bit too small, perhaps too incapable of wearing the Jeep moniker. There was something about the back-end that didn’t sit well with me.

What a pleasant surprise to have one’s views turned around – going from hard-core skeptic to a new-found fan. The Cherokee does so many things right for a mid-sized SUV. You’ll find it has an incredible all-wheel-drive system that will automatically shift power to the proper wheels in order to assure good traction, has decent power from its engine and rewards the driver with some very good tech.

Its 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder engine pumps out 184 horsepower and 171 ft-lb of torque. While that’s not a ton of power, it is rather adequate for most circumstances. However, Jeep could stand to put a more powerful baseline engine here, or at least offer a turbo-4 cylinder perhaps that gets it over the 200 horsepower mark. There were times when we really need to pass another vehicle while traveling at freeway speeds up a hill and the standard engine struggled a bit.

It uses Jeep’s “Tigershark MultiAir” fuel savings technology which is said to provide up to 31 miles per gallon on the freeway and 19 around town on the 4×4 model. There is a V6 available which kicks up the horsepower to 271, if that’s important to you. Regardless of your engine selection, you’ll get a nine-speed automatic that works remarkably well in regards to shift patterns and how it pairs with the 4×4 system.

Clearly, one of the things that sets this vehicle apart from the competition is the advanced 4×4 system. There are a few different driver-adjusted 4×4 modes which allow for optimum performance traction for the varying environments you may encounter. There are settings for snow, sport and sand/mud – each is fully optimized for those environments. But what really augments this system is the incredible wheel travel inside the wheel wells and the suspension articulation.

Jeep has done a bang-up job of making the interior look first-rate. From the large, 8.4-inch touchscreen to the stitched leather seats and selection of materials. Nothing inside “feels cheap” – to the contrary, its looks here belies the price point of the vehicle. It feels extremely roomy inside with plenty of legroom for both front and rear passengers, with a generous amount of cargo space in the back to boot!

Overall seat comfort is spot-on – regardless of where you sit in the Cherokee, you’ll find that the seats provided extended comfort for those longer drives on the highway or off-road.

There’s plenty of volume to be had with the audio system – it cranks loud and clear. There’s not too much to complain about with the infotainment system. Its touch screen is ultra-responsive and the onboard navigation is easy to use. The only complaint here is the lack of Google Earth mapping – please Chrysler, take a chapter out of Audi’s playbook on this one.

There’s no doubt that the Cherokee Trailhawk is great as a daily driver but where you’ll really find it shines is off-road. There is no other SUV in this segment we’ve driven to date that performs as admirably as the Cherokee Trailhawk. Its combination of technology in the 4×4 drivetrain and suspension means you’re getting nearly world-class off-road performance in an SUV that’s only around the $30k mark.

Ride quality is rather good, however, there is still a sense of it being so highly tuned for off-road that it can feel a bit “loose” around corners in the sensation of body roll. It’s smooth at freeway speeds and still feels solid overall.

Drive mode selector from a non-Trailhawk edition. Image courtesy of Jeep.

Jeep has really done a great job of the overall styling here but I do admit, the back-end still is a little bit “meh” with me. That issue aside, there’s no glaring reasons to not recommend this vehicle as one you need to test drive If you’re in the market for a new SUV. It’ll provide you with the legendary off-road prowess of a Jeep yet enough technology, comfort and style to make it a great daily driver.

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