As if the latest Jeep Cherokee wasn’t outlandish enough on the styling front, Jeep has gone the extra mile with eh Trailhawk edition, a vehicle whose big off-road tires, higher ride height and plastic cladding would put many aftermarket conversions to shame.
And you know what? It works.
It works precisely because the new Cherokee, with its narrow DRLs, low-mounted headlamps and steampunk take on the classic Jeep 7-slat grille looks so alien in the first place. It’s almost as if Jeep’s designers had the Trailhawk version in mind when they set to work on the Cherokee in the first place. Oh, and let’s not forget that “Mango Tango Pearl” paint, either; I challenge you to count on one hand the amount of manufacturers that can claim a colour this bright as part of their catalogue.
There are more restrained colour choices, of course—nine in total—so you can rest assured that even though the Trailhawk’s going to have presence no matter what colour you choose, there are options.
The rest of the Trailhawk additions, however—big tires, 1-inch higher ride height, red tow hooks back and front, red “Trail Rated” badges—are the same, no matter what colour you choose.
The interior gets a healthy set of upgrades, too; remember, the Trailhawk is actually the line-up’s top trim, meaning stuff like a configurable 7 in. display between the gauges, 8.4 in. Uconnect screen and satellite radio all come as standard. The options on our tester include navigation ($600), heated seats and steering wheel ($795) and leather/ventilated seats, a combination that will set you back $1,595.
It’s nice to have the vented seats, but their addition means you lose the neat underseat storage on the passenger side. Couple that with the reduced cubby in the centre console thanks to the optional remote CD player ($225), and your storage takes a hit up front. I’d leave out the CD player, especially since sat radio is standard as well as Bluetooth, through which you can stream your audio.
You can, however, spec leather seating without the ventilation for $800, which is good because leather surfaces are so much easier to clean than cloth. And if you use the Trailhawk as it’s intended to be used, chances are you’ll be cleaning the interior quite often. Leather without ventilation is probably the way I’d go.
As far as overall storage goes, however, the rear seats split 60/40 and easily fold completely flat, meaning there’s plenty of room for packing gear back there. The rear seats also slide fore and aft, making it a little easier to find that perfect balance between cargo storage and passenger space.
All that tech is great, but what really impresses about the cabin in the ‘Hawk, as it does throughout the Chrysler stable, is the quality of the materials used. There’s soft-touch leather wherever you need it, and the drive experience is refreshingly bereft of the annoying squeaks and rattles that come with cabins that aren’t as tightly fitted as this. It really feel luxurious inside the Trailhawk, which may come as a surprise to some considering how rough and tumble it looks from the outside.
Power comes from the choice of two engines: a 2.4L MultiAir four-banger shared with the Fiat 500L and good for 184 hp and 171 lb.-ft. of torque, or the 3.2L Pentastar V6 found in our tester, which adds twin tailpipes and is good for 271 hp and 239lb.-ft. It’s all channeled through a 9-speed automatic transmission (your only choice, no matter which engine you choose) which seems to get along better with the V6 than it does the I4, where it tends to sniff out gears more often.
Even though the Trailhawk makes a little less power than the Chevrolet Equinox does, you’ll never feel yourself wanting with that V6. Thanks to the partnership with that 9-speed, passes either at speed on the highway or on two-lane roads are undertaken without any drama, and you can cruise comfortably at 100 km/h.
Comfortably, that is, until the constant thrum of those big, knobbly Firestone Destination tires begins to get to you. It’s not as bad as a similarly-equipped Jeep Wrangler is on the highway, but those tires do make their presence felt.
Thing is, that’s what the Trailhawk’s all about; it’s an off-road special in a similar vein to the Toyota FJ Cruiser, for example, and you’re going to find caveats on the highway.
Off the beaten track, however, those tires word in conjunction with a locking differential (the Trailhawk is the only Cherokee that gets one of these, and it’s standard kit) and hill-descent control to make traversing rough terrain something akin to a breeze.
While other Cherokees get various off-road driving modes—Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud—the Trailhawk’s Active Drive 4WD system sees the addition of neutral and rock-crawl modes, to further showcase the ‘Hawks trail-beating prowess.
Even if you’re not a hard-core of-roader, there’s lots of things on offer with the Trailhawk. Jeep just seems to have a keen sense of how to make their vehicles seem outlandish, yet endearing to a whole host of people.
Of course, you can get a lot of the creature comforts of the ‘Hawk on trims like the Limited or Canada-specific North trims, but for those who like to spend a little more time admiring their vehicle, the Trailhawk could tick the right boxes. And if you plan on off-roading your Cherokee, then fugghedaboutit; the Trailhawk is the way to go.