It’s rare—if ever—that I’ve dreamed of living high on a mountainside, in a spot accessible only by a rough, unpaved road. For this city kid, such a scenario might be more nightmare than ambition.
That, however, was the exact vision I had recently while at the wheel of today’s test car—the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4. This is a vehicle that revels in its desire to go off-road while maintaining a refined on-road driving experience.
The Trailhawk is a new model in the traditional body-on-frame Grand Cherokee lineup and the most capable off-roader of the bunch as it comes from the factory.
It certainly looks the part with red tow hooks, Trailhawk and Trail Rated badges with red accents, and Kevlar-reinforced 18-inch Goodyear Adventure off-road tires.
But the Trailhawk is no poseur. For starters, it’s only available as a 4×4.
It’s got Jeep’s advanced Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system with a rear limited-slip electronic differential, and a special made-for-the-Trailhawk air suspension.
The combination offers improved articulation (wheel travel) plus Selec-Speed Control with hill-ascent and hill-descent control.
In the unlikely occasion that you get stuck during a climb and have to back down, the hill-descent also works in reverse.
Also standard are skid plates and an anti-glare hood decal.
Off-roading isn’t among my favorite pastimes, and the Trailhawk basically laughed at my local unpaved sites as if to say, “C’mon, buddy. Give me a real challenge.”
Jeep fans took notice of the Trailhawk, too. It got second-glances, thumbs-up, and parking-lot compliments just on its looks, which built on the traditional Jeep styling cues such as the 7-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches.
Those compliments came without folks seeing the first-class interior. We loved the black leather and suede performance seats with Trailhawk embroidered in the seatback. Red accent stitching was on seats, doors, and the center console.
A full gauge pack adds 4WD information, and the Jeep’s Uconnect infotainment system is as user-friendly as any.
The standard engine in all Grand Cherokees is Jeep’s 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar that produces 295 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque and can tow up to 6,200 pounds.
Our test Trailhawk had one of the two optional engines—the 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi with 360 HP and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, enough to tow a 7,400-pound load. It has a nice exhaust note and does a great job of effortlessly moving this 5,100 pound SUV.
A third option is the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6, which provides up to a 730-mile driving range and a 30 mpg highway fuel economy rating.
In contrast, the Trailhawk is rated at 14 mpg in city driving, 22 on the highway, and 17 overall. We did a pair of long highway stints and could only get the on-board computer up to 20.3 mpg while averaging 18.3 overall.
All the engines send power to the wheels via a smooth 8-speed automatic transmission. It never hesitated or got caught in the wrong gear during our week together.
Fuel economy, an average cargo capacity, and our test Trailhawk’s $53,515 price tag were the only drawbacks.
Otherwise, this is a vehicle with striking looks, first-rate interior, and go-anywhere ability. An Active Safety package ($1,495) offers up-to-date safety features, including adaptive cruise control with braking, lane-keeping assist, and forward collision warning with emergency braking.
For some reason, blind spot warning and cross-path rear detection were a separate, $595 package.
The Trailhawk model starts at $44,090, including destination.
All the off-road systems are standard, plus a full-size spare, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, and 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen with 1-year satellite radio subscription.
The primary option was the $2,695 Trailhawk luxury group that adds auto-leveling and auto high beam HID headlights, dual-pane sunroof, cargo cover, LED running lights and fog lights, power tilt and telescoping steering column, and rain-sensitive wipers.
Adding the Hemi V-8 costs $3,295 and includes heavier duty brakes, battery, and a 3.09 rear axle ration.
A set of Mopar rock rails are functional and attractive at $895, and the Uconnect Nav system was $450 and adds 5-year SiriusXM traffic and travel services.
The Trailhawk is a real, old-school, body-on-frame SUV as opposed to the unibody car-based crossovers that are proliferating in all brands.
Don’t look for third-row seating here. Even though the Trailhawk nominally is a 5-passenger vehicle, it’s best as a four (adult) hauler with a fifth person having to deal with the old-time transmission-driveshaft hump.
But when it comes to towing and off-roading, this is a combination that’s hard to beat, especially if you want to do it in style.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4
Price, base/as tested (with destination): $44,090 / $53,515. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 14 city/22 highway/17 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 18.3. Drivetrain: 5.7-liter V-8, 8-speed automatic, 4-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passener SUV.
Horsepower: 360. Torque: 390 lb.-ft. Overall length: 189.8 in. Wheelbase: 114.8 in. Height: 70 in. (w/antenna). Width: 76.5 in. (84.8 w/mirrors). Curb weight: 5,154 lbs.
Off-road and towing ability coupled with refined on-road driving and first-class cabin.
Pricey, fuel economy.
THE BOTTOM LINE
An SUV that’s at home anywhere.
Dodge Durango, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz G-Series, Ram Power Wagon, Toyota 4Runner and Land Cruiser.
Bill Griffith can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrAutoWriter.