The electronic brain makes off-roading easy in the Cherokee Trailhawk.
The electronic brain makes off-roading easy in the Cherokee Trailhawk.
The interior has an upscale look and feel.
The interior has an upscale look and feel.

ROAD TEST

Jeep Cherokee 3.2L 4x4 Trailhawk

Johannesburg - Somewhere in my future is a Jeep.

It will have massive tyres, a big lift kit, as many diff locks as possible, serious underbody protection and anything else that may be necessary to conquer trails and passes accessible only to a few.

I’m not sure when, but it’s on the cards.

It won’t be the Cherokee Trailhawk on test here, but as a second car I wouldn’t mind it, and it would gladly tackle, without much trouble, most of the off-road courses in our country.

IT’S OK IN THE BUSH THEN?

It’s not made for the crazies who go to far-off places to test man and machine, so if, like most 4x4 owners, you only occasionally engage low range on recognised trails, you could do a lot worse than this.

The Trailhawk is perfect for that, given that it’s equipped with the Jeep Active Drive Lock. It features a two-speed power transfer unit and a locking rear diff. In low range, the system locks the front and rear drive shafts and provides good crawl ratios for hectic off-road driving. It also has hill ascent and hill descent control, which I tested quite extensively.

It worked like a charm, though one needs to get used to the noise as the ABS comes into play. It’s all done with a swift turn of a dial – the electronic brain does everything for you.

The Trailhawk has a rock mode option in addition to auto, snow, sport and sand/mud, which allows for some impressive rock crawling.

Apparently Jeep has taken the Trailhawk through the Rubicon Trail, which is no mean feat, although I reckon they probably added some proper heavy-duty rock sliders and underbody protection.

As it comes off the showroom floor, you’ll be fine on the normal Sunday outing with friends, but regular hard-core driving will take its toll and make the vehicle look a little tacky.

GREAT AS A DAILY DRIVE TOO

That’s all well and good if your vehicle is dedicated to off-road playing, but not when it’s your daily drive.

The Cherokee Trailhawk is a comfortable everyday drive, with the 3.2-litre V6 Pentastar motor mated to a nine-speed (that’s right, nine) automatic transmission.

Its electronic brain seems to take thousands of little variables into consideration, and as a result gear shifts are as close to seamless as you could hope, even with the vehicle fully loaded.

Consumption isn’t as bad as you might think, with a real-life figure of just under 13 litres to 100km (quite a bit of highway driving with some off-road thrown in).

MUCH SMARTER INSIDE

In my review of the Cherokee Limited, I mentioned the redesign of the interior and, as far as I’m concerned, everything compares favourably with anything that Europe has to offer.

From the leather seats, the dashboard, dials and carpets to the infotainment system, 8.4-inch multiview screen with UConnect, including voice commands, and the look and feel, the interior is perfect for spending time on the road.

The outside takes a bit of getting used to – and, from behind, it’s not dissimilar from some of the Korean SUVs on our roads.

The only thing that really sets it apart, when seen from the front, is the Jeep grille.

But it’s still a vast improvement on the previous models.

As is to be expected from a vehicle in this class, safety features cover almost every eventuality on the road.

Of course it has those annoying chimes that are supposed to be reminders, but which are mostly just irritating, especially when you’re driving off-road.

Other than that, the Trailhawk provides everything that the urban driver with a dash of adventure and a streak of Camel Man would ever want.

Saturday Star

FACTS

Jeep Cherokee 3.2L 4x4 Trailhawk

Engine: 3.2-litre, V6 petrol

Gearbox: 9-speed automatic

Power: 200kW @ 6500rpm

Torque: 315Nm @ 4300rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 8.4 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 180km/h

Consumption (claimed): 10.0 litres per 100km

Price: R654 990

Warranty: 3-year/100 000km

Maintenance plan: 6-year/100 000km

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