Thursday, June 5, 2014

Trailhawk knows true meaning of off-road

Mark Glover’s AutoGlo car reviews also can be seen on the Business page of The Sacramento Bee’s website – via the “GALLERY: Reviews of new cars” link at

This review originally appeared in the May 2014 edition of the Northern & Central California Cruisin’ News published out of Folsom, California – mg

Sacramento, California Most of us who review motor vehicles fail to subject four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicles to challenging off-road tests … We smile inwardly and think, “I’m not taking somebody’s $30,000-$40,000 SUV over the rocks, possibly creating damage that might end up being repaired with money out of my pocket.

That’s common sense, but my first 15 seconds in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4 told me that I was in the cockpit of a five-passenger vehicle made to take on the toughest mountain/forest trails.

You see a prominent “Trail Rated” badge on the Trailhawk’s skin, and then you glance down to see an in-cockpit dial that gives you these options: AUTO, SNOW, SPORT, SAND/MUD and ROCK.  Plus you get a choice of specialty cruise controls.

Then you move on to the NINE-speed transmission and features that include off-road suspension, electronic roll mitigation, specialized speed control, a special terrain system, all-speed traction control, hill descent control, brake stability control, hill start assist and trailer sway damping.  Throw in the 17-inch all-terrain tires that look capable of climbing up the sheer face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, and you get the message: This is a SUPER-SERIOUS off-road performer.

Alas, my humble off-pavement excursions in the tested Trailhawk posed virtually no challenge at all to this muscular ride. I might as well have challenged Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt to a footrace.

And yet, the Trailhawk’s obvious outdoor ruggedness was surprisingly offset by its good manners on paved surfaces.  Even riding on all-terrain tires, the highway cruising ride of the Trailhawk was pleasingly smooth.  The 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower stepped up nicely in freeway commuting, and the power plant was a quick responder, when asked, in dicey downtown traffic.

Surprise, the fuel mileage numbers are better than you might expect out of this package: 21 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Keep in mind that the Cherokee has been brought back to replace the Liberty, and my initial response to this is a shouted “BRAVO.”  The Liberty was OK, but it did not offer much in the way of heart-pumping excitement.  By comparison, the tested Trailhawk raised my pulse shortly after I backed it out of a parking spot for the first time.

The base price on the tester was just short of $30,000, but a generous helping of optional equipment (including a $1,895 comfort/convenience package that included a power liftgate, a remote-start system, rear back-up camera and an eight-way power driver’s seat) boosted the sticker’s bottom line to $34,625.

I’ve noticed that the Cherokee has been getting awards from people who do stuff like drive up into the Rocky Mountains, so I’m guessing that its to-the-max off-road gear is living up the expectations of hardcore dirt-and-rock drivers. Well, you won’t get an argument from me. I’m convinced.

I enjoyed my relatively civilized week in the Trailhawk and highly recommend it to folks whose idea of getting gone is heading deep into the woods, driving over streams or climbing over rocky surfaces.

No comments:

Post a Comment