The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is a winning vehicle

Executive Wheels: Not too big, not too small, quite luxurious and just fun to drive

2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4X4

I love Jeeps–heck, I own two of them–but I am a little baffled by this Cherokee model because it so closely resembles Jeep’s other crossover, the Compass. A little digging revealed that the Cherokee has a larger wheelbase–107.1 inches vs. 103.8 inches–and it weighs some 900 pounds more than the Compass–5,500 pounds vs. 4,600 pounds. Still, most people think my Compass is a Cherokee, and at least one person thought the test-drive Cherokee was a Compass. It’s like the old Ogden Nash story about how frog legs taste like chicken, only after that chicken tastes like frog.

But this Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is like a frog that got kissed and turned into a prince. I took it on a road trip up to the Red Feather Lakes area west of Fort Collins, so I hit some highway, then some back roads and even a few rough terrain roads, and I can fully attest that it performed beautifully in all cases. Yes, I could see it as a back-country vehicle, and I can also say that it would be a great road car for an extended cross-country trip, where smoothness and comfort are key. Not every vehicle can live up to both sides, and even fewer can do it with the class of this Cherokee.

The Cherokee lists at the base price of $25,935 (for comparison, the Compass lists at $22,095). There are seven trims in the Cherokee lineup, so it is possible to jack that base price up considerably, as is the case with this Trailhawk. There are Trailhawk trims in just about every Jeep available, and they are nearly top-of-the-line for each model. And, even more interesting, a lot of the extra cost comes in luxuries. This Trailhawk version of the Cherokee has some added off-road stuff like a beefed-up off-road suspension, an extra inch of ground clearance, 17-inch wheels, red tow hooks, a locking rear differential, and a matte finish hood that reduces glare, but most of what sets it apart from the Latitude, Altitude, Upland, and Limited trims are extra goodies as standards in the base price.

The base price here is $34,505, and in this Trailhawk Elite 4×4, that means a very versatile all-wheel-drive system with Select-Terrain multiple drive modes–auto, snow, spot, sand/mud and rock–as well as blind spot and rear cross traffic monitoring, stat-stop tech, hill decent control, the off-road suspension, and a full array of safety and entertainment technology.

Here, they have added about another $9,000 in options–plus a $1,495 destination charge–for an Elite Package ($3,195) with all sorts of upgrades (e.g. ventilated and heated seats, heated steering wheel, premium speakers, remote start); a Technology Group ($1,595) with advanced brake control, lane departure warning, auto high beams, full speed forward collision warn, advanced cruise control, side distance warning and park assist; then a full tow group ($795); $500 for the engine here (a note in a moment); a ginormous sunroof ($1,595); and upgraded navigation and radio/media enhancements. Plus, those 17-inch wheels that go for $695.

So the bottom line here is $45,425, which is pretty aggressive pricing, but then every similar vehicle on the road these days has pretty aggressive pricing. 

I liked all of the goodies and this Trailhawk Cherokee is very luxurious, but what I liked most was the driving. This vehicle handled well in every situation, and it was very quiet while doing it. What was special is that the regular Trailhawk comes with a 3.2 liter V-6 with some 271 horsepower, but in my test drive model they put in a 2.0-liter 4 banger with a turbo, that goes at around 270 hp, and it was as smooth and powerful an engine as you could find. It carries a 9-speed automatic transmission that never seemed to lurch or bind, and I really thought it felt like a non-turbo package. I guess they did that to save some weight, but this vehicle felt plenty stable and heavy in any case.

One of my favorite things about this Jeep, and even my own Compass, is that they don’t have a gas cap– a gas-capless system that self-seals when you pull the gas nozzle out, which makes it very easy to refuel. Also, I loved the huge sunroof, the automatic rear liftgate and all the cubby space for a smartphone with all the hookups was easy to use. Also, the climate control and radio/media systems were as easy to use as any I have encountered–non-distractive in any way.

This is a winning vehicle. Not too big, not too small, quite luxurious and just fun to drive. I will reiterate that the price initially took me aback, but then I concede that I feel that way on almost every vehicle these days. However, I know from experience that Jeeps go a long way, and this one will give years of service. So if you’re going to go big, go big, and the Cherokee Trailhawk has enough extra cache to make it worth it. With apologies to its larger brother, this Cherokee is a grand vehicle.


Categories: Industry Trends, Transportation