Grand Cherokee Trailhawk: Off-road with a touch of class
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How many times do you find yourself having to drive to a fancy gala dinner on the other side of a muddy paddock, or over a rocky river bed, or through knee-deep snow, or at the far end of an inaccessible beach?
Probably never, but it’s good to know that Jeep has created a vehicle to get you there, should the need arise.
Jeep’s Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is a hard off-roader that has been disguised as a soft one.
Hard off-roaders are usually customised late 1990s SUVs with large chunky tyres, a snorkel and ridiculously raised suspension.
You have probably seen them tearing up highway beaches, wrecking the ecology and frightening the children. They are tough. They can handle the mud and everything else. They are also hard to drive on the road.
Their massive chunky tyres roar like freight trains, the suspension bounces the vehicle all over the place, and you need a ladder to get in and out.
On the plus side you feel comfortable driving them among trees and rocks, as scratches and dents are considered part of the package — because you don’t usually spend $95,000 on one of these.
So what happens when you do spend $95,000 on a 4x4? You hope it handles everything the manufacturer says it will. But do you want to take a car you just paid that much for into the deep dark back of beyond among rocks, sticks and other potential car-wrecking items?
If it’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, then yes, why not? Albeit ... somewhat reluctantly. But if Jeep offers you one for a weekend and encourages a full test, that reluctance is reduced.
The Trailhawk is a hard off-roader in soft off-roader’s clothing. This is no rubbishy old 4x4. Neither is it the agile younger brother — the Wrangler or the magnificently over-the-top tough Brute – this is Jeep’s luxury model, the Grand Cherokee.
A common misconception among drivers of such cars is that 4WDs allow you to drive anywhere. Not so. They allow you to drive a few more places than 2WD, but not all places.
If you really have to get muddy in style, the Trailhawk is your best bet.
It comes with off-road tyres, a suspension system that gives four levels of extra height, a 4WD system for snow, mud, rock and sand, and customised Trailhawk badging throughout.
Photo / Drew Thompson
Plus the renowned Jeep off-road drive system. That will definitely address any outlying reluctance.
The bonnet has a matt decal (to cut glare) and two red tow hooks stand out to declare its intentions.
The tow hooks are a Trailhawk-only feature that Jeep is keen to point out, but they were superfluous to my test — which is a positive thing.
The only attention the tow hooks received during my test was a quick wash down for a photo shoot.
Off-road, the Trailhawk gets a thorough pass – so what about the other 99 per cent of the time?
This is where the hard bit stops and the luxury kicks in.
Heated seats front and back, front seats are fully electronically adjustable and the back seats are comfortable with ample legroom.
Purchase the add-on dual pane sunroof and the Trailhawk is a showcase vehicle. Adaptive cruise control, lane change and sway assist are just some of the many safety features that come standard in the Cherokee range.
On the road, the Trailhawk performs superbly.
The elaborate entertainment system won’t be interrupted by those chunky off-road tyres due to a well insulated interior.
The air suspension lowers the car to give a comfortable ride, without too much of the sway normally associated with large SUVs.
If getting off-road is something you need to do once in a while, yet you want to want to maintain a certain level of class, it’s worth trying the the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
It has more than enough off-road hardness to achieve the level of off-road you want (or maybe perhaps are willing) to reach with a luxury large SUV.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Engine: 3.1L V6 Diesel (184kW/550Nm)
Pro: Off-road performance in a luxury SUV
Con: Foot-activated park brake encroaches on the space in the driver’s footwell