Grand Cherokee Trailhawk: A Jeep for all seasons
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The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is the sort of all-purpose vehicle that makes you forget there are any other SUV options
As a rational premium SUV decision goes, it's hard to argue against the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
This is the bit where I'd usually go on about how the earth-shatteringly brutal 6.4-litre HEMI V8-engined Grand Cherokee SRT delivers packed punches for a price that is doubletake-worthy for good reasons.
But I'm not really talking about the SRT version this time around. Because Jeep has just launched a new version of its muscular Grand Cherokee that features a fair portion of the outward aggression of the SRT but without the thunderous soundtrack (and, ahem, associated fuel bill).
The new Grand Cherokee Trailhawk builds on the idea of going anywhere you want in style.
This is an authentic Jeep, wearing the Trailhawk badge, meaning it is "trail rated" across the tortuous Rubicon Trail near Lake Tahoe in the US; the sinewy, forest-enveloped, boulder-interrupted goat track on which Jeep has been testing its 4x4 hardware for years.
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk can tackle pretty much whatever you throw at it, but still delivers all the luxury you'd want from a $95,000 SUV (leather, bluetooth, cupholders).
Its makers will claim it is the planet's most capable SUV and that "trail rated" nameplate is more than just marketing nomenclature. It means the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has been measured across five separate mud-plugging disciplines: traction, manoeuvrability, articulation, ground clearance and water fording.
Everything on that list is kryptonite to your average school-run SUV, but here you have a full-size Jeep -- not without a penchant for the dramatic (check out those matt black anti-glare bonnet decals) - that can conquer practically anything off-tarmac.
Canterbury | Sockburn
$362.96 p/w $1,451.86 p/m
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk's Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive system has a five-mode program setting for tackling rocks, sand, mud and snow, but you'll genuinely just have it in Auto most of the time and it will quietly do its thing, driving each wheel at each corner with zero fuss and barely an uncouth raising of the tachometer needle.
In addition to the Quadra-Drive II four-wheel drive system, with its rear electronic Limited Slip Differential, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk also features Quadra-Lift air suspension to improve the SUV's articulation and suspension travel over rough ground and through big holes when off-road (the system will raise the vehicle by up to 10.8 inches further than its standard setting for getting through difficult terrain).
Approach, breakover and departure angles are all admirable. But then again, it's a Jeep with a seven-slot grille up front; despite the acres of sheet metal, the front and rear valances are designed with this sort of driving in mind. In addition to bash plates and rock rails underneath, there are even bright red tow-hooks up front, in the event you need hauling out of a bog.
Other off-road tech includes Hill Ascent and Descent Control systems, which allow you to "walk" the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk up or down particularly steep slopes. Take your feet off the pedals, say a quick Hail Mary and put your faith in the Jeep to get you up or down that semi-vertical part of the path. It works ... although there's no substitute for momentum off-road, and with 550Nm of torque to help with the haul, the V6 turbo diesel in this model harbours all the power you'll need.
Inside the spacious cabin, you've got a Uconnect touchscreen with updated graphics front and centre, combination Nappa leather and suede upholstery, lots of piano black and gun metal grey accents and -- naturally -- a Trailhawk badge or two to remind you which Grand Cherokee you're driving.
And as it's the Trailhawk grade, scroll through the screens in the Uconnect system and you'll come across the car's "Offroad Pages", which give the driver a variety of information about what's happening underneath the wheels in real-time ... or the front-seat passenger anyway -- the driver should be looking straight ahead in the rough stuff. It's handy to know in which directions your wheels are facing.
Outside, like all Grand Cherokees, the Trailhawk looks every bit the robust 4x4 you want it to be. Those 18-inch polished aluminium and gloss black alloy wheels may not look like the sorts of shiny discs you want to take near rocks, but the Goodyear Adventurer tyres wrapped around the wheels are Kevlar belted, so they offer great protection.
You would need to spear a sharp stone at a rather fast speed to cop a puncture in the wilds.
Away from the guts-and-glory stuff, the entire Grand Cherokee line-up has been updated with features such as a rear-view camera, rear parking sensors and LED Daytime Running Lights. Laredo, Limited, Overland and SRT grades all continue to be on offer. Sixty-four grand for the entry-level Grand Cherokee Laredo remains stunningly good value.
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is another Jeep for all seasons. You may never take it off road, but more than ticking the "nice to know it can" box, it has such abilities regardless of what surface is under the wheels, it'll tempt you into trying.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Engine:3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel (184kW/550Nm)
Pro: Bang for buck, the Grand Cherokee delivers more than most in this segment
Con: New Land Rover Discovery is more expensive but really pushes the off-road tech, too