It was called a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. It was a Bright White color. It was four-wheel drive. This was my test-drive vehicle for a week and I was excited. This was a ‘real’ Jeep that could go off-road, which happens to be what a lot of rural roads can be called, especially in bad weather.
The Jeep name gives rise in most people’s memory banks of a military vehicle that can go anywhere and do almost anything. That is somewhat still true today. Although the Italian car-maker Fiat owns the Jeep brand and has some influence in the overall design cues, this Jeep is still a Jeep. It is certainly capable and I found out driving it all around the back-roads East Texas.
Just to be clear, this was not a Grand Cherokee, but slightly smaller. It is considered a compact-size SUV crossover and in a wide comparison, competes with the popular Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, and even the Subaru Forester. The Cherokee comes in a variety of trim levels, but the Trailhawk is the most formidable of the bunch. Although it can climb rocks and ford streams with the best of them, this vehicle gives up none of the handling or comfort that today’s drivers are beginning to expect and appreciate.
The test-drive model boasted a 3.2-liter V6 engine, although the standard engine for most of the Cherokee trim levels is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder model. The V6 was mated to a nine speed automatic transmission. The exterior color was called Bright White Clear Coat. The interior was black, including leather-trimmed bucket seats.
This 2016 model shows the influence of the Fiat designers because the classic round headlights flanking a 7-slot grill has given way to a cat-eye appearance in the lamps. The 7-slot grill is still there and the overall appearance of this Trailhawk model continues to be somewhat menacing. Even the front tow hooks have been painted a bright red color.
There is a lot of creature comforts inside the 2016 Jeep Cherokee that make it really comfortable and fun-to-drive, even on a daily commute. There is an 8.4 inch touch-screen display in the center stack that is easy to use and easy to read. There is a sound system that includes nine amplified speakers with a sub-woofer. The front seats are heated as well as the steering wheel. Maybe some folks in the South don’t need that convenience very often, but when the temperatures do drop, the feature is really nice. There is an 8-way powered driver’s seat and a 4-way powered passenger seat. The rear seats may not be powered or easily adjustable, but are comfortable and the space is roomy.
The Trailhawk 4×4 is EPA rated at 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg overall. For the week, I averaged 23.5 mpg. The base price for the Trailhawk is slightly higher than the other model Cherokee’s because it is trail-rated. The MSRP was shown as $30,595. With some added options and delivery charges, the bottom sticker price hit $40,200.
There are some folks that say the handling should be somewhat better for everyday driving and that the 2.4-liter engine in the base model Cherokee’s are not strong enough. The Trailhawk model overcomes those objections, but the price gets bumped up accordingly. That is the downside to this great vehicle.
The 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has great off-road capability and performance and it provides an upscale cabin and more technology than before. It was certainly fun to drive around for a week, although there was no severe off-roading. Maybe next time it will be put to a more challenging test.