The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk combines strong on-road performance with impressive off-road capability in a well-equipped five-seat 4x4 wagon package.
What is the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk?
The Trailhawk is the most off-road capable model in Jeep’s Grand Cherokee line-up and as such it wears the brand’s Trail Rated badge, which essentially means it has been successfully tested in five off-road categories: Traction, Water Fording, Manoeuvrability, Articulation and Ground Clearance.
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is a five-seat 4x4 wagon that’s powered by a 3.0-litre TDV6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It has a full-time 4x4 system called Quadra-Drive II, and adjustable-height air suspension called Quadra-Lift.
When Jeep launched its updated Grand Cherokee range in 2017, all models received electric power steering, an Eco mode on the transmission, and fitment of an acoustic windscreen and front door glass to improve in-cabin refinement. They were also equipped with LaneSense Lane Departure Warning Plus, and Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist.
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is loaded with standard equipment considering its keen $74k price tag. Gear includes dual-zone climate control air conditioning, black Nappa leather seats with perforated suede inserts and red accent stitching, satnav, keyless start and entry, eight-way powered front seats, heated front and rear seats, reversing camera with trailer-hitch view, 8.4-inch colour touchscreen, 18-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps, fog lamps, daytime running lamps, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high-beam, power tailgate and dual pane panoramic sunroof.
For those who tow a trailer, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has a class-topping 3500kg towing capacity.
What’s the interior like?
If you like black then you’ll love sitting in the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk; the seats are black, the carpet is black, the trim on the window pillars is black, the headlining is black and the dash is black. And when you slide into the generously bolstered driver’s seat, and adjust the driving position to suit your frame, you’ll probably feel a little closed in, because the rake on the windscreen is accentuated by the thick A-pillars that curves in towards the top. It’s not disconcerting, but from behind the wheel you feel like you’re seated in a compact sports car rather than a large 4x4 wagon.
A large colour touchscreen and big air conditioning vents dominate the Trailhawk’s dash. All of the controls are well positioned and clearly marked, especially the big radial dials for the fan and the sound system controls, and there’s reasonable storage in the centre console along with a couple of cup holders. The steering wheel has controls for cruise control, audio system and phone connection, as well as paddle shifters for the eight-speed auto.
Rear occupants are provided with plenty of legroom and there’s enough width across the 60:40 split/fold seat for three adults. As well as vents for the rear air conditioning, rear-seat occupants have access to their own seat-heater controls.
There’s reasonable cargo space in the back of the Grand Cherokee, although load height is not fantastic. There are four luggage tie-down hooks, shopping-bag hooks and a 12V power outlet. When the back seats are folded down there’s plenty of cargo length and a flat load floor.
What’s it like on the road?
If sitting in the Trailhawk’s driver’s seat feels a bit like a sports car then wait til you open the throttle. With healthy power and torque peaks of 184kW at 4000rpm and 570Nm at 2000rpm, acceleration is impressive on the road. The engine responds well from low revs and it has a strong midrange. And even as revs climb towards the 4500rpm redline the TDV6 continues to deliver. The eight-speed auto offers a good spread of ratios and it shifts smoothly, while engine noise is well suppressed, even at full throttle. Gearshifts can feel a little lethargic on the default Eco setting, but this can be disengaged which speeds up the response transmission response.
Drive the Trailhawk with some gusto on a smooth twisty road and it feels surprisingly agile. The electric power-assisted steering is well weighted at highway speeds and offers reasonable feedback, and the Trailhawk responds to steering inputs as well as you could expect of a vehicle with a 2340kg kerb weight. Body roll is well controlled when cornering too.
Ride quality feels quite firm on bumpy roads but it’s certainly not uncomfortable, and the Trailhawk isn’t upset when it hits a big bump or pothole. Road-shock isolation could be better, however, with quite a few bangs and rattles audible throughout the cabin when driving on rough and/or corrugated gravel roads.
What’s it like off the road?
Point the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk off-road and it does exactly what is says on the ‘Trail Rated’ box. The Quadra-Drive II 4x4 system offers modes for Snow, Sand, Mud and Rock, or you can just leave it in Auto and let the system figure it out for itself. Raising the suspension is achieved by pushing a clearly marked button next to the mode selector, and there’s another button for selecting low range. Then there’s the button for the Selec-Speed with Hill Ascent Control, which is essentially an off-road cruise control system that allows you to set speed as low as 1km/h and adjust it in 1km/h increments using the paddles on the steering wheel.
No matter whether you’re driving up hill or down, Selec-Speed will ensure the vehicle maintains the set target speed, so all you have to concentrate on is steering when tackling challenging off-road terrain. Selec-speed is one of the most effective systems of its kind.
The Trailhawk’s electronic traction control system is also very effective, which is just as well because the limited suspension travel sees the vehicle lift its wheels high into the air on undulating terrain. The 4x4 system also features automatically locking centre and rear differentials that help maintain forward progress when the Trailhawk cocks a leg.
In its highest setting the Quadra-Lift air suspension provides an impressive 260mm of ground clearance, but it bangs and crashes over rough terrain as the suspension runs out of droop travel and tops out. Drop down to normal height and the suspension offer more compliance, but the trade off is a loss of ground clearance.
The Trailhawk has a removable front air dam and when removed, and with the suspension is in its highest setting, approach, departure and ramp-over angles (36.1°, 27.1° and 22.8°) are impressive. There’s also good underbody protection with additional skid plates exclusive to the Trailhawk, and the Kevlar reinforced 265/60R18 Goodyear Wranglers are not only tough but offer adequate sidewall height for driving in rough terrain without fear of damaging the rims.
Claimed maximum wading depth is 508mm, which isn’t fantastic, so care should be taken when fording water.
If you get stuck in the Trailhawk you won’t have any problems finding the bright red recovery points at the front of the vehicle, but there are no such points at the rear.
The Trailhawk’s 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system includes an app called Off-road Pages that displays real-time off-road information including vehicle location, altitude, the state of the locking differentials, vertical and lateral angles of the vehicle and information on vitals like oil temperature and battery voltage.
What safety features does it get?
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has a five-star ANCAP rating. Standard safety features include Lane Departure Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with stop, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist, All-speed Traction Control and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Selec-Speed Control, Trailer-Sway Control (TSC), Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), Rear Cross Path (RCP) detection, reverse camera, front-row active head restraints, full-length side-curtain air bags and seat-mounted side thorax air bags.
So, what do we think of the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk?
For those who want a large 4x4 wagon but don’t need seven seats, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is a worthy contender. It’s packed with safety features, is loaded with equipment, is an impressive on-road performer, has a 3500kg towing capacity and is a very capable off-roader. And at $74k it’s good value for money.
Warranty: 5 years/100,000km
Safety: 5 stars
Servicing: 20,000km/12 months
Engine: 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel
Power: 184kW at 4000rpm
Torque: 570Nm from 2000rpm
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
Drive: Full-time 4WD
Dimensions: 4828mm (L); 1943mm (W); 1792mm (H); 2915mm (WB)
Turning Circle: 12.2m
Ground Clearance: 260mm
Boot Space: 782L/1554L
Fuel Tank: 93 litres