2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Road Test(4 / 5)
In the east of California, near
Unless you’re a local, it’s quite difficult to find, but somehow it gets used quite a bit. It’s a site of exultation and sometimes of misery.
It’s called the Rubicon Trail.
Considered one of the most brutal, yet exhilarating four-wheel-drive tracks on the planet, it combines sand, boulders, mud and gravel in a test of man and machine that pares back any self-importance and replaces it with
It also happens to be one of the proving grounds for the new Jeep Cherokee.
Not to be confused with its larger sibling, the Grand Cherokee, the Cherokee is more than just another mid-sized SUV. It sets a new precedent for combining off-road ability, luxury and affordability. Not sold on the looks? Take our word for it – it looks far better in the metal.
But here’s the deal – it’s still a million times better than the previous iteration. Jeep had to make changes to the styling thanks to the design’s polarising effect (and the consequent effect on sales). That’s why this 2019 model was introduced so early into the new Cherokee’s life cycle.
Step inside and you have to remind yourself that it’s built in Ohio. Think American-built means acres of shiny, hard plastic? Think again – there’s a distinct Euro influence in the way this car has been put together.
Cast your eye across the dash and you’ll notice the soft-touch surfaces, neat contrast stitching and nice touches like the traditional Jeep door handles.
The buttons and dials are all big, though – nothing dainty here.
The leather seats are brilliant, with enough bolstering to keep you from rocking around when off-road, but cushioned perfectly for long distances.
The driving position is excellent and back-seat passengers get heaps of leg-room, head-room and, importantly, enough room under the front seats to place your feet.
The tall cabin has plenty of glass area as well; you’ll never feel claustrophobic.
There are two engines available – a new
Under the bonnet of our test car, though, is the Pentastar 3.2-litre V6, producing 271 horsepower and 239 lb.-ft. of torque, but making it a little sweeter is the nine-speed automatic across the range.
However, at anything under 80 mph, it won’t slip into eighth or ninth
The Cherokee sits flat at speed and handles corners very well, which makes its ride so remarkable. Normally, good handling equals a stiff ride, but on the
While you’d expect that from the
Despite being shod in all-terrain tyres, which have stiffer sidewalls (to protect against rocks slashing the tyres), there’s none of the shudder, none of the loud bangs that are usually present when crashing over logs or large rocks.
The excellent seats help the comfort, but it is by far one of the best rides when off-road, this side of a Range Rover.
The Trailhawk is the best looking one in the range, too. Distinguishable from its brethren by those larger all-terrain tyres, housed in flared wheel-arches and offset further out, it has a much more purposeful stance. Then there’s the bright-red tow hooks, two up front and one at the back.
Hill descent control allows you to set a speed and simply steer down impossible slopes. But passengers revel in comfort, there’s a huge eight-inch infotainment screen, satnav, Bluetooth, heated seats, excellent air-con and
a decent-sized boot. Nothing else in this price range is so well equipped.
It’s as happy purring around the city as it is tackling the Rubicon Trail, dropping off the kids or wading through knee-deep mud. What more
could you ask for?
Jeep really has set the standard for all future mid-sized SUVs. No longer is there an excuse for lack of practicality, a bone-shattering ride or agricultural drivetrains.
And there’s no excuse for excuses about not being able to head off-road. This is what a compact SUV should be – able to get dirty when you want to, but stay clean when you need to.
The best of both worlds? Quite possibly.