The Jeep Cherokee is back and it’s back with a vengeance. This writer owned a Jeep Cherokee back in 1990 when the Cherokee ruled the small all-wheel-drive SUV market. Now, Cherokee is back and it’s back like never before. The Cherokee was in Jeeps lineup until 2000 when it was replaced by the Jeep Liberty. It’s back in 2014 and it’s a real looker.
This week we are testing a 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk, and if it runs as good as it looks, Jeep will have a real winner.
What’s new for 2014?
The 2014 Cherokee is new from the ground up and doesn’t resemble the last Cherokee. The design team at Jeep did one heck of a job when they put the new Cherokee on the drawing board. You won’t be mistaking the new Cherokee for anything else out there and the Trailhawk we are testing looks better because it looks tough, and comes with raised suspension, overfenders and painted tow hooks.
On the inside, this Trailhawk tester looks as good as the outside. It came loaded with leather, heated front seats and heated steering wheel ($1,295). It also came with the optional Comfort Group ($1,895) with rear backup camera, power liftgate, remote start, 8-way power drivers seat, 4-way driver lumbar adjust and a number of other goodies.
The interior is stylish and comfortable and much different than the Cherokee’s from the 90s. It’s almost too nice to take off-road, even though this SUV is highly capable. The cabin features black vents, brown titanium-like trim and stitched leather on the dash. Behind the front seat, there’s a lot of room and convenience for passengers and cargo. The 40.3 inches of rear legroom is nearly 2 inches more than its big brother Grand Cherokee. The 60/40 rear seats fold flat easily for more cargo carrying ability.
Trailhawk is suited for extreme off-road use
The Cherokee Trailhawk ($29,495) is the model in the lineup for extreme off-road use. It comes standard with an Active Drive Lock 4×4 system with low range and locking rear axle, Selec-Terrain drive mode selector, Selec-Speed Control with hill ascent control and hill descent control. It’s definitely suited for off-road use with its tough suspension with increased ride height, heavy-duty cooling system, transmission oil cooler, off-road front and rear fascias, fender flares, red tow hooks and skid plates. It also features other trail goodies like roof rails, black moldings, 17-inch aluminum wheels with black painted pockets and all-terrain tires.
This Trailhawk was powered by the optional 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 engine ($1,495) that produces 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. It’s EPA-rated at 18/25 mpg city/highway. It comes mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission, standard in all Cherokees. This Jeep 3.6-liter has been one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for the last three years and it’s a strong suite for Jeep.
Trailhawk on the road
Out on the road, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has a bit stiffer ride due to the off-road suspension, but it was surprisingly smooth on the highway. The nine-speed transmission is smooth, but we noticed a slight hesitation between gear changes at lower speeds. This could be the result of first gear being an aggressive 4.71:1 for low-end performance. But gears six through nine are all geared higher for the highway. Ninth gear is a super overdrive, at 0.48:1.
If you are looking for a true off-road oriented SUV, Trailhawk is the ticket. The Trailhawk comes with Active Drive Lock with two-speed PTU, low range and locking rear differential and off-road suspension for maximum trail use. It’s designed to do amazing climbing and descending on the steepest terrain. It comes with a new electronic descent control, and with its low 4.7:1 gear ratio for first gear, the crawl ratio of 56:1 is nearly as high as the Jeep Wrangler’s.
Trailhawk also comes with a Selec-Terrain system for extra traction control. It has five modes: Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock. There’s a new independent suspension to go with increased torsional rigidity in the frame. We took this tester over a steep mining road between Evergreen and Idaho Springs for a good test. Don’t be fooled by its good looks, the Trailhawk will go wherever you point it. We shouldn’t be surprised because it’s still a Jeep.
On the open road, it was smooth and solid with a firm ride, and on the dirt road it feels tight. The V6 has a bit of engine noise, but has excellent acceleration and power in all driving situations. The new nine-speed transmission is smooth but time will tell on reliability.
This week I saw many people almost break their neck to look at this good-looking SUV from Jeep. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is at the top of the Cherokee lineup and comes with more goodies for the extreme off-roader and adventure seeker. But it’s so nice on the inside, it makes us wonder if many buyers would be afraid to take it on serious trails.
The Trailhawk is truly in an off-road class of its own and will take its owner anywhere they want to go. Visit Jeep.com for more information about this model or go to respective European Jeep websites for prices and features available in selected countries (i.e. Jeep.co.uk for Jeep Cherokee UK, which comes with an efficient 2.0 diesel engine)