2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review: Pavement Not Required

Engine Power
Off-Road Capability
Interior Treatments
Engine Noise
Overall Cargo Capacity

When Jeep brought the Cherokee back in 2014, they were hoping it would be a big hit with consumers. Well, they hit a home run because it lands in the top 20 best-selling vehicles in America, with more sales than its Grand Cherokee big brother. It comes in seven different trim levels and offers something for just about everyone looking for a small, all-wheel drive SUV.

This week, we are testing a trail-ready, 2019 Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4×4.

What’s New For 2019?

The Jeep Cherokee gets new exterior styling, an optional turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and an upgraded infotainment system.

Features & Options: Plenty To Pick From

The off-road-themed 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4×4 ($33,320) comes with an advanced all-wheel drive system (Active Drive II with Active Drive Lock). It also boasts slightly wider 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires, an off-road-oriented suspension, locking rear differential, plus hill ascent and descent controls. Skid plates, tow hooks, unique exterior trim, and special interior upholstery are also standard. 

Drivers in colder climates will apprentice the remote start.

Our Trailhawk tester also came with the optional Elite package, Technology group, and the upgraded sound and navigation systems. Total MSRP including destination: $40,245. By comparison, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk starts at $33,695. 

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk offers plenty of off-road capability for a smaller SUV. The optional V6 provides smooth, assertive power.

Interior Highlights: Classy & Composed 

On the inside, the Trailhawk looks as good as the outside. It’s loaded with leather and premium touches like heated and ventilated front seats. In fact, the heated steering wheel came in handy this week during our chilly Colorado mountain runs, during which we tested this Trailhawk. Other nice touches include the rear backup camera, power liftgate, remote start, eight-way power driver’s seat, and four-way driver lumbar adjustments. 

The interior is stylish and comfortable and much different than the Cherokee of 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. The center console has been redesigned, being shifted slightly rearward, creating a space for stashing a cell phone near a USB port. There’s also a 115-volt outlet and the latest version of FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system.

Behind the front seat, the 40.3 inches of rear legroom is nearly two inches more than the Grand Cherokee. The 60/40 rear seats fold flat easily for more cargo carrying ability. Jeep has included more volume for the rear area for 2019, which expands to 26 cubic feet. That’s wide enough to accommodate a pair of golf bags, according to Jeep. 

With the rear seats folded flat, max cargo is 55 cubic feet. 

Although the V6 can be a bit noisy, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk accelerates nicely.

Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs

Our Trailhawk came with the optional 3.2-liter V6 that produces 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft. of torque. The engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic, standard in all Cherokees. Jeep’s 3.6-liter has been one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines and it’s a strong suite for the brand.

EPA-ratings for our tester with the V6 were 18/24 city/highway and 21 combined mpg. By comparison, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo for the Trailhawk comes in at 20/26 city/highway with a combined of 22.  

Related: In June 1941, the United States Army sought new proposals for a lightweight, four-wheel drive combat truck. And that’s how Jeep was born.

Driving Dynamics: Off-Road Ready 

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has a stiffer ride due to the off-road suspension, but it was surprisingly smooth on the highway. The nine-speed transmission is mostly seamless, 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. By contrast, the low gear ratio for first gear is perfect for off-road driving.

If you are looking for a true off-road oriented SUV, the Trailhawk is the ticket. The Active Drive Lock (with a two-speed Power Transfer Unit), locking rear differential, and raised, off-road suspension make short work of the trails. It’s designed for climbing over and descending down the steepest terrain. For example, the Trailhawk’s crawl ratio of 56:1 nearly matches the Jeep Wrangler’s.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk feels tight and controlled off-road.

Traction Modes: A Jeep Thing

The Trailhawk comes with a Selec-Terrain system for extra traction and stability when the pavement ends. It has five modes: Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock. There’s a new independent suspension to compliment the increased torsional rigidity in the frame. After we got off the highway, we drove over a steep mining road between Evergreen and Idaho Springs for a good test. 

That’s an area we don’t normally travel on our test drives, unless we have something like this Jeep.  

Don’t be fooled by its good looks, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk will go wherever you point it. We shouldn’t be surprised because it’s still a Jeep. 

Those who visit far-off fishing cabins, do a lot of skiing, or live in places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan should have this Jeep at the top of their shopping list.   

Related: The 707 horsepower Jeep that’s a blast to drive!

Conclusion: High Marks Overall 

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is near the top of the Cherokee line, and comes with more goodies for the adventure seeker. But it’s so nice on the inside, it makes us wonder if buyers will be afraid to hit those more serious trails. Still, the Trailhawk is truly in an off-road class of its own because it will take its owner anywhere they want to go. 

Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Gallery

2019 Jeep Cherokee Official Site

Photos: FCA US LLC.

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