The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is a nice middle ground. It's rugged but not monstrous, and it's comfortable without being over the top in terms of luxury. The Trailhawk also looks good!
Safety & Tech Features
The Cherokee nameplate has been back since 2014 and it continues to get better. Jeep is synonymous with the outdoors and the Trailhawk ramps up the Cherokee’s off-pavement abilities. It comes in seven different trim levels and offers something for just about everyone looking for a stylish and capable SUV.
The Trailhawk is our favorite Cherokee because it offers an appealing combination of standard equipment and serious off-road capability. With the Trailhawk, you can get the optional 2.0-liter turbo engine with more power and better fuel economy over the V6.
This week, we tested a trail-rated 2020 Cherokee Trailhawk. And “trail-rated” isn’t a term we made up! In fact, it’s much more than just a badge on the side of a Jeep.
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: What’s New For 2020?
No significant changes were made for the 2020 model year. There are a few little things, like the Sangria and Spitfire Orange exterior paint colors and available 19-inch wheels for the Limited models, but other than that, the Jeep Cherokee is largely unchanged for 2020.
Standard Features: Looking The Part!
Our 2020 Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 4×4 tester ($34,505) came standard with leather upholstery; heated front seats and a heated steering wheel; an upgraded driver display in the gauge cluster; 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system; and a nine-speaker audio system.
The off-road-themed Trailhawk also comes with an advanced all-wheel drive system (Active Drive II with Active Drive Lock). It gets wider wheels and all-terrain tires; increased ground clearance; off-road-oriented suspension tuning; locking rear differential; hill ascent and descent controls; skid plates; tow hooks; and unique upholstery.
Optional Features: Tech & Towing
Optional packages on our tester included the Elite Package ($3,195) with ventilated front seats, power liftgate, and remote start.
The Technology group ($1,595) added full-speed forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking; traffic-adaptive cruise control; lane departure warning; automatic wipers; automatic high-beams; and an automatic parking system that works for both parallel and perpendicular spots.
A Trailer Tow Package ($795) added a stand-alone transmission cooler and Class III hitch; a trailer wiring harness for both four- and seven-pin systems, and a full-size spare tire. It also came with a sunroof ($1,595), navigation ($895), and black aluminum wheels ($655).
What Does The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Cost?
Total MSRP, including destination, for our 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk tester: $45,425. By comparison, the 2020 Jeep Cherokee starts at $25,840 in the base Latitude trim with front-wheel drive; the Trailhawk 4×4 starts at $34,755.
Interior Highlights: Sleek & Warm
On the inside, the Trailhawk comes loaded with leather and premium touches like heated and ventilated front seats. In fact, the heated seats and steering wheel came in handy this week during our chilly Colorado mountain runs, the ideal place to test this Trailhawk. Other premium touches include a rear backup camera, power liftgate, remote start, eight-way power driver’s seat, and four-way driver lumbar adjustments.
There are some hard plastics, but that allows for easy clean up after a dusty day on a high country trail.
Our tester came with an all-black interior with chrome accents on the dash and console. The center console has been redesigned, being shifted slightly rearward, creating a space for stashing a cell phone, along with two USB ports and a 12V plug. There’s also the latest version of FCA’s Uconnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch display.
Interior Highlights: Pleasant Views
The panoramic sunroof opens by the push of a button above the windshield. During our drive this week, we opened the cover to reveal a full view of the mountains for our passengers. They continued to comment, even after we got back, how nice having the sunroof was in our Cherokee Trailhawk tester.
Rear passengers get 40.3 inches of legroom, nearly two inches more than the Grand Cherokee. The 60/40 rear seats fold flat for more cargo carrying ability. The rear area expands to almost 26 cubic feet which is wide enough to accommodate a pair of golf bags, according to Jeep. With the rear seats folded flat, max cargo is nearly 55 cubic feet.
2020 Jeep Cherokee: Engine & Transmission
Our Trailhawk came with the optional 2.0-liter turbo I-4 engine with 270 horsepower (5,250 rpm) and 295 lb-ft. of torque (3,000 to 4,500 rpm). The engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic, standard on all Cherokees regardless of trim level or engine.
Optional on the Trailhawk is the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft. of torque. Although not available for the Trailhawk, a 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 engine with 180 horsepower is on offer for other trim levels.
How Much Can The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Tow?
With the Trailer Tow Package, the Cherokee Trailhawk with the 2.0-liter turbo can tow a maximum of 4,000 lbs. That number increases to 4,500 lbs. with the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6.
EPA-ratings for our tester with the 2.0-liter turbo were 20/26 city/highway and 22 combined with Jeep Active Drive Lock (4×4). By comparison, the 3.2-liter V6 comes in at 18/24 city/highway and 21 combined with Jeep Active Drive Lock.
Driving Dynamics: Powerful & Firm
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk with the 2.0-liter turbo would be our choice of engine, even though it can be a little noisy. It has more low end torque than the V6 and the turbocharger is perfect for high altitude environments where the oxygen is rare. We had all the power needed to push hard up a steep pass into the mountains west of Denver.
The ride is a bit firmer due to the off-road suspension tuning, but the Trailhawk is still reasonably 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.
Gears six through nine are all geared higher for the highway and worked perfectly with the 2.0-liter engine. 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.
Driving Dynamics: Getting Off-Road!
If you are looking for a true off-road oriented SUV, the Trailhawk should be on your shopping list. The Active Drive Lock system (with a two-speed Power Transfer Unit) and locking rear differential make short work of the trails. It’s designed for climbing over and descending down the steepest terrain. The Trailhawk’s crawl ratio of 56:1 makes it easy to get to a far-off campsite.
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. After we got off the highway, we drove over a slick and ice-covered dirt road in Snow mode. We felt confident as the Firestone Destination A/T tires dug in and kept us moving.
Conclusion: Pavement Not Needed
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is for those with active lifestyles, but it adds more goodies for off-pavement adventures. The Trailhawk is truly in a class of its own, and you’ll be able to take it far off the beaten path after commuting through the city all week. Don’t be fooled by its good looks, the Trailhawk will go just about anywhere you point it.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy