2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review
The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk in a vivid orange splash of Mango Tango. The Trailhawk trim promises real off-road ability to complement on road civility.
THE PROS & CONS
A solid combination of off-road ability and luxurious midsize civility in a modern package that somehow still manages to maintain Jeep tradition.
Some of the nanny-tech can get annoying – lane keeping and active braking but is easily shut off.
Seeing a team stick with a design that was bang on, despite the naysayers.
“Wow, what the heck is . . . ?”
“It’s called Mango Tango,” I interrupted without waiting for the end of the question.
You see I was getting used to having this conversation. The orange-coloured Cherokee tended to stand out, just a wee bit.
“Well, it certainly is a (insert your opinion here) colour for a sport ute!”
Yes, definitely a love-it or hate-it colour treatment.
Which seems only fitting. Because the Jeep Cherokee itself caused no shortage of consternation when it was unveiled two years ago at the 2013 New York Auto Show.
The pundits were polarized. Any audience stacked with enthusiasts and experts tends to be rife with old fartism and traditionalist tendencies.
And after 40 years and four generations of Cherokees, from the full-size two-door SJ models through the compact, boxy and spartan XJ models, not to mention later Liberty versions, there was, in some quarters, a nostalgic longing for a return to plain-Jane simplicity of the ‘80s and traditional Jeep styling cues to honour the Cherokee legacy.
Well, what they got instead was a mix of cutting-edge modern styling that started traditionally enough with the usual seven-slot grille but mounting diagonal slashed LED running/signal lights and low slung headlights instead of the traditional round Jeep headlamps, a streamlined shape instead of boxy contours and with sensuous curves instead of angled corners.
“I almost canceled my Twitter account,” Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s design chief was quoted as saying, referring to the heated reaction after the Cherokee’s debut. But Chrysler’s design team stood fast, heeding a more important reaction – the strong sales numbers, as Jeep began capturing a new target audience of crossover intenders, not SUV traditionalists, but customers looking at RAV4s and Honda CR-Vs.
Those customers have a choice of four Cherokee trim levels – Sport ($23,695), North ($27,385) and Limited ($30,895) models available in 4X2 or 4X4 versions (plus $2,200), as well as, tested here, an off-road oriented Trailhawk ($31,895), offered exclusively in four-wheel drive configuration.
If we categorized each trim level, the Sport would be the entry bargain level, the North trim aimed at compromise customers looking for a few added extras, with the fully-loaded Limited trim reserved for luxury seekers and the Trailhawk aimed squarely at weekend warriors with a taste for edgier styling and performance.
Like all the other Cherokee trim levels, this Trailhawk comes with a choice of two engines.
A standard 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir inline four-cylinder makes 184 hp and 171 lb/ft of peak torque. The four-banger is probably sufficient for most needs. Fuel economy is rated at 12.1/9.4L/100km (city/hwy).
For a little extra oomph, and also tested here, Chrysler’s ubiquitous 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 (plus $1,595) boasts a brawnier 271 hp and 239 lb/ft of peak torque.
With extra towing grunt and more than enough hot rod-like throttle response to plaster a grin on any enthusiast’s face, this optional V6 is probably well worth the extra moolah, if you want to cover all the bases. Especially when you consider that the V6 actually gets about the same gas mileage as the four-cylinder, with a rating of 12.2/9.0L/100km (city/hwy). The 3.2-litre V6 gets an added fuel economy assist from an Engine Stop-Start (ESS) system, newly-introduced for the 2015 models. But my real world rating still averaged out at 12.9L/100km (comb).
All Jeep Cherokees translate power through a ZF-based nine-speed automatic transmission and through either a front-wheel drive system or through three increasingly competent four-wheel drive powertrains.
The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk tested here harnesses Jeep’s Active Drive II with available low-range gearing, along with Jeep Active Drive Lock featuring a locking rear differential for some serious bush-bashing abilities.
A Selec-Terrain traction control system features five customized modes – Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock settings – that can be dialed in via a console-mounted controller.
The Selec-Terrain system coordinates up to 12 different dynamic systems and is backed up by Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist, Selec-Speed Control, All Speed Traction Control, Electronic Roll Mitigation and Trailer Sway Damping.
More than 70 other standard or available safety and security features include a Parkview backup camera, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist System, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping and, new for 2015, a forward collision warning system with low-speed crash mitigation. And the list goes on and on.
Some of the features that really separate this Trailhawk from the rest of the Cherokee herd include distinctively slimmer front and rear fascias, tougher off-road suspension tweaks and one-inch suspension lift in ride height that results in a 224 mm (8.8 in) ground clearance rating, a full-size spare instead of a compact tire, skid plates, transmission and oil coolers, two red tow hooks up front and one in the rear, P245/65R17 Firestone Destination OWL All-terrain tires mounted on special blacked-out aluminum wheels and rubber/vinyl floor matts instead of the usual carpet matts.
It all comes together in a Rubicon Trail-tested sum total that has earned the Trail Rated badging proudly mounted on the side of the Jeep Trailhawk.
And it also comes together in a uniquely styled and aggressive package that I was really starting to warm up to.
That orange hue is startling at first but vibrant against the dull greys of winter. The black wheels and edgy black hood decal, the kind of decor add-on you’d expect on a muscle car. An interior optioned up beyond even the Limited level, leather clad and with red sport stitching reflecting the funky exterior red accents of the tow hooks and badging.
In fact, I think if I took the plunge I’d expand on that look with maybe some red caliper covers and, hmmm, possibly a black safari-style roof basket, or even adding a . . .
“Excuse me, buddy. But what exactly is that . . .?”
“It’s a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, man, in Mango Tango. Yeah, Mango Tango.”