The 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
If finding your own path is your thing, this Jeep is not to be passed up, says auto writer Greg Rubenstein.
Ever heard the phrase, “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”—or perhaps seen it plastered to the back of some adventure-bound 4×4? While the catchphrase has cohort-dependent meaning, to the faithful it’s generally an exhortation to the wild
For the uninitiated, owning a Jeep is as much a way of life as it is a means of transportation. Fortunately for Jeep and its parent, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Cherokee is an example deserving the enthusiasm. Just-right in style and execution—especially when in the as-tested Trailhawk 4×4 configuration—Jeep has a powerful entry in this fiercely-competitive compact utility vehicle class, serving up a ruggedly-capable CUV equipped with a segment-leading drivetrain comprised of a 271-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 engine mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
While all those gears help keep noise down and fuel economy up, keep in mind too, the Cherokee in Trailhawk trim—Jeep’s most trail-ready iteration—comes equipped with more off-road capacity than most drivers will know what to do with, except perhaps, Jeep peeps who know enough and purchase for its intended and “Trail-Rated” purpose.
In detail, this Cherokee gets a fully automated dual-speed power transfer unit, increased ride height, a 56:1 crawl gear ratio as well as locking rear differential. The two-speed transfer unit seamlessly swaps power delivery between two-and four-wheel-drive, while simultaneously providing yaw correction, keeping you headed in the right direction no matter what the road or elements throw your way. The Cherokee also delivers a driver-selectable terrain traction control system, offering five settings—from snow to sand and mud, to rock, sport or a fully automatic option. Each traction selection makes use of up to a dozen electronic control systems—including braking, stability, transmission and powertrain and ascent/descent—which collaboratively and automatically work to keep driver and occupants safe.
Beyond its high-end off-road credentials, the Cherokee is an on-road runner with handsome looks and an interior both smart and intuitive. The chiseled exterior cues off Jeep’s trademark vertical slat grille, updated with LED lights and bright-red dual front tow hooks. The squared wheel arches and short front and rear overhangs are at once bold and practical, providing an approach angle of 29.8 degrees, a departure angle of 32.1 degrees and 8.7 inches of ground clearance.
Inside, soft-touch surfaces abound, and heated-and-cooled leather seats envelop occupants for easy long-distance drives. Technology has made huge strides in the 2016 model year—so much so, if you haven’t shopped for a new vehicle in the last 12 months, you’re in for a techno-overload experience. The Cherokee is no exception, sporting an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system, powered by the industry’s (arguably) best “Uconnect” control system, which now offers a drag-and-drop menu bar, natural-language voice command for read-aloud texting or a “do not disturb” override system that will direct incoming calls to voicemail and suppress text messages.
The base Cherokee with four-cylinder engine starts at $24,390. In full off-road regalia, the as-tested Trailhawk came in at $39,805, which included every major option group plus navigation and painted aluminum wheels. EPA fuel estimates range from 22 city and 31 highway for the base model, to 19 city and 26 highway for the Trailhawk, thanks in large part to the not-so-fuel-friendly (but off-road friendly) all-terrain tires. Observed mileage after a week of commuting and a couple of off-road forays was just shy of 25 mpg, well over the combined 22-mpg estimate.
In a crowded field of CUV contenders, the Cherokee boasts an unmatched utility pedigree—and backs it up with unparalleled all-terrain capability, at least when comparing off-the-showroom-floor capacities. If finding your own path is your thing, this Jeep is an all-roads bargain not to be passed up. It’s actually pretty easy to understand.
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