Tests. They can take place anywhere, at any time. The most typical tests occur in classrooms, square places full of hard seats and artificial lighting. Other tests occur in gyms, where people see how much weight they can lift or how many miles they can run on a treadmill in a session.
When it’s not testing the quality of its vehicles in a factory or laboratory setting, Jeep conducts evaluations in the great outdoors, in places free of corners, but full of challenges. Given its reputation for making capable off-road machines, these trials are the most important to the brand – and the most grueling for its four-wheel-drive vehicles. Jeep conducts them in places such as the Rubicon Trail, an infamously difficult landscape. Engineers test each rig for Traction, Water Fording, Maneuverability, Articulation, and Ground Clearance. A passing grade doesn’t come in the form of a letter or number. It comes in the form of a badge. A “Trail Rated” badge.
A variety of four-wheel-drive 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee models come adorned with that round testament to their off-road prowess, but the new Trailhawk is at the top of its class. It started as a concept vehicle that Jeep proudly displayed at the 46th Annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari. Jeep then made a production version of the Trailhawk for the 2013 model year. It was capable of conquering unbeaten paths everywhere – not just those in Utah – with its advanced technology and robust hardware. Now it’s back with a new look and features.
We recently got behind the wheel of a 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk and conducted some tests of our own. We drove it in stop-and-go traffic, on the highway, and over the rocks and dirt of an off-highway vehicle park. We didn’t have a badge to put on it, so we hope the folks at Jeep will put this review on the fridge in their HQ’s breakroom.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Exterior
Technically, you can call the Trailhawk a “two-box” design. It is an SUV, after all. One box has the engine in it, the other one has the five people and their gear that the Grand Cherokee can carry in it. However, when you look at the Trailhawk, it’s hard to describe it as “boxy.” Jeep’s designers softened the corners in the sheet metal without making it look as if it belongs only on paved roads. For the Trailhawk version of the Grand Cherokee, they added eye-catching red front tow hooks, a front fascia and grille from the 75th Anniversary edition Grand Cherokee, 18-inch wheels wrapped in Kevlar-reinforced off-road tires, and red Trailhawk and – of course – Trail Rated badges. The flat-black decal on the hood coordinated well with our test vehicle’s Granite Crystal paint; it also cut down on glare – a useful feature on the road and off of it. We didn’t need the optional Mopar rock rails in the city, but we were glad to know they and the Trailhawk’s collection of skid plates were below us when we were out on the trails carved into the Texas Hill Country.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Interior
Although Jeep doesn’t market the Trailhawk as a luxury vehicle, it certainly equipped the example we reviewed like one. Standard equipment included heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, Uconnect Voice Command with Bluetooth, and SiriusXM satellite radio. Then came the options, such as the Trailhawk Luxury Group which included automatic high beams, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, and rain-sensing wipers.
We were lucky enough to be in the driver seat and note how gentle the ride quality and low the wind noise from outside was. However, being in the second row was a treat, too. The seat backs reclined and we had plenty of legroom.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Performance
Our media loaner came with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 under the hood. That generates 295 horsepower and 260 lbft of torque. A smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic turns that output into forward motion. Jeep does offer the Trailhawk with more powerful engines, but we found its standard power plant to be robust enough to get us down the road at a satisfying rate. The EPA rated it capable of achieving 18 city, 25 highway, and 21 combined mpg.**
We were even more pleased when we took the Trailhawk to an OHV park for some climbing and splashing around. To make sure its vitals were out of harm’s way, we selected the max height for the Quadra-Lift air suspension, which Jeep engineers specially tuned just for the Trailhawk. That gave us a maximum ground clearance of 10.8 inches. That gave us confidence as we wheeled over large rocks and rutted dirt. So did the Rock setting for the Trailhawk’s easy-to-use Selec-Terrain system. We didn’t have to worry about dancing our right foot over the brake and gas pedals going up- or downhill thanks to the combination of Hill Ascent Control and Selec-Speed Control, a sort of off-road cruise control. We just turned it on and steered. It took care of the stopping and going.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Safety
Our test vehicle started life with front, front and rear side-curtain, and front seat-mounted side airbags in addition to a back-up camera and another airbag for the driver’s knees. The list of options added on included Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, and the Jeep Active Safety Group. That package was stuffed with life- and vehicle-saving technologies that could warn us about and stop us from getting into forward collisions, tell us if someone was in our blind spot, warn us if we were drifting over a lane without signaling, gently steer us back into our lane, and keep a predetermined cruise-control distance between us and the vehicle ahead.
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Overall
The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk passed Jeep’s rigorous tests in order to earn its Trail Rated badge. It also did well in our week-long evaluation on- and off-road. All you need to do to put it through your own tests is go to an AutoNation Jeep dealership. Prices start at $43,095.* A Trailhawk just like the one we evaluated goes for $50,120. Resisting the temptation to load a Trailhawk up to that level? That’s another test entirely.
*MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.