The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, perhaps more than any vehicle it competes with, must be many things to many different buyers. In its base Laredo and mid-level Limited trims, it offers buyers in the market a rugged two- or three-row option with legitimate dirt-road capability. In its upper crust of Summit and Summit Reserve, we said it compares favorably with luxury offerings from Audi, Lincoln, Land Rover and Mercedes-Benz. And then there’s the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, which is the model we just spent a week driving on and off pavement. It ostensibly competes with off-road SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, but as we’ll explain, it casts a much wider net than that.
Jeep has made sure that casual observers can tell that the Trailhawk is no ordinary Grand Cherokee. A matte-finish hood decal immediately gives it away, punctuated by bright red towbars and unique 18-inch wheels shod in chunky Goodyear Wrangler off-road tires. But it’s what you don’t immediately see underneath and inside the vehicle that really makes the Trailhawk tick.
As you’d expect from a Jeep that wears a Trail Rated badge on its fender, the 2022 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk comes with a full complement of steel plates to protect its delicate underbelly. Hopefully they won’t be needed, though, as the Quadra-Lift height-adjustable air suspension system lifts the Grand Cherokee to a maximum of 11.3 inches of ground clearance. That’s more clearance than a Wrangler Rubicon (without the Xtreme Recon package’s 35-inch tires) and provides a wading depth of up to 24 inches. The suspension will adjust itself based on the selected Selec-Terrain Traction Management mode, or can be adjusted manually with a control to the right of the knurled steering wheel that doubles as a shifter.
Jeep’s Selec-Terrain Traction Management System includes snow, sand/mud and rock modes in addition to the auto mode it will be in most of the time and oddly enough a sport mode. These modes are selected with a slider to the left of the spinning shifter. Select-Speed Control keeps the vehicle at a constant (slow) speed regardless of incline or decline, without additional driver intervention.
Like the Wrangler Rubicon, Ford Bronco and some versions of the Toyota 4Runner, the Trailhawk offers a pivoting disconnect. Pressing a button on the console electronically disconnects the front sway bar that normally connects the driver and passenger side wheels. This gives the two wheels greater freedom of movement and thus increased suspension link. It automatically reconnects at normal driving speeds to provide safer handling on pavement.
Also standard is Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II full-time all-wheel-drive system, which features an active transmission and a rear electronic limited-slip differential. It can send as much as 100% of total engine torque to a rear wheel. Of course, there’s a 4 Low mode that locks the front and rear differentials and switches to 2.72:1 gearing for low-speed crawling. There is also a neutral position that allows for flat towing on the road.
Now would be a good time to point out that all the excellent top-shelf hardware is mostly designed to help the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk excel off-road. Sure, there’s a sport mode, but there’s no getting around the fact that this SUV wears gnarly tires and was fundamentally engineered to be at its best crawling over boulders, ducking through mud, sledding through snow or any other off-road scenario you can dream up. That’s not to say it’s not good to drive on the road, but buyers who don’t know what a disconnect sway bar is or why it might be useful — stuff that adds significant cost — should look at one of the other fine Grand Cherokee trim levels. We’ll dive a little deeper into that discussion a little further below.
Our test vehicle was powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. We never felt like the Trailhawk hurt the power, but for those buyers who want more, a 5.7-liter Hemi is available that spins out 357 hp and 390 lb-ft. Both engines send those ponies through an eight-speed automatic transmission to all four wheels. The EPA rates the V6-powered Trackhawk at 19 miles per gallon in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 22 combined, and that’s about what we managed for a week. The V8 is rated at 14 city, 22 highway and 17 combined. That’s not great, but it’s actually on par with the much less powerful V6-powered Toyota 4Runner’s EPA ratings of 16 city, 19 highway and 17 combined.
There’s a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe coming this spring, and it sounds promising on paper. It will produce 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque from a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to an electric motor. Jeep estimates drivers will get 25 miles of electric range from a full charge, and the EPA says drivers should expect a combined 23 mpg after the battery runs out of enough juice to power the vehicle without the engine’s help. As always with a plug-in hybrid, you should charge as much as possible to maximize efficiency.
The standard V6 engine is not only adequate in power, but it also performs smoothly. We’ve long been fans of the eight-speed transmission that Jeep uses in the Grand Cherokee (and a number of other Stellantis vehicles), and it works well in the Trailhawk. There are dim shifters on the steering wheel; we tested them to make sure they work, and they do, but we found little use for them afterwards when we were on the road.
Jumping into Sport mode lowers the Trailhawk’s center of gravity, which certainly gives the driver more car-like response, and we won’t complain about that. The big bulky tires, however, still roll a lot more than lower-profile, street-oriented tires would, and there’s really no more electric trick Jeep can do about it. We were happy to leave the Trailhawk in Auto most of the time, letting it control itself and letting in a lowered aerodynamic stance at highway speeds.
We mentioned the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro as a competitor to the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, and it’s probably about as close to a bogey as there is on the market today. Compared to the $56,030 Trailhawk, the $53,635 TRD Pro feels dated—both by design and because it’s been around for ages. The 4Runner may be a charming old beast, but it’s less powerful, less refined, bumpier and noisier than the Trailhawk. Its interior tech doesn’t come close to comparing with the array of displays offered by Jeep, its gauges are, well, gauges instead of customizable digital readouts, and the suspension doesn’t increase or decrease ride height. You also can’t get a disconnect sway bar on the TRD Pro. Both will get drivers to their off-road destinations, but the Jeep will do so with greater comfort and refinement both on and off pavement.
We made good use of the wet spring conditions on the roads to test the extra traction offered by the thick tires and heavy-duty off-road technology. Despite wading through ankle-deep mud and muck, we never came close to getting stuck. Low gearing made quick work of the steepest hills we could find in central Ohio, and while we didn’t need to use the disconnect sway bar, we still tested it on a two-lane boat ramp divided by a thick concrete curb. No surprise, it increased the amount of suspension travel and thus the distance we could reach when crossing the gap.
The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s $56,030 price includes a mandatory and seemingly exorbitant $1,795 destination charge. Add $395 for color other than solid white — our test car showed up with two-tone Silver Zynith and Black, which we wished was slightly lighter or deeper. We’d consider the $1,295 Luxury Tech Group mandatory to get things like proximity entry and a power tilt/telescoping steering column with memory. Our tester’s sticker price rose to $61,040 with a dual-window panoramic sunroof, the $1,095 interactive front passenger display, the highly recommended $1,495 Uconnect infotainment system on a large and impressive 10.1-inch screen, and a $1,995 package which adds a useful Night Vision mode. and a surround camera package. Buyers wanting a third row are out of luck as there’s no Trailhawk version of the Grand Cherokee L available – it’s two-row only.
We reiterate here that we tested this amazing all-terrain package, and it works exactly as advertised. But we never actually had to try it, even though we were specifically looking for the roughest hill we could drive through on hunting trails that are otherwise occupied only by ATVs and people wearing rubber boots. All of this is to say that we applaud Jeep for offering a Grand Cherokee that’s truly off-road capable, but the Limited 4×4 that costs $5,000 less or the Overland that costs just a grand or two more would probably be better choices for drivers who don’t I don’t know why they would need a Trail Rated badge.
But for those buyers who know exactly why they need nearly a foot of ground clearance, the ability to claim 2 feet of water or enough suspension travel to scale a mini Mount Rushmore, well, there really isn’t anything else on the market that also adds luxury finish and refinement to the price of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.