With the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the names tell a lot of the story: Summit Reserve and Trailhawk. The former sounds more like a locally produced Merlot than an all-terrain machine. It is the wine country’s touring transmission of the Grand Cherokee series. That’s largely borne out by a quick scan of its pavement-oriented tire and clearance specs, not to mention our test results. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk, on the other hand, sounds like a machine that wants nothing more than a dirt bath. It also looks like a more promising off-highway partner on paper, so we had to get our hands on one to better explore its capabilities.
We had driven the new Grand Cherokee Trailhawk before, during the product launch event in Moab, Utah. It acquitted itself extremely well on a short tough off-road course just outside of town. But when we say “just outside of town” we don’t mean more than two miles from home base. Very little pavement riding was involved on the Trailhawk portion of the program, so we didn’t learn much about living with it day to day.
At $56,030, the Trailhawk 4×4 sits just above the volume-selling Limited and below the Overland in the Grand Cherokee pricing and equipment hierarchy. That price gets you full-time four-wheel drive, air suspension and adaptive dampers, power heated and ventilated front leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats. The logically arranged controls are laid out over a piano black background, meaning fingerprints are seemingly standard, with faint scratches optional if you use the wrong type of cleaning cloth. Such marks were so evident on our test vehicle’s drop-down cup holder lid that we simply left it open. Can we snap this trend please?
You can also outfit a Trailhawk with options found higher up the food chain, such as the Uconnect 5 10.1-inch display with navigation, a dual-window panoramic sunroof, a front passenger display, and a full suite of advanced driver assistance features and luxury appointments. Our test sample had all that and more, pushing the price to an eye-watering $65,535. It would have been $3795 more expensive if we’d added the optional 5.7-liter V-8, and the Trailhawk is also available with 4xe plug-in hybrid powertrain at a starting price of $64,280.
Our tester instead had the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, which is such an impressive base engine that it’s standard on all models—up to and including the Summit Reserve. Its 293 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque feel more than adequate in the Trailhawk, even off-road, where low gearing multiplies torque by a factor of 2.72. Its power output flows through the same smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic and 3.45-to-1 final drive as the Summit Reserve, so it’s no surprise that its 7.7-second 60-mph sprint, 15.8-second quarter-mile, and 5.5 second 50 to 70 mph passing times are within 0.2 to 0.3 seconds of the results we measured with the Summit Reserve.
Trailhawk times are fractionally slower, which makes sense when you consider the extra tread that comes with its chunkier 265/60R-18 Goodyear Wrangler Territory All-Terrain tires. We’re frankly surprised that the Summit Reserve’s wider, pavement-oriented 275/45R-21 Continental CrossContact LX Sport rubber didn’t give it a bigger advantage. However, we saw a bigger performance gap in our braking and cornering tests, where the Trailhawk stretched its 70 mph stops to 185 feet versus the Summit Reserve’s 163 feet, and on the skidpad managed just 0.78 g of stick compared to the Summit Reserve’s more robust 0 .85 g.
However, such borderline shortcomings don’t amount to much in the real world, mainly because off-road customers expect as much. Additionally, the off-road tires don’t undermine the predictability and agility of the steering as the Trailhawk benefits from the same revised multi-link (single upper control arm and double lower link) front suspension and improved steering setup found throughout the Grand Cherokee lineup. The Trailhawk’s standard air springs and adaptive dampers also pair well with the taller sidewalls of its 18-inch Wranglers to take the edge off cracks and seams in the pavement.
Off-road hijacking is what the Trailhawk was built to handle, and on that front it’s not only far better equipped than the Summit, it even eclipses the previous generation Trailhawk. It starts at the chin. The Summit’s street-oriented front fascia offers only 28.2 degrees of approach clearance in the suspension’s highest off-road setting, and last year’s Traihawk was slightly better at 29.8 degrees. However, its front air dam was designed to be removable, resulting in 36.1 degrees if you were willing to: a) go to the trouble and b) live with the ugly result. Meanwhile, this new Trailhawk’s redesigned front end delivers 35.7 degrees of clearance out of the box, without having to remove anything.
The new Trailhawk also differs from last year’s model in that its front anti-roll bars can be disconnected, just like a Wrangler Rubicon. We measured its suspension travel on our test ramp and recorded a ramp-travel index (RTI) score of 365 with the bar connected and 478 with it disconnected, a whopping 31 percent increase resulting from an extra 4.5 inches of suspension flex over the axle. front axle. We haven’t measured the outgoing Trailhawk, but it would likely score lower because the new Trailhawk’s revised front suspension also includes an extra inch of travel.
These two qualities are why the new Trailhawk excelled in Moab and on our own trails close to home. To overcome an obstacle, you must first clear it by the nose. After that, the grip provided by the off-road tires and the low-range shifting of the Quadra-Drive II full-time all-wheel-drive system help it climb the face, as the available (and cleverly disguised) Mopar mountain rails protect the lower edges of the body as the suspension flexes to keep all four tires connected to soil. When that’s no longer possible, the Quadra-Drive II system’s electronically controlled limited-slip differential can transfer as much as 100 percent of the rear axle’s torque to the tire still on the ground. Forward visibility is maintained throughout thanks to the Trailhawk’s standard front-facing off-road camera, which can be cleaned with a flush system if you manage to splash it with mud.
Obviously, not everyone needs this kind of off-road performance, even in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. But the Trailhawk formula exists precisely because there are a large number of Grand Cherokee customers who want their Jeep to do Jeep things. On this front, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk delivers, and it delivers a higher level of that kind of capability quite seamlessly. Its chunkier tires may dampen its ultimate dynamic performance slightly, but the extensive improvements made across the Grand Cherokee range ensure its on-road handling and general manners are thoroughly enjoyable. Even enough for a trip to Merlot country.
2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Vehicle Type: Front Engine, 4 Wheel Drive, 5 Passenger, 4 Door Wagon
Base/As Tested: $56,030/$65,535
Options: Advanced Protech Group, $2235; dual-pane panoramic sunroof, $1,835; Uconnect 5 navigation with 10.1-inch screen, $1615; luxury tech group III (hands-free power baggate, rain-sensing windshield wipers, digital display rearview mirror, wireless phone charging), $1455; front passenger display, $1095; Mopar rock rails, $995; Velvet red color, $395
DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection
Displacement: 220 inches33604 cm3
Power: 293 hp at 6400 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft at 4000 rpm
Suspension, F/R: multilink/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.9-inch ventilated disc/13.8-inch ventilated disc
Tires: Goodyear Wrangler Territory AT
265/60R-18 110H M+S
Wheelbase: 116.7 inches
Length: 193.5 inches
Width: 77.5 inches
Height: 70.9 inches
Passenger volume: 107 feet3
Cargo volume: 38 feet3
Curb weight: 4887 lb
CD TEST RESULT
60 mph: 7.7 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.8 sec @ 88 mph
100 mph: 21.6 sec
The results above omit the 1-foot launch of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 8.3 sec
Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.2 sec
Top Gear, 50-70 mph: 5.5 sec
Top speed (gov ltd): 117 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 185 ft
Roadholding, 300 ft. Skidpad: 0.78g
CD FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 19 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 22/19/26 mpg
CD TESTS EXPLAINED
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