2nd Place Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
First shown as a concept at the 2012 Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, the Trailhawk takes the Grand Cherokee (which was all-new for 2011) to an even more off-road-friendly level with the addition of items including steel rock rails and more aggressive 30.5-inch-diameter Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor all-terrain tires. The Trailhawk also has a number of exterior styling features that are designed to set it apart from other Grand Cherokee models visually, including black headlamp surrounds, a black hood decal with color-keyed pinstripe, a slew of Mineral Gray-painted components, red towhooks, a special Trailhawk badge on the liftgate, and unique 18-inch Mineral Gray wheels. The interior sports special red accent stitching, black leather seating with Trailhawk embroidery, dark silver brushed accents, and slush mats. Our Trailhawk tester included the 5.7L Hemi V-8 engine (Trailhawk is also available with the Pentastar 3.6L V-6), Quadra-Lift air suspension, Quadra-Drive II with rear electronic limited-slip differential (Quadra-Trac II is used if Trailhawk is equipped with the V-6 engine), and Selec-Terrain traction control system. New to the platform since it won our 2011 FWOTY competition is a 65RFE six-speed automatic transmission.
Ramp and track
During RTI testing we drove the Trailhawk up the 30-degree ramp in Normal, Off-Road 1, and Off-Road 2 modes. The SUVs best performance was in Off-Road 1 mode (1.3 inches higher than normal ride height), where it traveled a respectable 35 inches up the ramp. This edged out the 33.5-inch measurement it climbed in Normal and Off-Road 2 (2.3 inches higher than normal ride height) modes. At the track, the fastest 0-60 mph time we recorded was 9.3 seconds. The Trailhawk's best quarter-mile run was 17 seconds with a speed of 83.7 mph. Both the 0-60 mph and quarter-mile times were puzzling to us because the Hemi-powered Grand we tested in 2011 was 1.3 seconds faster 0-60 mph and 0.7 seconds faster in the quarter-mile with a 4.5 mph faster trap speed. Obviously, the more aggressive all-terrain tires (the previous tester was fitted with street-oriented tires) would account for some of that decrease. The remainder could be attributed to the fact that our tester only had 450 miles on the odometer and the engine and transmission were not "broken in." During brake testing from 60-0 mph, the binders reigned in the Trailhawk in a decent distance of 142.7 feet with little noticeable intrusive ABS input.
For the class of SUV I think they just about nailed it.
The sexy Trailhawk stitching and embroidery added to the interiors visual appeal and its comfortable leather seats, easy to manipulate switches, and loads of cool technology made it a place most judges wanted to be. One tester said, "Can I live in here?" That same judge noted the interior "feels rich," and he said that there was plenty of seat adjustment for his 6-foot, 2-inch frame, though he questioned the curious lack of seat memory switches. The cargo area also impressed our judges with its protective mat, sturdy tie-downs, and easy-to-open liftgate. We also liked that the spare tire was conveniently located inside the vehicle and not under. Our testers were split on cabin quietness, with some noting that they were impressed by its sealing, while others complained that they expected it to be quieter at speed. Cabin technology impressed even the most tech-shy member of our staff. The Uconnect 430N head unit with Garmin navigation offered up great sound and a staggering number of functions. These features included the ability to sync a personal device via cable or Bluetooth as well as the ability to upload your Garmin waypoints from your personal GPS and navigate to them in the Trailhawk.
Jeep hit the mark when it came to the Trailhawk's exterior treatment. One tester wrote, "Nailed it! Aggressive styling without being gaudy." Even the red tow hooks (open and easy to use) blend nicely with the color scheme. Judges also raved about the rock rails, which made trail-crawling less of a worrisome experience knowing that the Trailhawk's rockers were protected. We also like that Jeep designed the Grand Cherokee with a removable front air dam and recessed tailpipes to help create the impressive approach angle of 34.3 degrees and departure angle of 29.3 degrees (with the suspension in Off-Road 2 mode).