Whether it was flat highway or tricky twisties, all judges agreed that the IFS/IRS Trailhawk is a fine handling machine. One tester said that it was "Very point-and-shoot." Another noted that it was "More like a luxury car on the highway than a truck. Very quiet, smooth, and sporty." Another said it "Feels stable and secure when cornering." All agreed that this is a vehicle you can settle into, drive all day, and even have fun with on curvy roads. With Select-Terrain set to Sport mode it reacted predictably and confidently as we pushed it through twisting mountain roads. With Select-Terrain in Auto mode, the air suspension softened and allowed the rig to float down the highway.
Jeep has outfitted the Grand Cherokee with a number of electronic gizmos in an effort to make wheeling point-and-shoot. Hill Descent Control (HDC) and Select-Terrain are the two biggies and they work in conjunction with Quadra-Drive II's rear electronic limited-slip differential (ELSD) and brake traction control (BTC) for the frontend (in lieu of a limited-slip or locking front differential). We'd prefer the ELSD from the previous generation Grand Cherokee, but the system works well, though it doesn't react as quickly as we'd like. Nonetheless, even with a tire or two in the air the system put power to the all-terrain tires and it kept the rig moving. The adjustable air suspension is a functional, handy feature, offering the ability to alter the ride height for the type of trail. Off-Road 2 mode offered the highest ride height (2.3 inches over normal), which increased ground clearance, approach angle, departure angle, and rampover angle. This was most welcome, but came at the expense of suspension downtravel. This led to a "thud" that was transferred through the chassis and into the cabin when the suspension topped out. Every judge noted this harmless but annoying quality and we feel it tarnishes what is otherwise a very polished vehicle. One judge wrote "I got to the point that I would sacrifice ground clearance by lowering the suspension to keep it from topping out and clunking like a 30-year-old carnival ride." Also in regard to the air suspension, we found that when driven over rough terrain at speed for long periods of time requiring numerous automatic suspension adjustments, the air compressor would heat up and the computer would temporarily shut down the compressor until it reached a cooler temperature. The Trailhawk was a favorite in the sand ("Sand King," one judge christened it), on rocky trails ("No complaints," one tester noted), and on dirt roads and in washes ("Magic," said one judge).
The Trailhawk takes the very capable Grand Cherokee to a new level with some simple off-road-centric upgrades and a special look both inside and out. In the Empirical segment of testing it outscored the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Moab in payload and towing as well as maximum ground clearance, departure angle, and breakover angle. The Trailhawk is perfect for those who want a luxury SUV that excels off-road.
What's hot: Trail-ready tires, rocker protection, sexy interior, bold exterior
What's not: Air suspension noise at top-out, no front ELSD
Our take: A luxurious SUV that knows how to wheel
"Maybe lockers and coilovers could make it better?"
"Wonderful engine, sound, and power. Always brings a smile when I stab the throttle."
"Solid. I never felt like I could over-drive it."
"Great looking rig. Screams prestige and aggressiveness."