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First Report: Long-Term 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

Posted in Features on July 10, 2017
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While every new vehicle in the Jeep brand lineup today has its purpose and place in the broad spectrum of automotive usefulness, the Grand Cherokee holds a singularly distinct position on that roster. It’s the reigning monarch. No, it’s not the best hardcore off-roader in the bloodline; that seat is held quite rightfully by the mounted knight of the Jeep realm—the Wrangler JK. It’s not the most economy minded, either. Depending upon your needs and tastes, that seat is filled by either the Compass or the Renegade with their fuel-sipping four-cylinder engines. And although the Cherokee does command a princely station somewhere in between these vehicles, none combine power, off-road capability, on-road drivability, comfort, seating room, and style in the same regal amalgam as the Grand Cherokee. Add the Trailhawk performance package and the Jeep Grand Cherokee not only has the crown but the sword of a king as well.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk won our 2017 Four Wheeler SUV of the Year test handily. It did so for many reasons, but chief among them were its powerful and responsive engine and transmission combination, adjustable air suspension system, and firm chassis structure. As we put fingers to keyboard on this first long-term test report, the ’17 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has just more than 6,000 miles on it. We’ve learned more, reaffirmed much of what we already thought, and found some things to nitpick.

The sequential multiport fuel-injected 245ci 5.7L V-8 Hemi has a manufacturer’s advertised power rating of 360 hp at 5,150 rpm and 390 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. The ZF 845RE eight-speed automatic transmission offers a 4.71 First gear (which helps make up for the highway fuel mileage-oriented 3.09 axle gears), and the MP3022 two-speed transfer case has a 2.72 low range. That gives the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk a 39.6:1 crawl ratio. While a great torque number like that with a high peak rpm might not seem as useful for off-roading as we would like, the transmission gearing behind that engine and the engine’s response to pedal input makes up for the lack of a low-end torque peak in almost all situations.

For odd jobs around town such as home or garden supply runs, the Grand’s electric rack-and-pinion system with a 3.2-turn steering wheel (lock-to-lock) and 16.7:1 ratio made the Jeep highly maneuverable and easy to park in slots that these days all seem designed for a Smart Car. The 60/40-split rear bench seat folded flat and the rear hatch opened extra high to offer an easy berth for bags of mulch, lumber for a new gate, and even five 33-inch tires for one of our projects.

Off-road, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk shined as well. Whether traversing a bladed forest-service dirt road, sandy wash, or a trail pocked with grapefruit to basketball-sized stones, the Jeep performed flawlessly. An electronic rear limited-slip differential will come to life when the system senses a wheel on either side spinning freely; and although this does help in moments of need, we sure would appreciate an honest-to-goodness selectable locker in the rear axle.

Our long-term test ’17 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has delivered good overall performance in mild-to-moderate terrain conditions during weekend outings to the desert and mountains.

The Selec-Terrain dial that engages the terrain modes (Auto, Mud, Rock, Sand, and Snow), which alter the powertrain and drivetrain performance as well as adjusting the Quadra-Lift systems ride-height to best negotiate the terrain selected, seemed a bit more like something you would find in a Tie Fighter than an off-road vehicle, but after a while we got used to it, and we’ve stopped reaching toward the floor for a lever.

You can also manually adjust the Quadra-Lift system by using the Up and Down buttons on the Selec-Terrain module. However, the Terrain Mode must be selected first and then the ride height manually selected. If you change to a different Terrain Mode, the system will automatically reset to the pre-selected ride height for the newly selected Terrain Mode. Hill Descent Control is also built into the Selec-Terrain module.

So in general, there was a lot to like and not much to dislike during our first few months in the ’17 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. It served us very well as a weekend getaway vehicle, allowing us to enjoy the backcountry of our surrounding mountains and deserts. It also worked well as a daily commuter and errand runner. We’ll check in with you again a few months down the road, and dig deeper into other aspects of our long-term test Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.

Looking more like the controls to a Tie Fighter than an off-road vehicle, the Selec-Terrain module offers fingertip control over drivetrain and suspension performance tuning to suit a variety of terrain conditions.

Report: 1 of 4

Base price: $43,095
Price as tested: $53,515
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time electronically controlled, two-speed

Long-Term Numbers

Miles to date: 6,340
Miles since last report: N/A
Average mpg (this report): 16.0
Test best tank (mpg): 18.9 (highway)
Test worst tank (mpg): 14.3 (70 percent off-road/30 percent highway)

Maintenance

This period: None
Problem areas: One random air-ride system overheat warning

What’s Hot, What’s Not

Hot: Good engine power, broad range of gears in transmission, ability to manually shift the automatic transmission through the gear lever, air-suspension system height adjustability
Not: Paddle shifters on the steering wheel, rear limited-slip rather than a selectable locker

Logbook Quotes

“Quadra-Lift air suspension system doesn’t like to work when vehicle is off-camber.” “Excellent driving control on sandy roads, with strong engine response, and good steering control.”

Options As Tested

Customer Preferred Package 28J: Trailhawk Luxury Group ($2,695); Automatic High Beam Headlight Control, Automatic Headlight Leveling System, Bi-Zenon HID Headlamps, Cargo Compartment Cover, Dual-Pane Panoramic Sunroof, LED Daytime Running Headlamps, LED Fog Lamps, Power Tilt/Telescope Steering Column, Rain Sensitive Windshield Wipers. Jeep Active Safety Group ($1,495); Adaptive Cruise Control With Stop; Advanced Brake Assist, Full Speed Collision Warning Plus, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning Plus, Parallel And Perpendicular Park Assist. 5.7L Hemi V-8 Engine ($3,295); 3.09 Axle Ratio, 700-Amp Maintenance Free Battery, Anti-Lock 4-Wheel Disc Heavy Duty Brakes. Rock Rails ($895). Uconnect 8.4 NAV ($450); GPS Navigation, HD Radio, SiriusXM Traffic/5-Year Traffic Service, SiriusXM Travel Link/5-Year Travel Link Subscription. Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection ($595).

While not exactly a fullsize SUV or a pickup truck, our Grand Cherokee Trailhawk did come in handy for hauling home or garden supplies, as well as five 33–10.50s for one of our projects.
A set of proper tow hooks is a signature of a well-stocked off-road vehicle, and although none came from the factory out back, the nose features two.
Optioned with the UConnect 8.4 NAV system that included a backup camera that allowed us to see the terrain (and any obstacles) directly behind the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk while driving in Reverse gear.
While we loved the easy readability of the center stack and the gauge cluster for their ability to provide all the necessary information for operating the vehicle, we were not fond of the paddle shifters that more than once got in the way. Luckily their function can be turned off, so even if you bump them accidentally while turning the steering wheel, the transmission won’t shift. Manual control of the 8-speed auto tranny is also available through the gearshift lever.
Rated to tow 7,200 pounds (with the proper trailering equipment), the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk features a Class IV 2-inch hitch receiver and receptacles for flat and round trailer wire harnesses. An auxiliary trailer brake controller system will have to be installed for trailers using electric brakes.
That little button-shaped object in the lower corner of the passenger-side tail is just one of the many proximity sensors for the ParkSense system that alerts the driver to obstacles. There are four of these sensors on the nose and four on the tail of the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.

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