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Second Report: Long-Term 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 12, 2017
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So last time we gave you the nuts-and-bolts overview of what our 2017 Four Wheeler of the Year Grand Cherokee Trailhawk was all about. Now it’s time to dig into the meat of the matter: What’s this thing like to live with on a daily basis? We’ve been putting it to work pulling SoCal daily driver duties mostly, with a fun off-road foray here and real hauling and towing work there.

For starters, every time you step on the brake and depress the Start button, the Jeep reverts to Eco mode. It’s not a bad thing, especially considering the fact that we’re pulling down 15.45 mpg in mixed highway and in-town driving. The Eco mode not only drastically shortens the shift points to keep the engine rpms down, but the throttle is—for lack of a better way of saying it—lazy. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear you were driving the 3.6L variant. Although, leave your foot deep enough in the throttle for a long enough period of time in Eco mode, and the 5.7L Hemi’s 360 horsepower will eventually come to the party. Conversely, engaging Sport mode does roughly the opposite—the shift points are raised and the throttle response becomes razor sharp. Not only that, but the engine will readily hold gears on the high side of 3,000 rpm, even at slow speeds. To find the happy medium, you can hit the Eco Off button, which splits the difference between the somewhat neutered feeling of full Eco mode and the hyper-race persona of Sport mode.

As long as we’re talking about buttons you can push on the dash, the Grand is equipped with Full Speed Collision Warning Plus, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning Plus, and Adaptive Cruise Control. The Adaptive Cruise Control option is a lifesaver for the congested SoCal freeways, allowing you to rest your throttle leg with the full assurance that the Grand will haul itself down from the speed limit to a turtle’s pace without any driver input. We’ve lived with Chrysler’s system for years now and find it to be one of the better systems out there.

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.

Another cool feature is part of the LaneSense Lane Departure Warning Plus feature, which senses if you’re crossing out of your lane without your turn signal on. If so, the vehicle gently steers itself back into its lane. If you’re changing lanes on purpose without a turn signal you’ll feel some resistance in the wheel, which you can overcome with some additional pressure on the wheel. It’s not a fully automated hands-free system since if left unattended the Jeep will wander left-to-right within the lines, but it should save your bacon if you drift off for an unintentional nap…not that we would ever recommend anything like that.

We love Chrysler’s steering wheel–mounted controls for the radio volume and channel selection on the back of the steering wheel. The controls for the cruise control and information center (dash gauges/trip info) are quick and easy to access. It’s just us, but for some reason our thumbs always seem to inadvertently find the phone controls on the lower left of the steering wheel. “Beep, call cannot be completed.”
The HVAC controls and most of the major drivability systems like Sport, Eco, and so on are nice, big buttons that you can find and manipulate while driving—unlike many modern vehicles that send you to a computer screen through which you must navigate.

Finally, we understand the merits of it, but the Full Speed Collision Warning Plus system is more apt to trigger a heart attack than prevent a collision. If the vehicle’s radar senses an oncoming obstacle, whether stationary or immobile, it will forcefully apply the brakes and sound a very loud alarm beep. If you’re really not paying attention and about to rear end a bus full of children, then it’s a welcome feature, but for us it mostly just applies itself when we’re trying to scoot past drivers partially blocking a lane or turning sharply into a driveway with a tall concrete wall. The most annoying instance was trying to back up between parking lot traffic. The sensors sweep at angles from the vehicle and the Jeep was picking up the approaching traffic and wouldn’t allow the vehicle to move at all. We were literally just stuck in the parking spot with the Jeep refusing to move until we turned the whole system off.

On the highway, the interior of the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk picks up the slightest whisper from the 265/60R18 Goodyear All-Terrain Adventure tires, but there’s no wind noise or other annoyances that would divert your pleasure from the superb sound system and heated/air-conditioned seating. Steering feels light and nimble without being loose or sloppy. It’s a nicely balanced package going down the road—no matter if you’re hauling several adults and luggage or a passel of kids and all their baseball gear.

Our Trailhawk is equipped with sturdy Mopar aftermarket rocker rails, but the plastic front valence has kissed a few rocks in its day, which most likely has contributed to the plastic trim panels on the front fenders wanting to continually pop out. We just knock them back every time we think of it and they’re good for a day or so before they walk back out of their bores.

We’ve always found V-8 Grand Cherokees to be good tow vehicles by virtue of their all-wheel-drive chassis, and the ’17 Trailhawk is no exception. With an estimated 6,000 pounds of diesel-powered CJ and trailer behind it, the Jeep towed the other Jeep as smooth and easily as you’d please. We kept the Sport mode engaged while towing to allow the engine rpms to remain in the engine’s sweet spot and to prevent the transmission from needlessly shifting. At the end of our towing session the only thing we were left wanting was some additional sideview mirror length. We don’t think Jeep will be introducing fold-out tow mirrors for the Grand Cherokee anytime soon, but if frequent towing is in your Trailhawk plans, the aftermarket is awash in sideview mirror extensions for towing. And with desert season fast approaching in SoCal, be sure to check back next time for plenty of off-road updates.

The Trailhawk’s front-end styling still feels fresh and vital. The black headlamp trim, egg-crate grille, red towhooks, and flat-black, low-reflection hood decal are sinister. The rear-end styling admittedly feels stale and dated like an old station wagon. Anybody remember the episode of The Brady Bunch where they went to the Grand Canyon? That.
We’re sure it’s a worthwhile feature, but for our usage the Advanced Brake Assist and Full Speed Collision Warning Plus features have proven to be more of a nuisance in daily driving than anything. We wish there was a way to dial back their sensitivity…or at the very least, lower the audio threshold so you don’t pee your pants like a nervous Chihuahua every time it’s engaged.

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: 9,989
Miles since last report: 3,649
Average mpg (this report): 15.45
Test best tank (mpg): 19.90 (all highway, no traffic)
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.30 (towing, mostly highway)

This period: Minor fender-bender repair—millennial backed into the Trailhawk
Problem areas: Collision avoidance when trying to back up didn’t allow vehicle to move

What’s Hot, What’s Not
Hot: Head-on styling looks killer
Not: Air suspension super slow to raise/lower

Logbook Quotes
“What is that mystery warning ding?”
“Park control won’t let you back up if it thinks you’re gonna hit something—even if the coast is clear.”

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).

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