The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: 2015 Four Wheeler of the Year Long Term Report 2

    Gelling with the Jeep

    Steve VonSeggernPhotographer, Writer

    We’ve added 6,632 completely trouble-free miles to our little Jeep since our last report, and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t upset our 2015 Four Wheeler of the Year during this quarter of testing. We made our first trip to the dealer for service at 8,500 miles, which, for $69.95, consisted of an oil and filter change, tire rotation, and reflash of the U-Connect system (fixed under warranty) to keep hackers from remote controlling the Jeep. We’re almost upset about not being able to find any problems with the vehicle, even after several months of hot weather, heavy traffic, SoCal commuter use, and weekend trips off pavement. We’ve even come to like all the modern driving aids and electronic wizardry. Finally, we have really started to appreciate what a long distance cruising champ this little Jeep is.

    Our first report mostly focused on concerns with the technology package that includes lane departure warning and assist, crash mitigation, and adaptive speed control. Since then we’ve learned that it’s well worth the time to dig into the myriad settings and adjustments on all those systems to get them “dialed in” to one’s personal preferences. Once we spent the time to do that, the false alarms and overcorrections diminished and our satisfaction with the systems increased greatly. In fact, we now sorely miss those systems when we drive other vehicles that don’t have the technology. However, we’ve yet to test the self-parking systems but will make sure to try them before our third report.

    Fuel economy has actually decreased just a little, from an average 19.5 mpg during the first report to 19.0 mpg during the second. Typically, we see mileage improve as a vehicle “breaks in,” but this anomaly could be explained by changing traffic patterns on our normal route caused by a heavy increase in back-to-school traffic in the fall. Of note is how late the low-fuel warning is activated, with only about a gallon left in the tank. There’s no time left to debate when or where to stop once the alert goes off—it’s time to fuel now. We’ve put as much as 15.6 gallons in the little 15.9-gallon tank—much too close for comfort.

    We mentioned in our first report that most complaints about Cherokees seem to always be regarding the nine-speed automatic transaxle. We can’t make similar complaints, since ours has done nothing to make us concerned about its shifting ability. We can say, however, that the control software is programmed for serious fuel efficiency and is always trying to upshift at the soonest possible moment, which sometimes curtails acceleration away from stoplights or when merging into traffic. One solution is to select Sport mode, which changes shift points and holds gears longer before downshifting. The cost is lower fuel economy of about 2 mpg as per our measurements. Sport Mode is actually much better suited for mountain roads than around town driving because it’s programmed very aggressively, keeping the engine around 4,000 rpm most of the time. Of course the other option is to just mash the throttle.

    One thing we’ve come to enjoy about the Cherokee is its aplomb at long distance road trips. It’s significantly more comfortable, smooth, and quiet than one would expect from a compact SUV with all-terrain tires. The dual-sport nature of this car is what makes it so appealing: cruise at 85 on the interstate, tear up twisty mountain roads, and then explore trails without fear of getting stuck. There’s nothing out there in this price range that can compare.

    We’ve yet to make it back to the hill that caused our Four Wheeler of the Year test Cherokee to become stuck in Low range, but we’ll be sure to spend considerable time in an effort to recreate our troubles. Look for a write up in the next quarterly report. Until then, we’ll keep trying our hardest to find any hiccups with the Trailhawk during normal use.

    Options as tested:
    SafetyTec Group – Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Power Multi-Function Mirrors with Manual Fold-Away ($1,045), Technology Group – Full Speed Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Advanced Brake Assist, Rain Sensitive Windshield Wipers, Exterior Mirrors with Turn Signals, Automatic High Beam Headlamp Control, LaneSense Lane Departure Warning ($1,495), Comfort / Convenience Group – Power Liftgate, Remote Start System, Keyless Enter-N-Go / Passive Entry, A/C Auto Temperature Control with Dual Zone Control, Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror w/Microphone, Power 8-Way Driver Seat, Power 4-Way Driver Lumbar Adjust, Security Alarm, Universal Garage Door Opener ($1,645), Leather Interior Group – Leather Trimmed Bucket Seats, Heated Front Seats, Heated Steering Wheel ($1,495), 3.2L V-6 24-Valve VVT Engine with Stop/Start – Stop / Start System, Dual Bright Exhaust Outlets ($1,745), Black Hood Decal ($199), Uconnect 8.4AN AM/FM/SXM/HD/BT/NAV – GPS Navigation, HD Radio, SiriusXM Travel Link / 5-Year Subscription, SiriusXM Traffic / 5-Year Service ($845)

    Report: 2 of 4
    Previous reports: Nov. ’15 issue
    Base price: $30,395
    Price as tested: $39,895
    Four Wheel Drive system: Full-time, electronically controlled, two-speed

    Long Term Numbers:
    Miles to date: 10,467
    Miles since last report: 6,632
    Average mpg (this report): 19.0
    Test best tank (mpg): 23.1 (Highway between 70-75 mph)
    Test worst tank (mpg): 17.2 (Mostly city)

    This period: Oil and filter change, tire rotation
    Problem areas: None

    What’s hot, what’s not:
    Hot: Very comfortable, reliable, and decent economy
    Not: Range, range, range

    Logbook quotes:
    “Really impressive and surprising how comfortable on very long road trips.”
    “Get fuel NOW when low fuel light comes on.”
    “Electronic wizardry now working great after many small adjustments to settings.”

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