It’s not very often that a gal gets the chance to spend her birthday taking the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk off road, but that’s just what happened to me at Summit Point Motorsports Park last week. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been a Jeep fan since I was a kid, though I’ve always tended to love the Wrangler and deemed the other models lacking. I mean, you can’t even take the doors off the Cherokee, what kind of fun could possibly be had?
Apparently, I was not a smart kid.
When we last saw the Jeep Cherokee it was 2001 and it looked decidedly Jeep: fairly boxy in shape with a flat 7 slotted front grill, square headlights, and trapezoidal wheel arches. It’s not surprising that Jeep purists are up in arms about the new Cherokee’s exterior. Many styling cues still remain, but…those lights? That waterfall grill? Why have you done this, Jeep? WHY?
I am one of those Jeep purists and I have some advice for other purists out there: patience. The new design grows on you and it looks much better in person than it does in photographs. In fact, when equipped as a Trailhawk, the new front end looks down right mean. What you might think are the headlights are actually daytime running lights; the headlights are below. The Trailhawk also gets skid plates, wider fender flares and red front tow hooks, all of which are rugged yet functional design elements that add to the Trailhawk’s impressively aggressive appearance.
Our test Cherokee came with the optional 3.2L V6 engine, good for 271 horsepower and 239 lb/ft of torque, although the 2.4L MultiAir engine is standard. Power goes to all four wheels via a 9 speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel ratings are 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway, and 21 combined.
Inside, you’ll find premium materials and plenty of standard features. Although the Uconnect information system seems to crowd the 7” screen, it quickly becomes evident that it’s one of the simplest and most intuitive systems on the market today. You’ll also enjoy features that we come to expect on a new car like Bluetooth, iPod integration, satellite radio, and a tilt/telescoping multifunctional steering wheel.
Our test model came with the optional Customer Preferred Package. For $2,195 Jeep will add on adaptive cruise control, a few sensors to make sure you don’t hit anything in your blind spot or while backing up, and the parallel and perpendicular park assist. The parking assist still relies on the driver for brake and throttle inputs, but takes over the steering. I found it to be rather frightening and I would certainly not ever use this feature, but for those not comfortable parking a taller vehicle, congrats your day is here.
We also had the optional Comfort/Convience Group for an additional $1,895. This adds a back up camera, power liftgate, remote start, 8 way power driver’s seat and 4 way power passenger seat. You can also pony up $1,295 for the Leather Interior Group for leather seats, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. Other additional options included on our test model were dual exhaust tips, navigation, and a 9 speaker sound system.
As nice as the interior is on the Cherokee, it doesn’t mean a thing if it can’t perform off road. The Trailhawk includes Jeep’s Trail Rated hardware, ensuring that it can take whatever terrain you throw at it. You can choose from auto, snow, sport, sand/mud, or rock using the Selec-Terrain knob on the center console. The Trailhawk also has a locking rear differential, making this a true 4×4 vehicle. Ground clearance is 8.7” and departure and approach angles are aggressive.
Those are great specs, but how did she do? I must admit I had my doubts on first inspection of the vehicle, mostly because of the light rain that had been falling all day and the street tires on our test vehicle. I needn’t have worried. The Cherokee scrambled up slippery rock faces like it wasn’t a thing, crawled over rocks, and handled the West Virginia mud with few slips. A simple tire swap and you’re pretty much ready for the next zombie apocalypse.
A first for this reviewer was the Selec-Speed Control, which maintains your speeds uphill, downhill, or level. It’s great when you really need to focus on putting your wheels exactly where they need to be. Speed can range from 1 to 5 mph and is easily controlled on the shifter.
There were a few little quirks we found while putting the Cherokee though her off road paces. While it may be possible to turn off blind spot warning sensors and cross path detection, we couldn’t figure it out. So every time we came close to a tree or put the nose in a ditch, the alarms went off. Not a deal breaker but still annoying.
Competition for the 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk mostly comes from Jeep itself in the form of the Wrangler, but looking outside the brand, both the Nissan Xterra and the Toyota FJ Cruiser offer similar capabilities at the same price point, although gas mileage is worse on both those models.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 starts at $29,495. Considering that all the off-road features are included in this base price, the Cherokee gives you a lot of dirt bang for your buck. The price on our loaded test model is $38,710. It is still a good price, but I could personally do without many of the optional features.
On the TFLcar scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
I give the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk a very raucous Buy It!, especially if you want to do some serious off roading but need a few creature comforts at the same time.
Check out this TFLcar First Drive video review of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.