2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Off-Road Review: Slugging It Out with the Big Boys

Photo of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk : Nathan Leach-Proffer

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is considered by most of us at TFL to the best most off-road-worthy crossover you can buy.

Jeep set a high standard with this one. While Land Rover, Range Rover and Subaru have very capable crossovers, none of them can match the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk’s off-road prowess.

Recently, we were invited to the Rocky Mountain Redline’s Colorado Climb event, which took place in the scenic mountains near Breckenridge, Colorado. The event brought respected journalists from all over to drive a variety of different vehicles on challenging surfaces. Two trails were used. One trail was challenging for most crossovers from Mazda, Acura, Kia, Honda and others. The other one was much more challenging and meant for the Jeep WranglerLexus 570, Ram Rebel, Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road, GMC Sierra 1500 AT4 and more.

[Photo: TFLcar]
Unlike the other crossovers, the Jeep representative opted to have journalists drive it up the harder trail.

Our 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk came with a 272-horsepower 3.2-liter V6 that makes 239 lbs-feet of torque. That engine comes hooked up to a nine-speed automatic transmission. A 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine is available. It’s connected to a Selec-Terrain Traction Management System. This system allows you to select from four choices including Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock. I left the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk on Rock mode and left the Jeep in “Jeep Active Drive Lock”, giving it a 56:1 crawl ratio.


Photo: TFLcar

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is one of the few crossovers to have a mechanical locking rear axle lock and it has a hill decent control system called Select-Speed Crawl Control along with a 3.517 final drive ratio. Another nice feature for RV owners who like to tow, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk’s 4×4 system can be shifted into “Neutral” which will allow the vehicle to completely disconnect its drive system for safe flat-towing.

[Photo: TFLcar]

The Event

Our base camp for the Colorado Climb was located at the Golden Horseshoe Tours camp. This is an actual mining camp from the 1860s that looks completely authentic. We were permitted to eat in their main mess-hall while we absorbed the rustic atmosphere. It was an ideal place for a base camp. What’s more, the two trails are connected to the base camp as well.

[Photo: TFLcar]


This off-road drive did push the Cherokee pretty hard, but it could take more. Yes, I hit bottom several times, but that’s what skid plates are for, and boy did I use them. It wiggled and groaned constantly, but the excellent traction gained from the chunky Firestone Destination off-road tires, along with good articulation (for a crossover) helped immensely. Having the ability to lock up the rear end helped with soft sand, shaky boulders and lifting wheels was a luxury few competitors can match.

All of the bumping and scraping felt a bit distant as I enjoyed comfortable seats and a fairly quiet interior. Steering is a bit over boosted, but I was fairly reassured that I knew which direction my front wheels were facing at all times. Also, the power delivery was quite good off-road; although, I do wonder if the new turbocharged 2.0-liter would have been a better choice at high elevation.

Most obstacles the Jeep Wrangler or mighty Lexus LX 570 cleared, the Cherokee scrambled over. I only avoided tall obstacles that I knew would cause damage. Most times, it could crawl, but on more than one occasion, (and unlike trucks with a proper low-range) I had to use momentum and speed to get over an obstacle.

Photo: Nathan Leach-Proffer

By the time I finished my driving stints, I came away even more impressed than I was with the last Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk I took off road, the 2016 model. This one is better in nearly every measurable way and, as I said before, it’s still the one of best off-road crossover, in its class, out there.

Speaking of the Jeep Cherokee…