2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review

More and more crossovers are hitting the market, but are there any out there that give you the whole package and doesn’t make compromises?

Despite being quite boring, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are popular due to their easy-to-live with nature, while the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 are sporty, though lacking in practicality. Then there’s the always capable Subaru Forester, which drives well but isn’t that pretty. This must be why buyers are flocking to the interesting-looking Jeep Cherokee.

The Cherokee Trailhawk model in particular just oozes the Jeep brand image we all know, but unlike the Wrangler, which looks like it was built back in 1941, the Cherokee has a modern appearance. And what makes the Trailhawk such an appealing car is all the add-ons. Unique front and rear end designs include bright red factory tow-hooks, a factory skid-plate and big, knobby all-terrain tires. It creates a visual punch that cannot be replicated by any other car in its segment. Just imagine the CR-V or RAV4 with a hiked-up ride height and knobby off-road tires and, well, it’s not really possible is it?

Under the Hood

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The Cherokee Trailhawk packs a 3.2-liter V6 motor under the hood, another rarity in the segment. Only the Mitsubishi Outlander offers a V6, but it doesn’t pack as much power as the Jeep motor. The Trailhawk puts down 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque to the Jeep Active Drive Lock all-wheel drive system, and a nine-speed automatic transmission.

That all-wheel drive system is another key part of the Trailhawk’s allure. Not only does the Jeep disconnect its rear axle under low loads to improve the fuel efficiency, but there’s a knob in the cabin that allows the driver to select what driving conditions they’ll be in. The Cherokee will adjust the engine and transmission, braking system, stability control and the hill ascent/descent controls to make sure you have the ideal control in whatever driving situation. The Snow setting proved useful this winter during a nasty storm, where the car’s throttle inputs were metered so the car didn’t spin or get stuck.

Of course, the Cherokee also has a locking differential if the going gets really tough. Unfortunately, this advanced drivetrain doesn’t translate into a particularly efficient vehicle, as the Cherokee averaged about 21 mpg during our testing.

On the Go

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During the regular commute, the nine-speed automatic transmission settled into its top gear quickly, meaning every call to accelerate was accompanied not just with one downshift, but two or three. Furthermore, hitting the gas or brakes causes the vehicle to sway up and down in a very noticeable way; it could easily prompt sea sickness in queasy passengers. Still, when speed is needed, the car will eventually get in the right gear and get going.

Steering is acceptable, even if it’s a little on the numb side. There’s little feedback, but the weight and effort needed to turn the wheel is good. The suspension is soft, but can cause the vehicle to bounce around on uneven pavement or broken roads.

Interior

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The interior is a highlight of the Cherokee Trailhawk. The leather-trimmed seats are plushy and comfortable, while the heated feature was unexpectedly efficient at warming me and my passenger up. Set to full tilt, the seat heaters could get uncomfortably hot in a short time. The heated steering wheel was also much appreciated during this winter season.

The cabin is full of soft plastics that don’t look particularly cheap. Also noteworthy is the big 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen that was responsive and easy to use. A new feature available to the vehicle is the ability to rearrange the icons on the screen and customize the shortcuts to whatever apps you use most.

The rear seat space of the Cherokee is solid, with better legroom than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. Unfortunately, the trunk space isn’t as accommodating with only 24.6 cubic feet of storage, which expands to 54.9 cubic feet when you fold the rear seats down.

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As great as the interior and tech features are in the Jeep, the driver assistance features were a big problem. While things like adaptive cruise control and blind spot assist worked well, the car seemed to panic when it came to basic reverse parking. Not only did the car beep unnecessarily at obstacles that were too far away from the vehicle to be a real concern, but it also automatically applied brakes as if it was in danger of hitting something beside the car while moving straight backwards with no obstacles in sight. I turned off this feature after a few false alerts and it remained off for the duration of the test.

The Verdict: 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review

Coming in at $31,990 with destination, our tester featured the V6 engine, a bunch of safety and driver assistance features, in addition to the leather seating package, arriving with an as-tested price of $39,060. That’s a lot of money for a compact crossover, but the Cherokee Trailhawk does so many things that others in its segment can’t. Sure, some might call it ugly (a few editors in the AutoGuide.com office sure think so) but there’s no denying Jeep’s success with the Cherokee. Selling more than 200,000 units last year, this crossover is hitting the sweet spot for many buyers. The fact is that the off-road ready, V6-powered and tough Trailhawk will speak to those who want a bit more street cred – and off-road cred, in this case – from their compact crossover.

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  • wcjeep

    Have they fixed the 9spd transmission yet? We Lemon Law’d a 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk. It had many problems.

  • David Valdez Jr.

    I love my 2016 Trail Hawk!!