Jeep Cherokee 3.2 V6 Pentastar Trailhawk put to the test: Traveller between worlds
The new Jeep Cherokee wants to encroach on X3 and Q5 territory. In the form of a special Trailhawk model, it takes you offroad, into their territory . We thoroughly tested the American newcomer.
There are cars of which you simply have to find out the history when you approach them for the first time. And the Jeep Cherokee is definitely one of them. In the mid-1980s, the first compact Jeep Cherokee brought about a change in direction for Jeep, away from the sheet metal dinosaurs and towards modern, smart offroaders. The Cherokee, which has now been in production for 17 years, was a big seller, including in Germany. Here, especially with the high-output six-cylinder with more than 178 HP, it even outperformed what at the time were considered sporty passenger cars and, with its modern Unibody construction and helical spring front axle, brought surprisingly comfortable and secure handling to the road. What came in the two generations to follow was, viewed objectively, a series of misunderstanding - not just of a design nature - that ultimately led to the sale of the Cherokee being discontinued in Europe. With the fourth generation, internal product code KL, things are going back to basics.
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk - hot or not?
Neither can you approach the new Cherokee without raising the topic of design. The fact that it in particular the design of the front of the vehicle that leads to discussion is beyond doubt. But ultimately, each person must answer the "hot or not?" question for themselves. In any case, in the USA, where the Jeep Cherokee has now been on the market for one year, the verdict is clear: with over 140,000 sales in the first ten months of the year, the Jeep Cherokee is the 4th most popular of the 21 Fiat-Chrysler models sold there.
In Germany, where the Jeep Cherokee lines up in the upper mid-size category against the top dogs from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, gaining a comparable market share may be more difficult. However, the new Jeep Cherokee has everything that it takes to go head to head with a GLK or Q5: with a similarly generous equipment level, it noticeably undercuts the German premium SUVs when it comes to price, matching them in terms of modern technology, including all current assistance systems.
There are two diesel engines and one petrol available, but if your expect more than all-weather compatibility, only one of the three available engines in the Jeep Cherokee is an option: the special "Trailhawk" model is only available with the brand new 3.2-litre Pentastar V6. The light alloy engine with the most modern technology is derived from the 3.6-litre engine that is familiar from the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler, and it produces 268 HP.
Compared to the standard models the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has been improved in many regards, for better offroad performance. The chassis has been raised by 25 mm, the rougher mixed tyres with a higher side wall are much more practical offroad than the low profile tyres generally found in modern SUVs. Compared to the standard Cherokee models, the front skirt is more sloped, which results in a more practical slope angle. However, the most important detail is provided by the inconspicuous rotary controller in front of the gear lever: an engageable offroad transmission ratio, with incredibly short 2.92:1 grading, ensures that what was initially referred to as the posh SUV leaves its German competitors at a loss when things really get rough offroad.Exquisite on the road, competent offroad
On the road, however, there are a different set of requirements, which the Jeep Cherokee approaches with all due seriousness. The modern chassis with individual wheel suspension is far from all that those discussing cars around the table in their local like to attribute to American offroaders. In short: it drives wonderfully. The suspension comfort is great, while the tuning makes you feel at home - rather on the firm side. This is emphasized by the highly accurate steering, which is almost a little heavy when driving more quickly. Those who wish to can take on winding roads any time they want, with a sporty passenger car, to which the free-revving V6 engine makes a contribution. In this respect the new Jeep Cherokee more than does justice to its great-grandfather, the Cherokee XJ.
The tuning of the nine-speed converter automatic, on the other hand, feels very American. In areas with speed limits, many driver's get their kicks by smoking other drivers at the lights. The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk thrashes its way forwards from stationary with appropriate vigour. IT takes a bit of getting used to avoid a riotous show-start when taking off - even the slightest touch on the accelerator and the circus begins. This also reveals a shortcoming of the new Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: the automatic all-wheel drive distributes the power to the rear axle with a minor, but noticeable delay when there is slip at the front axle.
In the higher gears, on the other hand, the transmission is sweet tempered. In the very top gears in particular, the ratios are exceptionally long, which results in astonishingly low revs. Thus, at a motorway speed of 160 km/h, the V6 turns at a mere 2,200 rpm. In conjunction with the good noise insulation and the barely perceptible wind noise, this provides a very relaxed drive experience on long journeys. The other side of the coin: in order to perform an intermediate sprint, for example to overtake on a country road, the nine-speed automatic works its way through the gears somewhat tediously before delivering an exuberant burst of thrust. Still: given the engine power, the consumption remains relatively modest, as emphasized by our test value. IF you take it easy, it is certainly possible to manage an eight before the decimal point.
Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk with a host of offroad technology
As is apparently fitting of a modern offroader, the new Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk also offers various offroad driving programmes, selectable via a rotary switch, which influence the accelerator characteristics, the transmission control and traction control. In addition to this, the Trailhawk also features engageable rear-axle differential locking, which provides added traction. Together with the aforementioned short offroad gear ratios of the distributor transmission, the overall package brings the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk to a level of competence that, looking in from the outside, barely anyone would expect.
But in actual fact, the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk can be driven so delicately and effectively over rough terrain that even die-hard offroaders will have to ungrudgingly give it its dues. Only the barely noticeable axle articulation gives away that this is a modern offroad vehicle. Those who do not want to be disrupted when wobbling on three wheels in deeper holes in the road can then take note in astonishment how confidently the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk takes even extremely bumpy road sections in its stride, with comparatively few braking interventions from the traction control.
Date10 May 2016