4x4Car Reviews

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review

Toby Hagon’s 2018 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review With Price, Specs, Performance, Ride And Handling, Ownership, Safety, Verdict And Score.

In A Nutshell A less adventurously-designed Trailhawk is the otherwise practical and city friendly mid-sized Jeep Cherokee for those who want to venture off-road.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Specifications

Price $48,450 Warranty 5 years, unlimited kilometres Service Intervals 12 months, 12,000km Safety Not rated Engine 3.2-litre petrol V6 Power 200kW at 6500rpm Torque 315Nm at 4300rpm Transmission 9-speed automatic Drive Four-wheel drive Dimensions 4645mm (L) 1904mm (W) 1724mm (H) 2720mm (WB) Ground Clearance 221mm Tare Weight 1889kg Angles 29.9 degrees (approach) 22.9 degrees (ramp over) 32.2 degrees (departure) Towing 2200kg (braked) Towball Download 220kg GVM 2494kg GCM 4474kg Boot Space 781 litres Spare Full-sized steel wheel Fuel Tank 60 litres Thirst 10.2L/100km

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JEEP is a brand with a proud history of creating capable off-roaders, but in recent years it has focused on the soft-roader market. With the Trailhawk version of the mid-sized Cherokee, however, it takes the Jeep ethos and infuses it into the city-friendly mid-sized SUV.

While the updated Cherokee Trailhawk won’t match the supreme capability of a Wrangler, it promises to travel further into the rough stuff than its rivals. At the same time, it aims to match the city smarts of the likes of the Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail, Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage and Holden Equinox with which it competes.

This latest update brings less adventurous styling, especially up front, where larger, more traditional lights replace the slimline LEDs that defined the face of the previous model.

What’s In The Range And How Much Does It Cost?

Most of the Cherokee models are focused on on-road driving, starting with the four-cylinder Cherokee Sport ($35,950 plus on-road costs) and V6-powered Longitude ($41,950+ORC), through to the luxury Limited ($46,950+ORC).

The Cherokee Trailhawk sits above them all, in price at least, starting at $48,450+ORC.

It picks up much of the luxury gear of the Cherokee Limited, including the 8.4-inch infotainment screen incorporating a punchy Alpine nine-speaker sound system that tucks a subwoofer into the boot. There’s also navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, front and rear parking sensors (to complement the reversing camera), electric front seats, smart key entry (though it only operates off the front doors and boot) and an electric tailgate with a sensor that picks up a waved foot. 

However, it misses out on leather seats, instead getting a mix of cloth and vinyl. Or, for $2950, you can bring that leather back into the equation as part of the Premium pack. The heated and ventilated front seats are also part of that pack, while a sunroof adds another $2200.

The wheels, too, step down from 18-inch units to 17s, the smaller diameter being better suited to off-roading; there are also unique Yokohama tyres designed for rough terrain. Plus, the active cruise control that limits your speed to that of the car in front is part of an options pack.

There are also some off-road focused features, such as red tow hooks (two up front, one at the rear) for getting un-stuck when you’re off-road. Rubber floor mats are handy, indicative of the Trailhawk’s adventurous spirit.

The Trailhawk also replaces much of the shiny chrome on other models for grey or black finishes, something that steps up the visual aggression. There’s even a matte grey sticker on the bonnet, designed to reduce glare when off-road. In reality, it’s more styling update than anything that advances the cause in going further.

The same can be said for the ‘Trail Rated’ badges on either side, the snow-covered silhouette of a mountain indicative of its rugged heart.

What’s The Interior And Practicality Like?

It’s a formulaic five-seat layout for the Cherokee, something shared with this Trailhawk derivative, which picks up some red stitching to amplify its bold personality. That translates to good space up front, including headroom and adjustability to the driver’s seat. The lack of a left driver’s foot rest is a minor oversight, though.

Storage space is generous, too, incorporating a centre console, deep glovebox, various areas for trinkets and a covered binnacle on top of the dash.

It’s not all great news: The front seats don’t have the lateral support of the better ones in the class (Subaru’s Forester springs to mind), so you can feel like you’re sitting on them rather than in them.

Those in the rear get decent, if not outstanding, legroom. Space under the seats allows for sizeable hoofs, too. There are rear vents to ensure a fresh flow to those out back. Cupholders in the fold down centre arm rest add to the practicality. There’s a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, too, opening the modest flat-floored boot to larger items.

What Are The Controls And Infotainment Like?

Genuine thoughtfulness has gone into the main controls, from the clear, legible buttons to the menus in the infotainment screen that allow quick darting between nav and radio, for example, or phone or external audio devices.

As well as the dials and buttons in the centre console there are more on the steering wheel, including various audio buttons on the back of the wheel to make it easier to station-search or adjust the volume.

The instrument cluster, too, can dish up plenty of info on its central customisable colour screen. You can flick between 10 menus, many of which mimic those in the centre console.

There are also additional items for some of the off-road functionality and to monitor things such as fuel use.

But it’s the 8.4-inch touchscreen that makes things easier to operate, its clear menus and sizeable icons a real win.

There’s the occasional made-in-America oversight, such as one of the menus in the touchscreen that lists the passenger’s seat as being on the other side of the car, and vice versa for the driver’s seat.

What’s The Performance Like?

There’s a split personality to the Cherokee Trailhawk, in part because of its old-school V6 engine, the odd one out in a market segment dominated by four-cylinders of various guises. In an era of downsizing and technology, the 3.2-litre petrol V6 relies on sheer size and simplicity to produce its 200kW of power.

Step on the throttle, then, and it’s a lively device, its vocal stretch to its upper revs accompanied by enthusiastic acceleration. But it’s those revs that are required to make things sing, something evident when you experience the torque delivery. While it’s not undernourished low in its rev range, having the 315Nm peak arrive at 4300rpm means you have to keep the right foot down to shuffle things along.

Thankfully the nine-speed automatic partially masks the peaky nature of the engine, the generous spread of ratios ensuring plenty of options. That it responds smartly to throttle applications also helps, the selection of drive modes subtly adjusting that response.

But there’s no hiding the thirsty fuel use, the 10.2 litres per 100km official claim difficult to achieve in suburban driving; think closer to 11/12 – or higher – in everyday driving.

What’s It Like On The Road?

Underneath, the Cherokee utilises conventional passenger car underpinnings rather than the ladder frame chassis typically employed by hardcore four-wheel drives.

That makes it more akin to a passenger car in the way it drives. Steering is light but direct, the independent suspension ensuring it settles well over bumps, too.

It’s an easy wagon to manoeuvre around town while still displaying plenty of composure at freeway speeds. While steering sharpness and poise drop slightly compared with other Cherokees due to the raised centre of gravity, the Trailhawk is impressively tied-down considering its level of prowess off-road.

It’s also respectably quiet, with the exception of the engine if you row it along.

What’s It Like Off The Road?

Despite its everyday friendliness, the Trailhawk adds some off-road spice and ability to the Cherokee package for those who want to go exploring.

Key to that is the raised suspension that sits 36mm higher than it does on other models. It’s teamed with more rugged steel underbody protection to fend off any strikes from rocks or logs.

Wheels are spaced further apart, too, and there are unique bumpers, something that reduces the chances of snagging them if you’re tackling steep or gangly obstacles. With approach and departure angles of 29.9 degrees and 32.2 degrees respectably, it ensures the Trailhawk can attack some fairly serious terrain.

If you get really adventurous, it’ll ford through 480mm of water.

There are limitations, mainly with that passenger car suspension. The wheels don’t travel far within the arches and the suspension doesn’t droop much, so you don’t need much of a ridge or deep to kick a wheel in the air. All of which looks spectacular but that’s not always good for making progress.

Fortunately the four-wheel drive system that is unique to the Trailhawk helps keep things moving. Called Active Drive II it has a traction control system that quickly determines if a wheel is lacking traction (or hanging in the air) thereby apportioning drive elsewhere.

There’s also a locking rear differential to further aid traction in loose terrain. Plus, there’s a low range gear for slow-speed rock-hopping or driving when extra oomph is required, such as in soft sand.

It’s a decent artillery and one that makes for a surprisingly capable off-roader.

Does It Have A Spare?

All Cherokees come with a proper spare tyre, although some don’t match the tyres already on the car. But the Trailhawk has the same Yokohama Geolander tucked away in the boot that you get on the other four wheels.

Can You Tow With It?

Towing is a strength of the Cherokee, given that it is able to drag up to 2200kg. The engine would be working hard to do that, especially given its penchant for revs. Still, it gives you the option of a sizeable boat or caravan without having to step up to a large SUV.

What About Ownership?

Jeep’s factory warranty covers the car for five years or 100,000km.

During those first five years there is also a capped price servicing schedule that prices annual services between $495 and $620. However, services need to be done every 12,000km, which may mean you’re in more than once a year for a check-up.

Jeep also has its ‘there and back’ guarantee, which offers roadside assistance inclusive of towing on any official road in the country. It won’t help in very remote areas where the tracks aren’t part of the official road network, but it’s at least peace of mind for most places people will travel.

That roadside assistance is standard for the first five years and continues for the life of the car if you continue to have the car serviced within the Jeep network once it’s out of warranty.

What Safety Features Does It Have?

Auto braking is now part of the Cherokee’s safety smarts, something that can automatically apply the brakes to avoid a crash.

However, it’s not the full emergency braking featured on most rivals, instead only applying brake pressure for up to 1.5 seconds.

Other assistance systems include blind spot warning, lane departure warning and rear cross traffic alert with rear auto braking.

There are also seven airbags, including side head protection and a driver’s knee airbag.

All of which adds up to a five-star ANCAP safety rating for the base Cherokee Sport. The rating does not apply to V6 models.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior and practicality?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring says: To many, the Cherokee Trailhawk will be more about the looks than the substance. But beneath its armour-clad exterior is a car with a vibrant split-personality, one which deals admirably with city duties while not shying away from some rough road challenges. It’s practical and easy to live with while bringing some additional safety cred to a competitive market segment. But be prepared to pay, both for the car up front and its thirsty fuel use.

Toby Hagon

Toby Hagon

From Porsches to LandCruisers, Toby Hagon loves all things cars and has been writing about them for more than 20 years. He loves the passion and people that help create one of the world's most innovative and interesting industries. As well as road testing and chasing news he more recently co-authored a book on Holden. These days he crosses the world covering the industry but still loves taking off on the Big Trip in Australia.