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Reader Question: I want to replace my Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk… or do I?

Should I sell or should I keep? The eternal question, this time a reader has asked about a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk they’re losing confidence in…

Hi Practical Motoring,

I hope you don’t mind if I bother you with a fairly lengthy question. This is a two-parter question: “should I keep X or sell it, and if I sell it what should I get”, and I’ll try to keep it as brief as possible.

Firstly, usage: we’re discussing my daily driver which does commuting duty into the city a few days a week, along with weekend / holiday family duty with a young family (2 adults 2 kids, 10 & 6). I’ve got a stuffed shoulder so on road ride quality is fairly important, so I haven’t been looking at utes (perhaps a bad assumption?).

Recreational use is bush camping, and a personal project to visit all the huts in the Victorian high county (20+ year long project so I don’t need to get to them all in this car’s lifetime). So I am looking off-road enough for bash plates, water crossings and decent tyres, but I’m not expecting to start upgrading diffs or installing 8-inch lifts.

My current car is a Jeep KL Cherokee Trailhawk. On most fronts I love it – good size for day to day, leather seats wipe clean after the kids, can tow a trailer of camping gear easily (can’t fit much in the boot though) and it has gotten me most places I’ve wanted to go so far.

However, I’ve had a couple of issues with the transmission, including watching it go off to the dealers on the back of a flat bed, and I’m losing my confidence that I can take the family out into the high country in it without the risk of it breaking down on us (issues have been sensor / electrical so far, not mechanical failure, but I’m not mechanical so my faith is rattled). It’s still got 18 months factory warranty, and very little aftermarket support by way of bull bars or snorkels, so I’m a little nervous about some of the tracks through the high country.

So question 1: given the usage I’ve described, do you think the KL trailhawk is worth sticking it out with on the basis that the dealer should be able to address any further niggling issues while still under warranty?

Question 2: if you’d get out while the getting is good, what would you look to replace it with?

The things I’ve learned from owning the KL are that I’d prefer:
– diesel;
– aftermarket support; and
– more boot space.

My working short list is:
– Grand Cherokee (about 3yo)
Pajero Sport
Fortuner (it might blow the budget)
– MU-X
– Older Pajero
– Older Prado

I’ve been trying to research around the $50K mark so there are some excellent cars that I haven’t put on the list for that reason.

Are there any cars you’d recommend I add to the list or scrap off the list? I’ve heard the MU-X has a pretty agricultural ride so I need to try my shoulder out in one for instance. I’m also a little worried bout the Paj Sport / Fortuner being “first models” since the KL has had some teething issues, but I think being based on established utes they shouldn’t suffer the same fate.

If you have any time to offer any thoughts on this little quandary I’d be grateful. I’m not doing well at maintaining objectivity (love the Jeep brand / ideal, but don’t trust the KL, neither position is necessarily 100% rational or objective!) and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Many Thanks,
R

 

Hello R.

I haven’t tested a KL Trailhawk, but it does seem to be very capable and certainly I was impressed with its little brother the Renegade Trailhawk when I tested it offroad. Given how easy Victorian High Country tracks are now I’d expect the Trailhawk to easily handle them. It wouldn’t need anything more than decent tyres as it is capable off-road already.

However… losing confidence in a car is a terrible, terrible thing to happen and I can see why you’d be worried. I would be too, because the High Country is a hell of a place to get out of if the car fails. You’re being entirely rational about it too.

The best bet to determine the chances of further problems would be a good trawl through the many Jeep forums here and worldwide to see if there’s a pattern of problems. If there is, then sell it. If there isn’t, then it sounds like you’re ready for a change anyway.

You want a car you can kit out, take your family camping, and tow. Your shortlist is good as all those vehicles are offroad-capable and well supported in the aftermarket, although Pajero Sport is new and doesn’t yet have the range of options of the rest. However, I’d delete the Grand Cherokee as its short-travel suspension isn’t the smoothest, and it doesn’t have much boot space. I know what it’s like camping four-up, and I wouldn’t take a Grand unless it was in front of a trailer.

Fortuners are now appearing for less than $50k too. Also add Colorado 7. For those readers wondering about the Everest – it’s too expensive to make the cut here, but would be an option in a couple of years.

I wouldn’t worry about the newness of Fortuner or Pajero Sport. Both are from very reputable offroad manufacturers and both cars based on solid ute platforms.

As usual, ensure that you have enough coin left over to kit the car out. So if your budget is $50k, spend no more than $40k on the car.

The softest riding car in the lot is the Prado, so that would be my suggestion, and Prados are really the can’t-go-wrong choice. They also have a sensibly located spare tyre and come with long range tanks as standard.

prado-offroad

Utes have come a long way, but still won’t match wagons for ride comfort so I’d avoid them. To improve ride comfort further, fit aftermarket suspension tuned for a soft ride, and select an all-terrain tyre more oriented to road such as the Cooper AT3 (although always in light-truck construction) as distinct from a mud-terrain which will offer a harsher ride. I ran the AT3s on a long-term test on my Discovery 3 and had didn’t have any traction concerns for touring including High Country work. Also ensure you run the smallest possible diameter rim, which will be 17-inch on a Prado 120/150.

There are specialist back-support aftermarket seats including airbags from the likes of Recaro that may help too, and MSA do some seat supports.

 

 


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Andrew Riles
Andrew Riles
4 years ago

Robert, I have found this article and other similar ones very useful in narrowing down my next vehicle choice, and am curious about something

How does a ute fare in terms of ride quality if the rear end weight is increased by fitting say cargo drawers and a canopy, or a steel flat tray (or other permanent mods that increase rear end weight)??

Robert Pepper
4 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Riles

That doesn’t help a great deal, but good aftermarket suspension can help. Fundamentally, they aren’t going to ride like lower-payload coil-sprung wagons.

Andrew Riles
Andrew Riles
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert Pepper

True, I realise now I was a bit vague….thx for your help…..

AC Bro
AC Bro
4 years ago

The Cherokees have been infamous for transmission issues. You’re not the first. Visit some of the American boards and you’ll see. I know exactly two people who have bought Cherokees and both of them have had their transmissions replaced within a couple thousand miles.

I had a 2014 Grand Cherokee that was bought back by Chrylser because of electrical issues and other problems that could not be solved. It initially started shutting off while driving and couldn’t be restarted for a few minutes. My family had never experienced anything like that before. Once you lose faith in a vehicle due to issues like that, it’s very hard to get it back. We love Jeeps, just wish they were more reliable.

Scott
Scott
3 years ago

I’ve owned a KL Trailhawk for about 18 months and clocked up 46000km in that time. I run it on Cooper AT3’s and have netured on some difficult tracks with it. I’ve not had a single issue with it. It’s been back to Jeep for a safety recall once which was something to do with the power unit on the rear tailgate. I agree with author re after-market products being as rare as hen teeth. This is very frustrating. I have found a co in USA that manufacture a crossmember and bumper bar for winch mounting, but forum feedback on their custom made product has put me off. This is so symptomatic of the after-market issues with the KL. Perhaps in time the market for products may have grown if Jeep continue to sell the KL. It’s a very capable 4×4 and very enjoyable tourer. It’s a shame that such a great vehicle has lost so much potential for forging a good all round/off-road reputation along the lines of a land rover et al. I wait patiently!

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper