2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk retains its off-road agility.
If you believe
everything that you read, artificial intelligence will soon be our
chauffeurs, eliminating the need for humans behind the wheel. For
any number of bland sedans, having microchips pilot you to your
destination would only add to their appeal.
But AI would
kill the appeal of Jeeps, given that their raison díetre is the
thrill of tackling tough off-road tundra.
many longtime Jeep enthusiasts would say that AI would be fine for
the Jeep Cherokee, which was designed more for pokey parkways and
irritating interstates than the roads less travelled, or for that
matter, less paved. Sadly, most Cherokees go off-road only when
accidentally running over a small shrub at the end of the driveway.
perceptions brought me to California to sample the 2019 Jeep
Cherokee Trailhawk, where I ended up tackling terrain that few
Cherokee owners would ever consider traversing. Thankfully, the same
chip set that someday might have a hand in automatically driving is
helping the Cherokee navigate the sort of terrain few alleged SUVs
can actually tackle. Credit Jeepís Selec-Terrain traction control
system, which allows the driver to choose one of five settings:
Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock, as well as Active Drive II,
which locks the front and rear driveshafts, has a mechanical locking
rear differential, and a crawl ratio of 51:2:1.
the hillside, I was happy to have Jeepís legendary off-road
capability in what many consumers perceive to be nothing more than a
mall rat. The vehicle easily navigated California primeval with an
ease that would be unimaginable in the Cherokeeís chief
competitors, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, all family
haulers more than true compact SUVs.
Thatís to be
expected of a Jeep, however.
The real news
is the visual revisions that occur for the new model year. Gone is
the unconventionally bizarre headlight treatment that attracted and
repulsed buyers, but provided a key benefit. "The initial
design was aimed at breaking through and getting the conversation
started, which it did. But at the same time, itís time to broaden
the reach with new styling," said Scott Tallon, director of the
the Cherokeeís new front fascia, which puts the headlamps where
the daytime running lamps were previously, eradicating the Cherokeeís
esoteric mug. The front end is more upright, and has been raised an
inch. Stylists also revised the tailgate, removing 18 pounds of
weight and incorporating space for the license plate, which
previously was housed in the bumper. It makes for a more attractive
there are five ascending trim levels: Latitude, Latitude Plus,
Limited, Overland and trail-rated Trailhawk. Most buyers choose the
base Latitude or Latitude Plus with the standard 180-horsepower
2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, although the 271-horsepower
3.2-liter V6 ó standard on upper trims, optional on others ó
accounted for nearly half of Cherokee sales last year thanks to its
4,500-pound tow rating. A third option, new for 2019, is a
turbocharged 270-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that
boasts more torque than the V6 ó 295 foot-pounds vs. 239 ó but
offers only 4,000 pounds of towing capacity. "Itís not so
much how much torque itís making, itís where itís making
it," said Tallon. "The V6 has no spool-up, and the turbos
generate a lot more heat. So if youíre using the turbos a lot, itís
going to create a lot more heat. We did lower the tow rating to
4,000 pounds, which is still exceptional for SUV of that size."
The turbo is
optional across all trims, and while fuel economy is the prime
motivation in offering it, the new powerplant does offer other
advantages. "You get a fun-to-drive factor that you didnít
have before." He added that the new engineís lower towing
capacity versus the cheaper V6 engine isnít an issue. "Towing
isnít everyoneís top priority. I think itís performance, fuel
economy and driving dynamics and making it a fun-to-drive vehicle. I
donít think itís a big compromise for most people; 4,000 pounds
will get most of your toys from point A to point B."
might be tempted to go for the V6, the turbo four provides a
dementor and power band that makes the Cherokee a formidable road
warrior. Turbo lag isnít noticeable, and the power delivery is far
more enthusiastic than with other engine options. Itís almost as
if the nine-speed automaticís ratios were optimised for the turbo
engine. Try it before deciding on the V6.
mate to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is
standard, all-wheel drive is a $1,500 option. While upper trims get
Active Drive II, other models have the still capable Active Drive I,
a fully-automatic system that requires no driver intervention.
Driver assistance safety features include lane departure warning
with lane keep assist and parallel/perpendicular parking assist.
proved to have the balance that Jeep has so expertly mastered,
proving well-controlled when carving through corners yet possessing
enough wheel articulation in the rough.
traversing the great unknown or the too-well known, youíll find
the cabin of the Cherokee to be most agreeable. The seats proved to
be comfortable, although they lacked the side bolstering needed
during off-road manoeuvres. Legroom was generous up front, more than
adequate in the second row. The cabin was quiet.
panel is anchored by a 7.0-, or 8.4-inch touchscreen display
depending on model, and includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Thoughtfully, designers have reworked the center console to
incorporate a media hub that includes a USB port and 115-volt
And while a
great infotainment system can make a trip more enjoyable, itís the
visual revisions on the 2019 Jeep Cherokee that demand your
consideration if youíre looking for a smaller SUV. And despite its
newfound sophisticated appearance, this Jeep is no mere mall rat. Itís
as much fun to drive off-road as well as on, meaning that wonít
want to leave the chore to a microchip.
Turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder
economy (city/highway): Not rated
capacity: 4,000 pounds
clearance: 8.7 inches
capacity: 25.8-128 cubic feet