Sometimes we get a vehicle in our garage that we're very excited about based solely on it's appearance. The Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is one of those cars. It's a bold, masculine SUV with commanding presence, especially with those blacked out Jeep logos found throughout the car. The Trailhawk trim adds a level of ruggedness to the design of this vehicle that helps make it stand out in the grocery store parking lot, or digging it out of 3 feet of snow. We took the keys to this 2017 Grand Cherokee and were excited for our 2,500km fortnight with it, at least we thought so.
Here in Québec, it's the law to have winter tires by the 15th of December, but since we took this vehicle at the beginning of December it was still sporting it's Kevlar enhanced all-season off-road tires, which come from the factory with the Trailhawk trim package. We should have taken a different vehicle for our drive up to Val-d'Or as winter was heavily set up there in comparison to home, making some of our driving a little difficult. We can't fault Jeep for poor snow control with all-season tires, it wasn't their fault nor the car's that winter tires weren't equipped, but it's a good lesson for those who think all-wheel-drive is enough when it comes to winter control.
Aside from some slippery driving and cautious turns, the Jeep did manage to get through larger mounds of snow quite easily, part due to the Quadra-Lift® air suspension which allows for 4 different height modes. We programmed the Grand Cherokee to lower itself into the lowest position each time we parked, making it easier for our daughter to get in and out of this SUV on her own. Under normal driving situations the system automatically raises itself to the Aerodynamic mode. Two Off-Road modes are available through the system, one which can be driven up to medium speed, and the other only available in low speed driving, designed to keep the vehicle from rolling over or losing balance.
We kept the vehicle in aero mode and the automatic traction setting throughout our entire drive. We did find the Snow mode to be relatively useless, and when we took the vehicle off-road in Mud mode, we got completely stuck even with those off-road tires. The ride wasn't overly comfortable as the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has a firm suspension given it's marketed to be a true off-road capable machine. We doubt many people would buy the Trailhawk trim unless they own a cottage or summer home where paved roads don't exist, as normal every day driving will start to get uncomfortable. Especially on our road trip to and from Val-d'Or we started to feel numb and looking for excuses to stop.
Those excuses were mostly thanks to fuel. While the Grand Cherokee certainly has a large tank, we were averaging around 13.4L/100km over our 2 week period with this 3.6L Pentastar V6 engine. You can get this Trailhawk with the larger Hemi V8 if you feel extra generous towards the fuel companies.
Back to that off-roading we did. Considering this vehicle has 'Trail Rated®' badging along the vehicle, we figured we'd put that to the test by taking it on one of Québec's winter trails just outside of town. We arrived at the field were the trail began, which had a bit of mud but overall looked like a capable place to test the vehicle. After all the Grand Cherokee has a Mud mode for it's off-road system, and rather beefy off-road tires. We drove the Jeep onto the trail and got instantly stuck. While our predicament only lasted about 3 and a half minutes, it felt like 10. Figuring we'd have to call the tow truck, we eventually got out of the mud by switching the off-road system back to automatic and slowly working the traction control back onto firm land.
We did take the Jeep onto a few other trails which looked like any basic front-wheel drive sedan could tackle and had little trouble. We were certainly worried the Jeep was going to have to be abandoned earlier, but even more worried that this Trail Rated® vehicle was able to get stuck so quickly and easily.
We mentioned it during out episode of TestDrive Spotlight of this vehicle, but we doubt people are going to buy the Trailhawk as a daily commuter to get back and forth from work, however there's a good chance some will end up going this route. The interior isn't bad, with leather seating and plastic trim throughout. The front seats do have heat and ventilation, and the driver's steering wheel has it's own heat controls. The main problem with all of these amenities is the system to access them. Most manufacturers still use physical buttons which have worked well for a hundred years, however Jeep has hidden them within the Uconnect® system, making it unnecessarily difficult to turn them off at a moments notice. It requires the driver to take their eyes off the road in order to jump into the climate control settings rather than pushing a button that will always be there.
We also had other complaints with the Uconnect® system. First off, the $60,000+ Trailhawk with Trailhawk Luxury Package does not come with navigation, nor Apple CarPlay or Android Auto (though the 2018 supports CarPlay/Android Auto). We expected a vehicle at this price point to have navigation, especially one that's meant for off-roading. You are able to get the GPS co-ordinates through the off-road screen, which is only useful if you love reading location degrees. We also found the system to be very slow when switching audio from a Bluetooth source or via USB. Skipping a song took several seconds on either source, and the Bluetooth data would often get frozen, meaning the music screen would display the same song after a while, requiring the vehicle to be turned off and on again in order to reset.
Another interior complaint we had came with the rear seating area. Sure you get heated outboard seating and USB outlets with a home outlet to connect devices, but it lacked a 3rd zone for climate control. We often found the heating controls to be very inconsistent, either being too cold or too hot when changing between a single degree. The rear seating area could definitely use it's own independent climate settings.
For the most part we've been relatively pleased with the vehicles we've featured on TestDrive in 2017, and while we did drive this car during December, we're technically posting it as our first review and episode of the new year. It would then make it the best car we've featured so far in 2018, and maybe we should leave it at that.
You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk here: