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Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 2018 off-road review

Jeep's venerable Grand Cherokee just keeps on giving and giving. In dog years, it's old enough to vote. But the large, brash, unashamedly American 4x4 five-seat wagon is holding its age very well.

In 2017, Jeep updated the Grand Cherokee with a raft of driving extras, and added to the storied history of the brand by anointing the Grand Cherokee with its most hallowed symbol, the Trailhawk badge.

So what does this mean for the Grand Cherokee?

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Big, brash, American, boxy, and bold pretty much sums up the Grand Cherokee. It harks back to its Willys origins with its seven-slot grill, while the new Trackhawk brings with it some additions that point to its off-road intentions.

The matte black decal on the bonnet, for example, is designed to minimise glare back into the cabin, while the large prominent tow hooks on the front bar are able to withstand up to 2500kg of towing force. Unfortunately those tow hooks aren't replicated on the back, unless you spend more money on Jeep's tow kit.

The new Trackhawk brings with it some additions that point to its off-road intentions. The new Trackhawk brings with it some additions that point to its off-road intentions.

Eighteen-inch alloys with a Willys symbol in the centre also point to the car's dirt motivation, and they are shod with a surprisingly civil set of all-terrain tyres.

The design really hasn't changed much since the fourth generation WK2 model launched in 2011, right down to the squared-off arched surrounds. At worst, it's inoffensive, and at best, it's a bold statement that flies in the face of many of the creased and crinkled looks of more modern competitors.

The interior has also been lightly updated, with the biggest change a switch back to a T-bar style automatic shifter. The previous iteration worked more like a rocker switch, and was implicated as a cause of several incidents over the past couple of years.

How practical is the space inside?

The Grand Cherokee is a five-seater in a category that's full of three-row rivals like the Toyota Prado and Ford Everest, but the loss of the jump seats frees up the cargo space for more stuff.

Drop the seats and a mountain bike will slide in the back, wheels and all, while tie-down hooks allow you to lash it in place. There's 782 litres of space behind the rear seats, and 1552 litres when they're laid flat, according to Jeep.

The pews are wide, well bolstered and very comfy front and rear, with three adults able to sit across the second row easily. The seat backs can be reclined, devices can be charged via USB and ventilation controls, err, controlled, while sipping from bottles stashed in the doors.

Kick out the centre-seat occupant, and the fold-down armrest hides two cupholders, while ISOFIX baby seats can be added to the outside rear seats.

Up front, the comfort factor is very similar, while Jeep's excellent quasi-digital dash faces the driver. It can be configured in a number of ways, and is amongst the clearest and most easy-to-read dashboards on the market today.

A pair of deep cupholders supplement bottle holders in the doors, while a medium-depth centre bin can hide the largest of phones.

Given the nature of the Trailhawk, a set of rubberised floormats might be a good thing to grab before going bush; there's a lot of nice carpet and suede trim to muddy up if you do head into the scrub.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

Previously sold as a limited edition that was last seen in 2014, the Trailhawk costs $73,500 before on road costs (a drop of $500 since its launch in September 2017), and it's based on the Limited diesel 4x4 variant, which costs $67,500.

Inside, it features leather seats with suede inserts and red stitching, while the 8.2-inch Uconnect multimedia system incorporates a set of off-road specific pages that display data like pitch and roll angles and set-up information.

It also comes with satellite navigation, an Alpine stereo system, powered tailgate, tinted rear glass, auto dimming mirrors, radio/driver seat/mirror memory, a heated steering wheel, reverse parking camera, front and rear parking sensors, bi-Xenon headlights, a 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, powered and heated front seats, keyless entry and a start button.

The large prominent tow hooks on the front bar are able to withstand up to 2500kg of towing force. The large prominent tow hooks on the front bar are able to withstand up to 2500kg of towing force.

The Grand Cherokee range was updated across the board in 2017 with alloy front suspension parts, thicker front glass and an electric steering system.

It comes equipped with Kevlar-reinforced all-terrain tyres and bespoke 18-inch alloys, extra engine cooling, a revised version of its dual-range 4x4 system that includes a locking rear differential and full-length underbody protection.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk uses Jeep's venerable 3.0-litre V6 turbocharged diesel engine, which makes 184kW at 4000rpm and a mighty 570Nm from 2000rpm.

It also uses an inhouse-designed, ZF-made eight-speed automatic gearbox with flappy paddles, along with an electric steering system pinched from the Chrysler 300.

The engine is a real cracker; it's quiet and refined, and has loads of wallop right off the bat. The gearbox is a beauty, as well, with plenty of gears available exactly when each is needed.

The Trailhawk also offers low-range off-road capability via its two-speed transfer case and an electronic limited slip rear diff.

There's also a very smart hill descent feature that also works as a hill climb assistant, with the driver able to change the speed of the descent and ascent via the flappy paddles.

It'll tow up to 3500kg, and it'll do it easily, too.

How much fuel does it consume?

Jeep claims a combined fuel economy figure of 7.5 litres per 100km, and after 300km of on- and off-road testing, we saw a dash-indicated combined fuel economy figure of 8.2L/100km. Previous testing over almost 1000km has netted a similar figure (8.1L/100km).

Thanks to its 93L fuel tank, the 2340kg Grand Cherokee has a theoretical range of over 1200km.

What's it like as a daily driver?

At over 4.8m long, the Grand Cherokee is not necessarily the first car you'd think about taking into town. But outside the hearts of our big cities, it's a practical, unpretentious vehicle that can do a lot with relatively little.

Even around town, excellent visibility means that it can tackle commuter traffic with ease, while the raft of driver's aides now fitted to the car also make life a lot easier.

And one big surprise is just how quiet its GoodYear all-terrain tyres are, even on broken tarmac. It points towards the excellent noise suppression from underneath the Grand Cherokee.

 The company itself is even moving away from the more urbanised marketing themes it's used over the past few years.

Meanwhile, the seats are large, there's plenty of space in all directions in the cabin, and Jeep has steadily updated and upgraded the Grand Cherokee as it's rolled through its life.

For example, it has at least six points where you can charge devices. There's plenty of air streams to be accessed and numerous places to stash bottles. And this high-spec Trailhawk also offers all the creature comforts, like heated seats and even a heated steering wheel.

As a day-to-day proposition, it may not be the ideal thing for around town, thanks to its diesel powerplant - diesels don't necessarily like short start/stop trips.

This tester has had dramas with diesel particular filters from Jeep in the past, too, but the company assures us that those issues are now a thing of the past.

What's it like for touring?

Jeep's main reason for being is playing in the dirt, and the company itself is even moving away from the more urbanised marketing themes it's used over the past few years, pointing back to the Grand Cherokee's origins as a rugged, comfortable off roader.

Certainly its mechanicals play that out, with the Trailhawk using an electronic locking rear diff along with its Quadra-Drive 4x4 system, which includes a low range transfer case as well as air bag suspension that can be raised and lowered to suit the terrain.

Off-road functionality is accessed by a dial on the centre console, which doesn't offer a dirt or gravel road mode. You can pick rock, mud, sand, or snow, which does preclude that usual style of long dirt road that we are accustomed to here. However, the automatic mode and the constant 4x4 drivetrain makes short work of such terrain.

The Grand Cherokee simply yawned as it traversed the washouts and the bumps. It rarely struggled for traction. The Grand Cherokee simply yawned as it traversed the washouts and the bumps. It rarely struggled for traction.

The other modes, including the rock mode, can elevate the Grand Cherokee to a category-leading 260mm of ground clearance, although its wading depth of 508mm is a little bit below that for some of its rivals like the Toyota LandCruiser 200 series (700mm).

We threw the Trailhawk down some muddy, wet, and rocky terrain during the course of our test, which required the tyres to be deflated a little to gain traction.

On balance, though, we wonder if we could've got away without even doing that basically mandatory change. The Grand Cherokee simply yawned as it traversed the washouts and the bumps. It rarely struggled for traction, and with the underbody protection underneath, we weren't shy about taking the harder lines in order to trip up the car.

Eighteen-inch alloys with a Willys symbol in the centre also point to the car's dirt motivation. Eighteen-inch alloys with a Willys symbol in the centre also point to the car's dirt motivation.

Its 36-degree approach angle is 10 degrees better than the Limited from which it's derived, while breakover and departure angles are slightly improved as well. Its 260mm of ground clearance is some 42mm better than the coil-sprung Limited, but it can only be used at low speeds in off-road modes.

We would really have to be doing something fairly silly to get too far stuck with the Grand Cherokee, but as always, be prepared when you're heading off-road, and don't get in over your head.

When it comes to towing your favourite toys, there are few cars that are better at that job than the Grand Cherokee in its diesel form. It offers niceties like a rear view camera that changes modes when towing is detected, with guideline to enable easy hook-up of the trailer.

Jeep has anointed the Grand Cherokee with its most hallowed symbol, the Trailhawk badge. Jeep has anointed the Grand Cherokee with its most hallowed symbol, the Trailhawk badge.

The air spring-based suspension also helps self level the vehicle. And the 570Nm of torque from the 3.0-litre turbo diesel means that towing right up to its capacity of 3500kg is really not a drama at all.

We've had extensive experience towing large vans behind similarly equipped Jeep products, and it's been nothing but surprise and delight the whole way.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Grand Cherokee comes standard with seven airbags, front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, trailer sway control and brake pre-fill and rain-prepping.

It's now fitted with Jeep's driver aid systems as standard, which include radar cruise control, advanced forward collision warning and lane control, blind spot monitoring, trailer sway control and more as standard.

It has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, which was issued in 2011.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Jeep has been steadily improving its warranty and service efforts on the back of lacklustre results in customer satisfaction surveys and a raft of technical recalls over the a few years.

It now offers a comprehensive five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty on Jeep products that can be transferred to private buyers for $99 if the car is sold, while lifetime roadside assist is also available for Grand Cherokees that are serviced through a Jeep dealer.

It's worth noting, though, that the Grand Cherokee has been recalled to rectify faults at least 20 times since its launch in 2011 - and as recently as mid-2018 - making it Australia's most recalled vehicle by quite a way.

Fixed-price servicing costs over the first five years equal $4285, with service intervals set at 20,000km or 12 months.

The Grand Cherokee has always offered its passengers and its driver a great way to access off-road conditions in comfort and with practicality, and the additional features of the Trailhawk only extend that capability.

It's not cheap by any stretch, and there are (still!) question marks over its ultimate reliability, but the fact that it can be used relatively comfortably around town as well as off of the beaten track tips the value equation back in its favour for an adventure vehicle.

Would you go bush in a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk? Let us know in the comments below.

$69,388 - $72,990

Based on 4 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Adventure score

4/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'