Affordable luxury off-road-capable SUVs are hard to come by. Jeep aims the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk at buyers that want all of the features and all of the off-road ability. Off-road, the Cherokee is the real deal. Virtually any sport-ute will get you down the average cottage trail, but when its system is set for the tough stuff, the Trailhawk delivers. I’ve driven it on very challenging courses and it had no problem getting through. The Wrangler is tougher overall, with more ground clearance and heavy-duty axles, but the Cherokee won’t embarrass you on the trail, and the dial-it-in simplicity of its off-road settings will appeal to those who don’t want or need the full-blown Wrangler Rubicon experience.
It’s boxy and very retro in design, with the ever-present vertical grille (a standard on every Jeep) lending to the Jeeps of last years. I very much like how they played around, as they’re pretty cool to look at, plus that cool spoiler and aluminum looking plastic guard beneath the bumper that has two exhaust pipes. When viewed from the side, the high beltline and tall, straight windows make it a box on wheels, and that’s okay since it’s a look that draws people into buying Toyota FJs and the like. The proportions just feel right with the Jeep Renegade, despite those 17-inch alloys which I think would’ve been better if they were a size bigger.
The Jeep Renegade returns for 2019 with updated front and rear fascias, along with a new 1.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to replace the previous 1.4L four. The unit makes 177 horsepower and 200 pound-feet of torque and is standard on the Renegade Limited and Trailhawk and optional on the Sport and Latitude trims. The 6-speed manual transmission has been discontinued.
The Trailhawk comes stock with a 3.2L V6 that makes 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque (lower trim levels start with a 2.4L four-cylinder making 180 horsepower). The new-for-2019 option in my tester is a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder churning out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The interior of the limited model is nicely appointed with leather seats. The giant panoramic sunroof made the interior feel very open. Seating can be a little tight when filled with four adults and a car seat, but for two kids and two adults, it’s roomy enough. Putting a car seat behind the driver still allows a comfortable, though not optimal, seating position for someone 6-feet tall.
The base Sport models are equipped with 16-inch wheels, keyless ignition, cloth upholstery, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB chargers (one in the front, one in the rear), and a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility for about $23,000 to start with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive costs about $1,500.