JEEP will introduce a Trailhawk variant of the ageing Grand Cherokee in the first quarter of 2017.
The Trailhawk GC gets extra underbody protection, increased ride height and all-terrain tyres to (theoretically) take you places where a regular Grand Cherokee may struggle.
Places like the Nevada Desert, where its ability to navigate this sort of terrain is testament to the Trailhawk package, which, along with extra underbody protection, brings crucial additional ground clearance and increased axle articulation.
Ride height is a hefty 63mm higher than a regular GC and, when elevated to its maximum of three positions, the Trailhawk sits 273mm off the ground. In practice it allows you to eye rocky escarpments and washaways and think, “hmm, probably not”, when the Trailhawk is actually thinking, “yep, no problem”.
Even if you do misjudge its ultimate off-road capabilities, the side-rail protection and four additional steel underbody protection plates allow you to make a dignified, if graunching, retreat.
Also crucial to Trailhawk’s go-anyway ethos is the new rubber on its 18-inch alloy wheels; seemingly grenade-proof boots from Goodyear featuring Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls. We watched as others in our group descended the ultra-steep trail and boggled as the front-left copped the full weight of the Trailhawk – all 2.4 tonnes of it –with barely any detectable sidewall distortion.
Exactly how much these off-road upgrades impact the on-road behaviour compared to the regular Grand Cherokee is difficult to quantify, as our drive didn’t allow much dynamic bitumen-based driving. We’d take an educated shot and say, a little, but not enough to concern most prospective buyers.
The important stuff – a compliant low- and highway-speed ride, well-muffled tyre noise and acceptably alert steering – all carry over without worrying degradation. No-one drives the door handles off a full-size 4x4 anyway. Come to think of it, possibly no-one shoves them nose-first into brutal snotsville canyons in the desert either, but presumably it’s nice to know you can.
If you do venture out you can do it in comfort. Trailhawk models feature a model-specific black interior with leather and suede seats and red stitching, brushed black appliques on the dash, gun-metal finish on all painted interior parts, plus a Trailhawk badge on the steering wheel. This treatment goes with the exterior featuring Trail Rated badging, bonnet black-outs and bold red tow hooks.
The Trailhawk model joins a lightly facelifted Grand Cherokee line-up for 2017. Changes include the revised front fascia and grille that debuted on the 2016 Grand Cherokee 75th Anniversary edition.
Model: Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk
Engine: 2988cc V6 (60 degree), DOHC, 24v, turbo-diesel
Max power: 179kW @ 3600rpm
Max torque: 569Nm @ 2000rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 12sec (estimated)
Fuel consumption: 10.5L/100km
Price: $70,000 (estimated)
On sale: First quarter 2017