2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 Review

By Arison Knapp on September 4, 2015

2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 Review

by Arison Knapp


If you’re looking for a disproportionately good deal in a heavy-duty off-roading midsize SUV, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is your ticket up the mountain. There are major differences between the ruggedly-equipped Cherokee Trailhawk and the other street-oriented, light-duty, four model lines of the Cherokee. The lower four models compete with the tame Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. However the Trailhawk is built larger all-around with more off-road technologies raising its driving abilities. Now competing with upper class SUVs like the Land Rover LR2 and the Nissan Xterra PRO-4X which is why I chose this ride.

In the second year of the four-door, five-passenger Cherokee’s current generation it receives modern power train updates with a V-6 engine Start-Stop feature Newly optional electronic safety and interior equipment too. Adding more fuel economy to V6 models and sophisticated options, this year the Cherokee Trailhawk continues to have an MSRP of $30,395.



The styling of the Jeep Cherokee is unlike other Jeeps on the market today. The square boxy look has flown the coop. This generation is in a sleek contemporary body fitting well within the market of wind-swept midsize SUVs. Its wedge front end looks beefy with complex lighting arrangement and twin hot red tow hooks.

Scanning your eyes past the front you’ll see broad fender flares in matte black emphasizing its wider stance over the lesser Cherokee models. Sweeping up from the fender flares is Trailhawk’s matte black rectangle hood decal accenting all other menacing black throughout on the lower fascia, rocker panels, badging, window trim, tinting and the inside of the wheels.


Looking deeper down the side you begin to see the beautiful bulging belt line to match the width of the widened fender flares. It is significantly attractive the way Jeep carves into the body scooping out its doors to create a tucking in look attaining a sporty profile. Bringing the whole design together is the SUV hatch which has a softly raked, thick C-Pillar which oddly had great visibility especially with the large rear windshield.


Increasing the front ends large appeal for its small size is the Cherokee’s vertical tri-stack of head lighting. Featuring a combo cluster atop the stack of lighting includes a super bright LED DRL strip combined with turn signals. Below in the middle are halogen low and high beams finishing the stack, sitting low are a pair of halogen fog lamps.


Being noticed by traffic in the day was awesome with the high stack LED strip. The large number of lights and colors at night gave clear indications to fellow cars of my presence and direction. It is superb lighting for halogen tech.The small low beam projector lens returned good light coverage of road and brightness. The small tail lights were not the strongest for alerting drivers behind me. I could tell the third tail light in the lip roof spoiler was smarter to have for added safety.

Power Train

Equipped in our Trailhawk is the optional power train a meaty naturally aspirated 3.2-liter six-cylinder Pentastar engine. New for 2015 is the Start-Stop feature that will shut off the engine at a complete stop and when the brake pedal is released fires back on. These increased starts and stops work all the auxiliary parts of the engine a lot more, so Jeep has upgraded the starting motor and battery to be able to handle the workout. There is a button on dash below the center touch screen display to turn this feature off and on and Jeep says it’ll save up to ten percent of fuel.


The throaty sounding V6 spins through a nine-speed automatic transmission kicking out a solid 271 HP and 239 lb-ft of torque to all four wheels using the Trailhawk-only 4×4 Active Drive Lock system. On the Trailhawk 4×4 Active Drive Lock system you’ll find world-class technology like five electronic driving modes through the Selec-Terrain Control, an actively disengaging rear axle, a hardcore two-speed differential with a good-performing 4-low crawl setting and a special locking rear axle. The way the power transfers around the Trailhawk giving you ultimate control is so exclusive to Jeep a video best explains it, here is the link http://www.jeep.com/en/4×4.

Going for the optional tow package adds a full size spare and more cooling to the engine and transmission allowing up to 4,500 lbs of boat or toys for the family. That best-in-class towing and off-road ability is not too shabby for its MPG rating of 19 city, 26 hwy and a averaged 348-mile cruising range. The standard power train has a neutral tow mode whereby you’re able to tow Cherokee Trailhawk behind your RV.

Chassis, Suspension and Brakes

One of the most appealing parts of the Cherokee Trailhawk is its sporty look presenting low overhanging bumpers. Its 182 inch long unibody structure with a long 107 inch wheelbase results in a vehicle with wheels at the corners for great on-road handling and perfect for stability off-roading lightly, although the long wheelbase isn’t the best for clearing the sharp rises in the earth’s crust. The Trailhawk has plenty of undercarriage protection so no need to worry about scraping but do worry about high-centering.

Keeping that steel uniframe attached to the ground is a four-corner fully independent suspension system that is raised a full inch over the lesser Cherokees. It rides high with a MacPherson strut type front suspension and a multi-link configuration in the rear which was soft throughout my highway and city driving. With an approach angle of almost 30 degrees and clearance of up to 8.7 inches, tires properly inflated I had no trouble making it up the mountain side at a recent off-road journalist event in Southern California.

At a special mountainous location in Malibu I was able to test out the Cherokee Trailhawk and its unique electronic stability and gripping programs which uses many parts of the vehicle as sensors to find grip using the wheels, suspension, engine and brakes. The rotary-dial Selec-Terrain Control was nice to have but we left it in Auto mode to articulate over the boulders and sand of Southern California however the real fun was descending the mountain.


Turning on the Hill-Descent control which is Hill-Ascent Control too, ABS automatically actively drives the vehicle down the mountain. The Selec-Speed Control is much quieter and more composed than similar systems in Toyotas and Nissans. The large front 13 inch brake rotors and twin piston front calipers definitely added to the confidently composed descent making less work for the chunky wide 245 size Firestone Destination 17 inch off-road tires with a pillow-like sidewall size of 65.


It was pleasing to hear that the Cherokee is assembled with ten standard airbags although IIHS and NHTSA crash test ratings were good but weren’t the best compared to other competitors. Cabin standard safety is limited by technology today nonetheless the Cherokee is packed with active safety electronic and mechanical features like stability control, traction control, roll mitigation control, trailer sway control, tire pressure monitoring, ABS, brake assist, rain brake support and hill-start assist.

There are two major optional safety packages to keep an eye on when ordering your next Cherokee Trailhawk at your local dealer which are the SafetyTec Group and the Technology group. The SafetyTec Group is composed of a blind spot monitoring system, heated side mirrors with signals and mud lights and ParkSense. The Technology Group is a little more strapping adding serious upgrades like Adaptive Cruise Control, Advanced Brake Assist, Rear Cross Path Detection, Forward Collision Warning, LaneSense, Park Assist and Rain-sensing wipers.


In-Cabin Experience

The interior instantly felt well composed, easy to find controls and comfortable seats. Our Trailhawk was packaged with the Leather Group which includes more supportive leather bucket front seats, 8-way power driver seat with a 4-way lumbar support and new for this year a ventilated and memory driver seat package is optional. On long and short trips the front seats were re energizing to sit in but not comfortable enough to fall asleep in.

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After I was settled adjusting the steering wheel and seat I started to play around with the large 8.4 inch wide infotainment display powered by FCA’s UConnect operating system with navigation. Connecting with Bluetooth or a USB was simple and fast. The UConnect system has fast reaction times, good sensitivity and colors however I found it a bit complex getting used to all of it even when I parked. I hope you read the owner’s manual to be ready to work this powerful system while driving. The surround sound system by Alpine with 10 speakers and 506 watt amplification is one of the best. It’s clear, crisp and bumpy, if you like that sort of music.


Why This Ride?

· Modern power train

· Xtreme Off-Road Suspension yet comfortable

· Trailhawk harnesses your off-road talents with raised driving abilities

· Great Value

· Leather bucket 8-way power seats, ventilated & memory

Arison’s story began in rapidly evolving Seattle, Washington in the 1980’s. From a young age he gained his automotive experience working in the family business; our nation’s first and oldest personal automotive consulting and buyer’s service, AutoAdvisor Inc. Throughout working as a research car consultant he built a foundation of learning people and how cars can fit with their lives. That is his strong suit, the human to car interface. Over the last decade he harnessed his voice contributing to small print and national online news outlets reviewing cars. Today, his automotive passion has sprung into the love of all things involving motion from shoes to drones. He is an active member of the Motor Press Guild and is ready to share his expertise with WhyThisRide.