On paper it's got the most off-road capability in its class. The Cherokee comes with the excellent Uconnect system.
No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The Cherokee has much less cargo space than competitors and the Trailhawk trim line suffers a bit on the pavement.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you expect to go off-road, the Trailhawk is a great choice. However, if you plan to stay in civilization, the top-of-the-line Overland trim line may be the better choice.
REVIEW SPECIFICATIONS PHOTOS FOR SALE GET A DEALER QUOTE
Roadshow Automobiles Jeep 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Many folks shopping for a midsize crossover just want a vehicle with all-wheel drive that performs well in any kind of weather, like the Mazda CX-5 or Toyota RAV4. If, however, you want a vehicle that can cross a creek and drive through a rainstorm on an unmaintained dirt road to your secluded cabin in the woods, let me tell you about the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. Just be prepared for a few on-pavement concessions.
The Cherokee, around in some form or another since 1974, debuted as a full-sized SUV. Over five generations it morphed into its current midsize crossover platform, and it currently keeps pace in sales with both the popular Wrangler and Grand Cherokee.
The Cherokee is available with a four-cylinder engine, but at 4,000 pounds I was glad for the extra grunt of the 3.2-liter V6 power plant. It's an extra $1,745 but produces 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. It's definitely the better choice and well worth the extra coin.
Power goes to the pavement through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Yes, nine speeds. I was surprised at the well-behaved gearbox. It never searches for a gear and it willingly steps down two gears, and often three or four, during passing.
I took the Trailhawk on a road trip from Roadshow HQ in San Francisco to Los Angeles and averaged a dismal 22.8 miles per gallon, all while driving 70 to 80 mph for six hours at a time, a bit less than the EPA highway rating of 24 mpg. However, that's much less than the EPA highway rating of the Subaru Crosstrek, at 33 mpg, and the Toyota RAV4 at 28 mpg.
TAKE A GANDER AT THE 2016 JEEP CHEROKEE... See full gallery
2016 Jeep Cherokee Overland
1 - 6 of 10NEXTPREV
The Cherokee is available in nine different trims, but only the Trailhawk goes through Jeep's rigorous off-road testing and wears the Trail Rated badge. I was hoping to get the thing on the dirt, but alas our busy schedule worked against us. We hope to revisit the Trailhawk, as it's got all kinds of off-road goodies that the adventurous will appreciate. At minimum you need two things to make a vehicle off-road-worthy: a locking rear differential and a low range. The Trailhawk has both, plus more features that make it the most dirt-worthy option in its class.
The Cherokee has 8.7 inches of ground clearance and is outfitted with skid plates on the underbody, fuel tank and front suspension. The Selec-Terrain system lets you pick from auto, snow, sport, sand/mud or rock driving modes. High approach, breakover and departure angles help get the Cherokee Trailhawk up and over obstacles and it can ford up to 20 inches of water. The cherry on top is the 56:1 low gear ratio, perfect for high-torque, slow-speed rock crawling. It's not a Wrangler, but it certainly is approaching one and on paper it kicks butt over other soft-roaders like the Subaru Forester or Crosstrek.
A grown-up Cherokee
The interior of the Cherokee Trailhawk belies its go-anywhere capabilities. The seats are comfortable and there is plenty of leather, with the added bonus of the excellent Uconnect navigation head unit. The optional 8.4-inch screen may seem crammed with information, but it's all thoughtfully laid out and easy to navigate. Included with Uconnect are Siri Eyes Free compatibility, a new drag-and-drop menu bar and a Do Not Disturb function that sends phone calls straight to voicemail and can generate an automatic reply to text messages. It's not as good as having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it's a good start.