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Driven: New Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk lands

Dirt merchant: Off-road-specific wheelset and tweaked air suspension give the new Trailhawk extra teeth in the rough stuff.

Grand Cherokee Trailhawk adds off-road chops to Jeep’s local big SUV range

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Jeep logo31 May 2017

By TIM ROBSON

JEEP Australia has unveiled a new addition to its local Grand Cherokee roster, with the Trailhawk joining the range as a full-time proposition from this MY17 update onwards.

The single-spec Trailhawk takes the model range out to eight configurations across five variants in the Grand Cherokee line-up.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Australia president and CEO Steve Zanlunghi told GoAuto at the Trailhawk’s launch in New Zealand that demand for the new variant has exceeded initial estimations, and that the company is scrambling to get more.

“As soon as I caught wind of the fact that the Trailhawk was available in all (FCA) markets, it was a no-brainer for Australia,” said Mr Zanlunghi.

The Trailhawk is predicted to sell between forty and fifty units a month, according to figures suggested by Mr Zanlunghi.

“Our initial estimations of eight per cent (of Grand Cherokee sales) were out by a bit, so we’ve revised that figure up to about ten per cent,” he said.

“We’ve got additional cars on the water right now, and even that might not be enough.”

Mr Zanlunghi said that the Trailhawk was a very niche vehicle within its segment, but the company had been careful not to sacrifice day-to-day usability.

“There are not too many other vehicles in the large SUV segment that are built specifically for off-road, but it’s still good on road,” he said.

“We could have made it more extreme, but how extreme do you want to go? It had to make (Jeep’s test track on) the Rubicon Trail, but if you went more extreme, you would sacrifice road quality.

“It’s not like a Wrangler, where people buy it for just off road use – it’s a little more expensive, so people are going to use it around town, as well.”

Mr Zanlunghi said that customer demand drove the decision to import the Trailhawk, but it was the dealer’s response that drove the company to increase the supply.

“The initial dealer allocation was snapped up in less than a week,” said Mr Zanlunghi. “That’s when we decided to increase production capacity a little bit.

“Anything below ten per cent of your line-up you consider a niche model, but over that it starts to leave that niche area and becomes more mainstream. We’ll keep up with demand for the Trailhawk. It’s not like the SRT, where we’re specifically not flooding the market with SRTs.”

Previously sold as a limited edition that was last seen in 2014, the Trailhawk will cost $74,000 before on-road costs, and is based on the specifications of the Limited diesel 4x4 variant, which costs $69,000.

It is powered by Jeep’s 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel that makes 184kW and 570Nm, and uses a second generation ZF eight-speed automatic transmission that is now used across the Grand Cherokee range. Jeep claims a combined fuel economy figure of 7.5 litres per 100km.

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

Its air suspension has also been modified to provide more travel at low speeds, and it is equipped with hill descent control.

Inside, it features leather seats with suede inserts and red stitching, while the 8.2-inch Uconnect multimedia system now 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, a memory function for the radio, driver’s seat and mirror settings, heated seats front and rear, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, bi-Xenon headlights, 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, and keyless entry and start.

The Grand Cherokee range has also been updated across the board for 2017 with revised alloy front suspension parts, thicker front glass, a traditional T-bar automatic shifter and electric steering system that premiered in 2016 aboard the limited-edition Grand Cherokee SRT Night.

Other changes include a new grille, headlights, fascia, wheel design and foglights across the Grand Cherokee line-up, while the Pentastar petrol V6 scores a modest upgrade to 213kW (up 3kW) via the addition of variable valve timing. A stop/start system has also been added.

The Overland and SRT also score forward collision warning with crash mitigation, lane departure warning with steer adjust and blind spot monitoring with rear cross path detection, rear trailer hitch camera view, and front and rear parking sensors with an auto stop-function.

The 2017 SRT, meanwhile, now shares exactly same specifications as the special-edition SRT Night, which was imported in limited numbers from June 2016.

Grand Cherokee sales continue to slide, with its numbers down 30 per cent month-on-month and 42 per cent year-on-year.

Its 1559 year-to-date total has been eclipsed by rivals like the Nissan Pathfinder (1886), Mitsubishi Pajero Sport (2751) and Toyota Kluger (3384).

2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee pricing*
Laredo 3.6-litre V6 RWD (a)$47,500
Laredo 3.6-litre V6 4x4 (a)$52,500
Laredo 3.0-litre TDV6 4x4 (a)$59,000
Limited 3.6-litre V6 4x4 (a)$62,500
Limited 3.0-litre TDV6 4x4 (a)$69,000
Trailhawk 3.0-litre TDV6 4x4 (a)$74,000
Overland 3.0-litre TDV6 4x4 (a)$80,000
SRT 6.4-litre V8 4x4 (a)$91,000
*Excludes on-road costs

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