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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk performs on and off road

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With back-to-back snowstorms, don’t you wish you owned a Jeep. A midsize 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk that is.

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The new Cherokee is a resurrection of the original Cherokee that was sold a decade ago. The newer version it completely different including its gnarly front end that poses an illusion of sorts that makes the parking lights appear to be headlamps.

The 2014 5-passenger Cherokee Trailhawk is a welcome change from the myriad of crossovers on the market in that it has good on-road manners with true off-road capability that earned it Jeep’s renowned Trail Rated designation.

Now not all 2014 Cherokee’s are Trail Rated. In fact FWD is offered on all but the Trailhawk, which is strictly a 4x4. For those having no interest in offroading, Cherokee is offered in Sport, Latitude and high-end Limited versions.

Built on the same Fiat platform as the Dodge Dart, the Cherokee Trailhawk has been beefed up to handle the rough and tough, including 17-plus inches of snow thanks to its 8.7 inches of ground clearance, wider wheels, tires and off-road suspension.

While many crossovers have AWD and a 4WD lock mode, they don’t have the undercarriage clearance needed to traverse deep snow hence they high-center making AWD/4WD useless.

The Cherokee is available in two 4WD systems. Active Drive I is the basic configuration that is essentially AWD. Active Drive II adds a low-range wherein the rear differential can be locked for added traction.

Within that, Select Terrain offers a Rock Mode when in 4WD-Low mode, but is only available on the Trailhawk. Other 4WD models have Auto, Sport, Snow and Mud-Sand modes.

Although you may never need it, the Cherokee Trailhawk comes with Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and Trailer Sway Damping to mention a few.

Cherokee can be had with either a 2.4L, inline four cylinder that is rated at 184-hp and 171 lb/ft of torque, or, the tested 3.2L, V6 that generates an exhilarating 271-hp and 239 lb/ft of torque that EPA rates at 19 city, 26-highway mpg. This grunt is sent to the wheels through a new 9-speed automatic transmission. The combination provides excellent acceleration from a standing stop to highway passing situations. And it’s a quiet engine that is based on the popular 3.6-liter Pentastar powerplant that has a slightly higher compression ratio than in the Cherokee (10.7:1 vs. 10.2). The new 9-speed auto transmission is a smooth shifter that helps attain the 21 mpg combined city/highway rating. Both engines are available in FWD and 4WD models.

Cherokee designers did a nice job on the interior. Heavily padded and supportive front seats have the Trailhawk emblem embroidered into the headrests and the front passenger seat bottom lifts up for concealed storage. Plus, the seatback folds flat for carrying long items inside the vehicle.

The rear seats split-fold, recline and more fore/aft adjustment and they are heavily padded for two adults. With the seats up the cargo area measures 34 inches deep, 41 wide and 28.5 high. Flip them and there’s 64 inches of depth or 54.9 cubic feet. Load height is a mere 32 inches while step-in is an easy 19 inches.

All HVAC and operating controls are easy to operate plus there’s an 8.4-inch LCD display for audio, GPS nav, rearview camera and other functions. Its size makes it easy to see at a glance.

Optionally available ($2,195) is a Technology Package that includes parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist (for those who have trouble parking), Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection, Adaptive Cruise, Brake Assist, rain sensing wipers and more. Add the Comfort Convenience Group ($1,895) and it includes heated front seats and steering wheel and much more.

To give the Trailhawk an added touch of macho, Jeep added a Black Hood Decal ($150), that in my opinion detracts from this snazzy Jeep.

As for ride and handling, the ride on deep lugged 17-inch Firestone Destination A/T tires are uncharacteristically cushy for a Jeep product. It’s not quite as smooth as a Grand Cherokee, but much more pleasant than the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited. Handling too is positive and planted as a Jeep should be.

Safety wise, the Cherokee comes with a myriad of airbags plus front knee airbags, proximity/cross-traffic and forward collision warnings.

For all these goodies, necessities and abilities, the Trail Rated Cherokee Trailhawk had a base price of $29,495 to which is added the aforementioned options plus $1,495 for the 3.2L V6; $795 for
UConnect, HD satellite radio; $395 for 9 amplified speakers; and $995 delivery for a bottom line of $38,710.

Jeep sweetens the price with a 5/100K powertrain warranty, 3/36K basic limited warranty and 5/100K roadside assistance coverage.

All totaled, the Cherokee Trailhawk would be a welcome addition to any family during these snowy, icy days of winter.

To check out a Trailhawk, stop by Rothrock Motors off N. 15th St., in Allentown. And to automatically receive auto news and reviews from Nick Hromiak, click on the “Subscribe” notation on this page.

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