First drive: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk in the UAE

First drive: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk in the UAE

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk in the UAE
Well? What do you think of its looks? Before you answer that and run back to your boring old econoboxes, be advised that we had the same opinion as you before. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s front-end smacks you in the face like a torpedo, but we had slightly warmed up to it when the Trailhawk offroad-ready version was revealed. It looks kind of cool in an unconventional concept moon-buggy sort of way, turning heads wherever it pops up, which is probably the effect Jeep was going for, rather than just make a mini-Grand Cherokee. But beyond the styling lies a car that’s better than many of its direct competitors. And the Trailhawk doubly so.

By the way, if you’re still confused, the bonnet-level slits on the front-end are LED running lamps and indicators, while the headlights are actually the rectangles on either side of the grille, just above the bumper.

The Trailhawk is the one to go for, even though it’s at the top end of the range, ringing in at nearly Dhs 150,000 in the UAE. But there’s a lot of car for the money. It gets unique bumpers with excellent approach angles and red tow-hooks, a one-inch suspension lift, dark alloy wheels with high-profile tyres, skid plates, gearbox-oil cooler and a full terrain-management system with low-range gearing and rear diff-lock. Yep, it’s a crossover that can properly go offroad.

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Inside, there’s an interior that’s maybe only slightly less spacious than that of the Grand Cherokee, and just as well-trimmed, although we think the smaller brother’s boot is a fair bit smaller. All upper dash and door panels have soft-touch padding, something of a rarity among plasticky compact SUVs.

And this being a top-end version, it came with the good-sized responsive UConnect touchscreen, navigation, adaptive cruise control, smart key, memory driver’s seat, electric parking brake, colour LCD screen within the gauges, sliding fold-down rear seats, rear camera, power tailgate and more.

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The 271 hp 3.2-litre V6 is a competitive engine, although our test car being brand new, it was hardly broken in so we didn’t get the full benefit of its performance. It felt somewhat slow but manageable on the road, aided by a class-leading 9-speed automatic that takes more getting used to than we thought. For example, suddenly flooring it to go from 100 kph to 140 kph in the highway forces as many as four downshifts before the push comes. It’s a minor delay, but it’s noticeable. We assume the electronics learn your driving style over time, or you could just choose “sport” mode to stay in the lower gears.

We eventually started figuring out that transmission though, without resorting to the manual mode. Soon we were able to change gears simply by precisely moving the right foot. So you’re in 9th gear; press the pedal a bit and it shifts to 8th gear; press a little more and it shifts to 7th gear; lighten up on the pedal a bit and it shifts back to 8th gear. Pretty cool trick. Mind you, the shifts are all super-smooth. And the benefits were obvious. At 135 kph, the engine still revs under 2000 rpm, which will pay huge dividends in fuel economy.

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Otherwise the Cherokee handles well enough, rides fairly smooth and is moderately quiet at high speeds, with nearly-lifeless but nicely-weighted linear controls, all perfectly fine for its class and not particularly exciting.

And then we went offroad. Damn. It’s good. It’s really good. With suitable ground clearance, high-profile tyres and low-range gearing with rear diff lock, it’s already got the basics right. But it’s aided by electronics such as both uphill and downhill crawl control, a terrain-management system and, surprisingly, a well-programmed automatic gearbox.

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There was a rocky course set up in the wadis near Ras Al Khaimah for us to try out the crawl-control nannies, and they worked brilliantly, allowing the car to go up and down rock mini-mountains in low-range gear, requiring nothing more than steering inputs as the throttle inputs were taken care of automatically.

Crawling at 3 kph doesn’t work too well up more slippery slopes though, as we found out on a steep sandy-gravel incline, where simply a heavy right foot worked better.

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It’s also brilliant on the sand, as long as you don’t expect it to do ridiculously high dune-climbs. Just deflate the tyres, slip the dial into “sand” mode, turn off ESP and keep the revs at moderate levels. That’s it.

The advantage of having so many gears is that most of the lower gear ratios are shorter, which is ideal for offroading. The “sand” mode also stuck to the lower gears by itself. So it was easy to have power all the time without having to manually downshift or hold gears. The throttle response, brake pedal and steering all were perfectly fine on the soft stuff. Steep downhill drops, side-sloping and creating rooster-tails, all are easily accomplished.

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To put things in perspective, the marshals were driving Cherokee Limited models, with their lower front bumpers and suspension, larger chrome alloys with thinner tyres and just low-range gearing with no terrain-management systems, and they were managing just fine too with a bit of caution, so you don’t even have to upgrade to the Trailhawk if you’re not too aggressive. The all-wheel-drive 3.2-litre models are all offroad-capable. If you pick the front-wheel-drive 2.4-litre base model though, all you’ll have is a competent city cruiser for the value-packed price of Dhs 100,000. But the fact that Jeep even offers a capable well-rounded option in a class dominated by softroaders is a victory for enthusiasts who don’t want to upgrade to something larger.

What do you think?



  1. Seems good. Having lights at wrong places is a juke thing, but jeep is a jeep.

  2. Consumer reports thrashed vehicle..

  3. why do all the american vehicles look “weaponised”?

  4. Thanks mash

    Very interesting that your conclusion is no much different from the reports in the US and Europe that seem to trash the car

  5. @Mash I know this is off topic but why does DriveArabia have an issue with GM? Just Curious, Thanks!

  6. Looks brilliant IMHO…

  7. Mash is a jeep guy. This car is ugly

  8. na……. more weird than ugly…

  9. The car doesn’t look bad but I wish the pics could have been more “Drive-Arabia-Style”. These pics look straight out of an advertisement or a picture of a concept car.

  10. Just been for a trst drive myself (although not allowed to go off road), just a couple of clarifications, the Trailhawk version I was driving did not have memory seats, rear camera or adaptive cruise control and I was told they are not standard, the sales guy said they were on the Limited version only, which is AED 160k.

  11. We had one built for us in January, a Trail Hawk with everything except the navigation package. Red with the brown interior. We’ve had two Jeeps, a Sequoia and two Tahoes the past,so we have some reference for performance. However, this actually takes the place of my wife’s Camry. So we didn’t buy it for off-road as much as comfort and features, she loves it. The interior is very well appointed, sight lines and controls are great. We live in Idaho and have taken it off road, simply put …it really is unbelievable, it’s a monster in a neat little package. I guess I don’t notice the shifting too much, seems smooth, but the handling, steering and feel of control is different, in a good way, from anything I’ve owned. I agree about the looks …at least at first, but the more we look around there is nothing like it. The more I wash it (car washes are off limits, at least for a little while) I find some truly spectacular features in the styling. We saw the Consumer Report after we ordered it, I think they reviewed the 4 cylinder Sport or Limited, they are sluggish and underpowered which might make the transmission work differently. I suggest a test drive in a Trail Hawk V6, if for no other reason just to sit in it, no other interior wraps and surrounds you like this car. But you have to get off road to see the real genius of this vehicle. Well done Jeep.

  12. Hi,
    I was researching on the cherokee and many people complain about transmission issues. Is it true?

  13. Wonderful Vehicle… Honest Review.
    I purchased a Jeep Trailhawk, every posible option and I am completely satisfied!
    I am an expert in automotive assembly and production. I have worked in the industry for over 40 years.
    Yes, the new JEEP Cherokee is completely redesigned from it’s predecessor’s. So is the original Mars Rover! I understand tradition… But what about a re-engineered better than ever Cherokee?
    I was also upset that it is a complete Unibody and still am but I cannot find a fault in the new coilover suspension (yes I realize it’s not new,I am an expert.)
    I would like to have the option of putting a snowplow on a 40,000.00$CDN.Off road vechicle but it is not possible with this vechicle. The only other issue I have is SOFT brake peddle of wich I will get inspected by a certified Chrysler Mechanic.
    Listen the 3.2 liter motor is the only way to go!
    Don’t even think about the 4 cylinder, it should not be offered on such a vechicle!!!!!
    With the 3.2 litre gas mileage is acceptable, acceleration is surprising and WOT(WIDE OPEN throttle) surprised me at 128 miles per hour or approximately 228kms! Not bad for a Off Road Vehicle. This is not an ordinary Suv,it is classified as a OFF ROAD VEHICLE! There is a big difference. The comfort,ride,and capabilities of this vechicle are online with the G wagon of witch I have owned two. I have submerged it in water up to the air intake, crossed 15 to 20 feet sand dunes,crawled over an assortment of rocky terrian and haven’t been able to get myself seriously stuck or hung up. Yes we have such terrian in Canada. I overlooked the no plow option due to the respect this vechicle showed me while performing its tasks.
    Believe no-one if they try to sell you the 4 cylinder for off road capabilities or highway driving. For regular Rough and tough Jeep guy’s and gal’s give it a try and you will agree! The new Cherokee is one impressive machine in a world of misinformation and when you need True 4×4 in an emergency situation you will be glad that you picked this little Gladiator to get yourself and family home safe. I wont go on about the creature comforts their impressive!, as the Pentstar V6 that’s why the same block is in the Ferrari, Lancia, Massirati, amongst others! (suprise,surprise)
    Enjoy your new Cherokee and drop a comment if you have questions or concerns about any vechicle.
    Thanks,Mark (Certified Quality Control Inspection, ISO CERT.ENVIRONMENTAL AND ENGINEERING)

    • with all due respect: everytime i see this vehicle i just have to burst out loving.. what were they thinking..

      this thing looks like a plastic toy car that was left in the summer sun for too long and started melting

  14. Ps regarding the transmission issue…
    It is the strongest and best transmission in it’s class made in Germany the same production facilities that make transmissions for Mercedes-Benz. It is tested and proved itself to be one of the leading transmissions in the world!
    All other automotive transmissions will be similar in the future,they are just starting to catch up with this advanced technology. I did state I am not a fan of the underpowered 4cylinder for this vechicle. The 6 cylinder with this transmission are unbeatable! That’s why this 6 cylinder Pentstar motor is considered one of the best production V6 motors ever built.(Rated by myself and Ward automotive as the best ever built!)
    Go big V6 or don’t go at all…JESU.

  15. Please let me know if you would like any Canadian imput or a specific vechicle test that you would like to see from a North American car and I will provide a true honest review.
    New, used. I WILL ALSO PROVIDE PRICE INFO AND WARRANTY ISSUES.I have many friends here in Canada from your wonderful Kingdom and enjoy using my experance and knowledge to cut through the advertising VS the real word.
    Thank you Drive Arabaia.

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