When Chrysler was bought out and bailed out by Fiat back in 2009, there was, and in some cases still is, a lot of controversy about the whole deal. Even lately, there have been controversial talks about moving some Jeep production to China. Despite all this, I knew back then that Fiat had the potential to be the perfect partner for the Chrysler brands. Not much can prove this point better than the success of Jeep. Texas has had a lot to do with Jeep’s success as Jeep is the number one SUV brand in Texas, and has had 38% growth in Texas alone.
We drove the redesigned Grand Cherokee shortly after it came out in 2010, as a 2011 model, and we were astonished by the quality all around. Jeep’s, to me, have always been about ruggedness and have always been lacking on interior quality. Not anymore. Now you have the ruggedness and off-road readiness you want from a Jeep, but it will also wrap you in comfort and luxury while you’re just making the day-to-day rounds. No wonder the Grand Cherokee has been named SUV of Texas for the past 3 years. It truly encapsulates the spirit of what Texas is about; bigger, better, and more.
Freshly back from the Texas Truck Rodeo where we just renamed the Grand Cherokee as SUV of Texas, and had the opportunity to drive the new Trailhawk off-road, we’re now getting to spend some real time in the 2013 model.
Our tester for the week was a Limited 4×4 Grand Cherokee that was packed with all the tech and luxury you’d really want or need.
Inside the Grand Cherokee:
Like we stated in our last review and up above already in this review, the quality and luxury you get out of this Jeep is just great. The leather seats are comfortable and look great. They are also able to heat your rear, if you so desire. The center stack is laid out well with all the buttons easy to read and access. The steering wheel feels good in your hands and the controls are easy to figure out and operate.
It’s not just the functionality or materials that makes this interior so good though, but the color combinations and mixing of materials. You can tell that the Jeep people put a lot of work into making sure you’re comfortable and making the interior pleasing to the eye.
Under the hood:
Our tester was equipped with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 engine. This engine delivers 290-horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, and is hooked up with a 6-speed automatic transmission. You should see about 17-mpg city and 23-mpg highway. In our time with the Grand Cherokee, we averaged 18.9-mpg. This engine is just about perfect for everything you’d want this SUV to do, but there are always bigger options as you can have Jeep’s 5.7-liter V8 under the hood. This engine will put out 360-hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. Of course you’ll be sacrificing some economy with that choice.
If you’re really feeling crazy, you can always step up to the SRT-8 Grand Cherokee with the 6.4-liter HEMI V8 that will deliver an insane 470-hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. We’ve driven the SRT-8 on a few occasions including on an open road track and on a tight time-attack course (check out that review here) and we have to say, if you can pony up the cash, this is the SUV to buy.
Off-road with the Trailhawk:
The Trailhawk is a special edition Grand Cherokee that will make a limited production run for 2013. During our time at the Texas Truck Rodeo, we had the opportunity to take this bad boy off-road and see what it’s all about.
Walking around the exterior of this SUV, one of the first things you’ll notice are red tow hooks poking out of the front bumper. The hood is decorated with a black decal with color-keyed pinstripe. The grille has been converted to a mineral gray color, high gloss with black overland mesh. While you’re looking at the grille, you should also notice the black headlamp surrounds. Walking around the back, you’ll see the Trailhawk badge on the lower right of the lift-gate, as well as a new Trail Rated badge with a red background.
Inside the cabin, you get black leather with red accent stitching on the upper trim, seats, and the steering wheel. The bolstered, black suede and leather seats are also embroidered with the Trailhawk nameplate.
What really makes the Trailhawk, though, is the off-road components it’s packed with. The Trailhawk has a Quadra-Lift air suspension control for a best-in-class ground clearance of 10.6-inches. Under this SUV, you’ll get skid plates and Steal Rock Rails for protection. You also get unique 18-inch mineral gray wheels wrapped in Kevlar reinforced Goodyear Silent Armor Tires.
All this adds up to one of the most comfortable and capable off-roading experiences you can have in an SUV for its price. We crawled the Trailhawk down into the Guadalupe river and back out again going up a steep and slick hillside. We ran it quickly through a rough and open field. We took it crawling over some rocks and up and down another intimidating cliff-side. Saying we were impressed with the Trailhawk doesn’t really do it justice. Comparing it to the much more capable Wrangler should give you a better idea of just how good it was.
The great thing about the Grand Cherokee, though, is that you don’t have to have the Trailhawk to go off-road. The Limited trimmed tester we had had no problems climbing some hills and detouring off the beaten path.
I think one of the biggest reasons the Grand Cherokee has done so well is it’s versatility. It’s a vehicle for everyone whether you want a big sporty vehicle, a family SUV, an off-roadable SUV, or a luxury ride. The Grand Cherokee really does it all. After driving it for a full week, it just reaffirms the fact that this is and should be the SUV of Texas and if you’re looking for an SUV for any occasion, one of your first test drives should be the Grand Cherokee.