Junkyard Blog: Luxury and Adventure Come Together in the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
Choosing the right vehicle for a road trip is often the difference between creating good memories and being tortured for hours on end. Having vowed to never make driving feel like hard work, I acquired a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk for my Memorial Day weekend getaway to San Francisco.
I chose the Trailhawk trim because it’s the most capable and well-equipped version of the Cherokee, with Jeep’s Active Drive Lock 4×4 system and locking rear axle. It’s the best of both worlds, combining luxury amenities, like heated leather seats and an automatic rear gate, with off-road capabilities to create the ultimate grand touring adventure vehicle. The Trailhawk can handle the toughest off-road courses while keeping its passengers comfortable and safe on the inside.
The exterior styling isn’t for everyone, especially die-hard Jeep Wrangler fans, but I think the design is modern, sleek and has the right blend of civility and aggressiveness. Its overall size allows for comfortable rear seating and plenty of cargo room, even more so when all of the seats are folded flat. As a midsize SUV, it’s suitable for small neighborhood streets and tight parking structures, all of which we have plenty of in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
This Trailhawk definitely looks like it means business with its red tow hooks, 1-inch lifted suspension and skid plates, but everyone always asks, “can it actually go off-road?” The answer is a resounding “yes!” Last year, I took this exact vehicle on a challenging dirt trail during the Motor Press Guild’s annual track day—the route is still saved in the navigation system—and it performed flawlessly.
The route from Los Angeles to San Francisco is all too familiar, but this time around, it was the most relaxed I’ve been behind the wheel. Not even traffic on the world’s busiest freeway could phase me thanks to Adaptive Cruise Control, which can be activated at any speed. I rested my feet on the floorboards and let the Cherokee modulate speed, bringing itself to a complete stop when necessary.
A Lane Departure Warning system also aides in making long drives easy as the vehicle steers itself back to the center when it senses you’re about to drift into the next lane. It’s an inadvertent reminder to use your turn signal too because the wheel will fight you if you try to change lanes without signaling first.
With all of these safety features active, I could almost kick back and just be a passenger. Of course, I still had to steer and keep a lookout for any hazards, but I imagine the experience in a self-driving car isn’t too much different from this.
For an SUV equipped with off-road suspension and all-terrain tires, the ride quality is extremely smooth and quiet. It rivals many of today’s luxury vehicles in terms of comfort and performance. The Cherokee handles like a regular sedan despite its SUV-class height and weight.
The 3.2-liter V6 and 9-speed automatic transmission made passing on the highway quick and easy. Downshifts came a bit slower than I would’ve preferred, but it’s understandable since the transmission has been programmed to prioritize comfort over quickness. I’ll gladly forgive the lack of aggression in exchange for its smooth, CVT-like operation.
The tight and hilly street of San Francisco allowed the Cherokee to show off its many other convenience and safety features like Hill Start Assist, Cross Path Detection and the fuel-saving start/stop system which automatically shuts off the engine at long stops. Park Assist makes worrying about parallel parking on a steep incline a thing of the past. The Cherokee scans for a suitable space, asks you to take your hands off the wheel and proceeds to perfectly place itself into the spot, inches from the curb. This came in really handy when I wasn’t sure if the car could fit into a space.
One of the main reasons for having a Jeep is to get away from the city, so my friends and I made it a point to spend more time in places where things are made by nature, not man.
After returning home, I found myself telling just as many stories about the Cherokee’s abilities as our adventures on the trip itself. I’m thankful that our grand touring adventure vehicle had become part of our experience and not just a means to an end. Here’s hoping that my future road trips can be just as perfect.