Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk proves off-road capabilities
Vehicle named Four Wheeler of the Year by trade magazine
BY TYREL LINKHORN, BLADE BUSINESS WRITER, published 1/28/2015
The Jeep Cherokee recently picked up a notable award that should help remove any doubt that in the right trim, the sport utility vehicle has plenty of off-road capability.
Earlier this month, the editors of Four Wheeler magazine chose the 2015 Cherokee Trailhawk
as its Four Wheeler of the Year.
Winning that title is nothing new for Jeep - the brand has picked up 13 such honors - but company officials say it's special in that it is the first major award from an off-road enthusiast publication recognizing the Cherokee's capabilities.
In prepared remarks, Jeep brand chief executive officer Mike Manley said the award "reinforces the fact that the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is unquestionably the most capable midsize SUV on the planet."
Jeep builds the Cherokee only in Toledo.
Four Wheeler only considers new or significantly updated models for the annual award. The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro came in second. Testers cover more than 1,000 miles of terrain ranging from pavement to sand at elevations from sea level to more than 9,000 feet.
"The team of seasoned judges appreciated Cherokee Trailhawk's cutting-edge technology, fresh styling, and luxurious interior amenities packed in a vehicle designed for the 21st century that still maintains true off-road capability," Four Wheeler Editor Christian Hazel said in a statement.
When Jeep confirmed in 2013 that it was reviving the Cherokee name for its new vehicle, a number of critics complained that the company was watering down a proud name that stood for real off-road capabilities by slapping it on a car-based crossover.
But company officials say those voices have quieted as they've been able to show the Cherokee taking on rough terrain.
"We just took the vehicle, let the vehicle prove itself, and started documenting it," said Jim Morrison, Jeep's director of product marketing. "We've seen the acceptance grow since we launched the vehicle."
The base Cherokee comes with front-wheel drive, though four-wheel drive is available across the lineup. But it's the Trailhawk that gets all the real goodies, such as an increased ride height, skid plates, and better approach and departure angles.
Mr. Morrison said Jeep is committed to ensuring that there's a true, off-road-capable version of every Jeep model.
"It's important to us because capability is the cornerstone of our brand. It's important that we stay true to our brand because that's what our customers expect from us, and honestly that's what helps separate us from our competition as well," he said.
Jeep says 15 to 20 percent of Cherokees sold in any given month are equipped with the Trailhawk package. The company sold a total of 178,508 Cherokees in the United States last year.
The other Cherokee models are the Sport, Latitude, and Limited.