Located in the Sierra Nevada desert, West of the beautiful Lake Tahoe California is a 35km part road part 4×4 trail called Rubicon. The Rubicon trail is an unforgiving ride through treacherous arid and rocky countryside along a route that demands the best from any vehicle that dares to venture up it – just the sort of place you’d expect to find a Jeep.
Every year many vehicles attempt to climb the Rubicon and every year many vehicles limp home damaged with their tails between their legs (some don’t come back at all) but of course; Jeep use this terrain as a place to test out their range. Only when they have conquered the Rubicon are they proclaimed Jeep Trailhawk’s and can wear the wings with pride.
Meanwhile, located South West of Pukekohe, alongside Karioatahi beach ( and over 10,600km away from the Rubicon) is a much less arid but still VERY demanding 4×4 trail; run by trackwise. It has steep climbs, big drops and (especially on the day we were there) traction taxing slippery wet grass. The perfect place for Jeep NZ to show off the attributes of the new Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk enhances the already accomplished and very capable SUV. Aesthetically, it has a more rugged exterior with anti glare decals. Its nose sports a seven-slot grille with red Trailhawk tow hooks both front and rear. It rides on 18’’ Kevlar reinforced Goodyear adventure tyres and wears Trail-Rated badges to underline its off road impressiveness.
Behind the scenes the Trailhawk has Jeep’s Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system with rear Electronic Limited Slip Differential and a unique version of the Quadra-Lift air suspension with improved articulation and total suspension travel – plus it has up to 10.8” of ground clearance should you need it.
The cabin is as luxurious as ever, a veritable feast of quality materials that once connected form a rugged and yet welcoming experience. Brushed aluminium, leather and chrome accents as far as the eye can see (it is pretty spacious in there) interlinked with red Trialhawk wings in places like the steering wheel base and seats.
Adjustments for Terrain, Ride height, 4WD gearing and Down hill descent are all there on one compact pad. At the push of a button or the turn of a dial (you can leave this in Auto and it will do it all for you too) the off road world is at your disposal. Aside from the electromechanical wizardry working its magic between SUV and earth’s crust the … “ infotainment screen has its own fun and games going on – The Off Road Pages App.
With fingertip ease the screen becomes an off road data source, displaying front to rear power ratios, elevation and all manner of angles and degrees. If (like me) looking out of the window at the hill you are about to descend scares you – simply hit the hill descent button and be impressed by the angles that appear on the screen (actually I don’t recommend you take your eyes off the terrain but you know what I mean).
As we headed for the trail, the changeable and climatic Auckland decided to have some fun with us. Rain is not your best friend when added to long grass and steep hill, traction becomes an issue and the loss of it makes the day that much more interesting (as if we needed it). However, the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk just seemed to enjoy it more. As we followed the lead Jeep around the wilderness, slow and steady was the main rule of the day but there were a couple of times where brute force and more power was needed, the luxurious and capable SUV excelled at both. It feels heavy but also feels confident, ready and able to tackle anything.
With the hills, grass and mud in our rear view mirror we headed for the beach but rather than packing a towel and sunscreen we had an empty boot and a head full of adventure. It wasn’t a beach it was a new stretch of un-travelled terrain that we needed to explore. A turn of the dial to Sand and we were off, with the only advice being ‘don’t do tight turns’. Waves crashing to the right of us and soft sand to the left, the sense of freedom with the salty air rushing through the open window is amazing (and highly recommended).
‘Go anywhere – do anything’ is the Jeep tagline and the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk certainly proved that it’s up for most tasks and most terrains. In truth the majority of Jeep owners won’t put their SUV’s through this type of stress but Jeep NZ are looking to change attitudes and get them off the beaten track. With the 4x4ever experience ‘offroad show’ they will be encouraging Kiwis to get out there and explore Aotearoa. After all, since the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has the ‘Off Road Pages’ app built in – it seems a shame not to use it!
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