In our first encounter with the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk at Fiat Chrysler's Chelsea Proving Grounds, we saluted the new model's impressive on-road demeanor. In its off-road mode, however, we couldn't ignore the pre-production throttle calibration – it was super sharp and difficult to modulate with the precision needed to navigate obstacles. We were told then that Jeep's engineers were aware of the problem and were fixing it for production models. So we recently set off for Bundy Hill Off-Road Park in Jerome, Michigan, in a production-spec Grand Cherokee Trailhawk to check their work and get a better idea of the overall package. We can report that the Trailhawk's throttle has been fixed for production, landing it properly in Goldilocks territory. In the off-road Mud setting, the throttle is soft and easy to modulate. You can balance this rig with the gas pedal, reaching just past tip-in to steadily prod forward. But the gas pedal doesn't delay when you really need power. Move beyond the initial tip-in, and the engine responds quickly, which is a good thing, as a sluggish throttle is almost as dangerous off-road as one that's too sharp. Rock mode promises even more precise control over the throttle, although our lack of a spotter and a desire to avoid damaging the 700-mile-young Trailhawk kept us from hitting Bundy Hill's rockier sections. The wet, non-snowy weather meant we didn't properly test Snow or Sand mode. This test model was equipped with FCA's popular 3.6-liter V6, but like the rest of the Grand Cherokee range, more power is available from the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 and the 5.7-liter Hemi V8. You don't need them – the 3.6-liter and eight-speed automatic are perfectly fine on the trails. Faced with an incline, the transmission holds its gear without complaint – you don't even need to switch into manual mode. Despite the 4,800-rpm torque peak, the V6's 260 pound-feet arrive early enough that you don't need to strong-arm the throttle. So that's resolution for the pre-production issue. But our time at Bundy Hill exposed a different and ultimately much easier to fix problem for the production model. Late fall in Michigan is not always a good time to go off-road – sub-40-degree temperatures and a steady, depressing drizzle can turn a relatively simple trail into a slippery mess of wet clay. Conditions like these can easily overwhelm an on-road tire like the Goodyear All-Terrain Adventures the Trailhawk uses. Simply driving around in the stuff will coat the mainstream SUV tires in nearly half an inch of muck, cutting the coefficient of friction to about zero. If you're really planning on taking a Trailhawk off-road, especially in mud or clay, spend the money on some better rubber. A quick search of TireRack.com shows plenty of more aggressive alternatives in the stock 265/60/18 size. Tires aside, the Trailhawk is far more capable than most consumers will ever need. The Jeep's impressive approach and departure angles meant we could tackle nearly any obstacle at Bundy …
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|MPG||18 City / 25 Hwy|
|Transmission||8-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||293 @ 6400 rpm|
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