Refined Grand Cherokee now in Trailhawk trim

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The 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee combines comfort, performance and serious off-road chops. The base price of admission — $30,395 — makes it a stunner for the tech-savvy sophistication and overall value you get inside.

Exterior elegance may be a stretch when describing the Grand Cherokee, but it certainly holds its own with capable mid-size competitors; considering its off-road excellence, it’s beautiful. There is definitely a refinement present that had been missing in previous designs. Jeep’s signature grille and headlamp treatment provides attitude, but it’s the confident stance and chiseled side panels running from the A to C pillars that give it a distinction and recognizability for all the right reasons.

The new 2017 Trailhawk trim greatly expands the Grand Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. The lineup has seven trims: Laredo, Laredo E, Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit and SRT. Rear-wheel drive is standard, but depending on the trim level and about $2,000, four-wheel drive can be added. Four-wheel drive is standard in Trailhawk and SRT models.

One of the best things about the Grand Cherokee, once you get past the amazing off-road capability, is that it has one of the most refined cabins in the class. I found the general soft-touch materials to be upscale, something that was lacking just a few years ago. The seating is plentiful and comfortable. My tester featured soft leather that was stitched with extra attention to a rugged feel.

The dash is laid out in intuitive and minimal fashion. High-visibility gauges and easy-access switches and button in the center stack make things a breeze to operate while driving. An excellent infotainment system is a plus, as well as standard rear-view camera and parking sensors that take much of the anxiety out of reversing and parking. My tester featured an optional 8.4-inch screen with laser-sharp graphics. The Grand Cherokee maxes out at 68.3 cubic feet of cargo room, which is a bit shy of competitors, but you seem to get that room in the front reaches.

Under the hood, the Grand Cherokee comes standard with a 300-horsepower V-6 engine, which is the most powerful base engine in the class. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission (all models); the pairing provides snap acceleration and plenty of powerful shifts. An optional V-8 engine delivers 360 horsepower, while a six-cylinder diesel has 240 horsepower but delivers top-of-the-segment towing at 7,400 pounds. The SRT trim offers a brash 6.4-liter V-8 engine that puts out 475 horsepower. The base Grand Cherokee gets an EPA-rated 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway.

The 2017 Grand Cherokee has four unique 4×4 drivetrain systems, including full-time and part-time systems. Amazing off-road features like an adjustable air suspension and terrain selection help the Grand Cherokee reach an approach angle of up to 36.1 degrees and a departure angle of 27.1 degrees.

In my tester Trailhawk configuration, high ground clearance (max 10.8 inches) helps make the Grand Cherokee one of the most capable off-roading vehicles. New Trailhawk models feature the standard Quadra-Drive II 4×4 system with rear electronic limited-slip differential, a Quadra-Lift air suspension with improved articulation and total suspension travel, as well as speed control with hill-ascent and hill-descent control. Skid plates are also standard.

Testing the new Trailhawk trim was a pleasure both on and off the pavement. Even at a high water mark of $42,995, the value in the overall quality and features packages is impossible to beat.

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