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Thursday, December 9, 2021

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk: Better Than a Toyota 4Runner? Test Drive.

Is the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee better than a Toyota 4Runner? I kept asking myself that question during a recent test drive of the new 5th generation Cherokee in Utah. While the 4Runner may have the edge in terms of trail performance, the Trailhawk absolutely crushes the 4Runner on comfort, which is very compelling given its price point of $51,275 (close to $1000 cheaper than the 4Runner TRD Pro).

And when it comes to single-vehicle owners who don’t have plans for major vehicle modifications, but who may want to add some aftermarket camping gear, the 5th Generation Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is absolutely worth considering.

2022 jeep grand cherokee trailhawk front end

Is the Trailhawk better than the 4Runner? It depends on which qualities are most important to you: comfort, performance, technology, or a combination of these categories. Personally, I think that the Trailhawk has set a high bar for the SUV category and if you’d like to know why, continue reading for my impressions from this test drive.

 

Is the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Comfortable?

Yes, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is incredibly comfortable. Here are some highlights:

  • A grand amount of Volume – 144.6 cubic feet of interior passenger space (+4.1 over gen 4) and 37.7 cubic feet of cargo space (+1.4 over gen 4).
  • Air suspension makes for a very comfortable ride, but the big news here is that it automatically adjusts based on your speed.
  • Easy entry and exit. Thanks to its air suspension, the 2022 Grand Cherokee can reach its lowest setting in just 7 seconds.
  • The two-tone leather and suede interior is beautiful and the suede supposedly helps keep you planted in the seat.
  • Big bright displays make up the instrument cluster and feature prominently in the center stack.
  • Loads of features make long drives more pleasurable, and safer.

 

While many of us would likely identify vehicle performance as being more important than comfort when it comes to overland and off-highway use, it’s important to realize that many (if not most) customers are not purchasing vehicles specifically for overlanding. I include myself in this group. 

2022 jeep grand cherokee trailhawk front quarter panel and wheel

In all honesty, the majority of us are commuting in our vehicles, grabbing groceries from the supermarket, pickup up our kids from soccer practice, or hauling our yard waste to the dump. Given that most of the mileage we’ll put on our vehicles will be for the mundane and redundant daily tasks of a normal life, comfort and utility are crucial. 

Starting with volume, the 2022 Grand Cherokee offers up 144.6 cubic feet of passenger space, a statistic that translates to comfortable seating for most drivers and passengers. It also delivers 37.7 cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk. Both of these numbers are improvements over the 4th generation Grand Cherokee.

I’ll talk about the off-highway implications of the Quadra-lift air suspension in more detail below, but in terms of overall comfort, it provides a fantastic ride quality with some additional benefits. For instance, when you park the vehicle, the suspension can lower to make exiting easier. The 2022 Cherokee manages this feat in just seven seconds (twice as quick as the 4th-generation Cherokee) thanks to two air tanks.

The interior of the 2022 Cherokee has been completely redesigned and the results are phenomenal. Upon entering the cockpit, you’ll immediately notice updated lines, contrasting colors, and two big screens. The first is the 10.25-inch instrument panel, which is all digital and can be reconfigured, depending on what data you want to see. There is also a 10-inch center stack screen with Uconnect 5 for managing smartphone connectivity.

2022 jeep grand cherokee center stack screen

Finally, when it comes to driving technology and safety features, there are many. Here are some highlights:

  • Digital rearview mirror
  • Ventilated & heated seats
  • Full-speed collision warning w/ active braking
  • Rear cross-path detection
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Active lane management
  • Lane departure warning
  • 360-degree camera system (optional)
  • Night vision camera (optional)
  • Hands-on-wheel, eyes-on-road automated driving (optional)

 

Is the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Good Off-road?

In short, yes, the 2022 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is good off-road. Most people who have researched or owned a Jeep know that it’s synonymous with off-road (more accurate, off-highway) performance. I’m happy to report that the 5th generation 2022 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk upholds that legacy. Here are my takeaways from the off-road portion of the test drive:

  • The Quadra-lift air suspension provides 11.3 inches of ground clearance, more than enough for most of us.
  • A disconnectable front sway-bar provides enhanced articulation at the push of a button.
  • Selec-Speed crawl mode provides single-pedal driving.
  • The Selec-Terrain system lets you optimize 4×4 performance for a variety of conditions.
  • Steel skid plates provide enhanced protection for vulnerable parts of the undercarriage.

 

When you talk about the off-highway performance of a vehicle, a great place to start is with a vehicle’s suspension.

The 2022 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk has a semi-active, adjustable air suspension that can be changed on the fly while driving. Not only does this allow the driver to adjust the height of their ride, but it also allows for stiffer or softer dampening, depending on the setting (i.e. Sport, Rock, Sand/Mud, etc.). At its highest setting, it provides 11.3 inches of ground clearance with the OEM wheel/tire combo.

2022 jeep grand cherokee trailhawk air suspension

This system does come with the caveat that vehicle ride height adjusts automatically based on speed. For instance, you cannot drive 60 miles per hour at the highest setting, not that you’d want to (from a performance standpoint). Does the fact that this technology moves us one step further away from retaining full control over the vehicle’s functions really matter? Maybe for a select few. Ultimately, I think most people will appreciate the performance advantages more than they will experience a lack of control over the vehicle.

Let’s move on to the 2022 Grand Cherokee’s new disconnectable front sway-bar, which might be the most exciting update for the off-road enthusiasts among us.

If you’re unfamiliar, a sway-bar helps stiffen your vehicle’s suspension, resulting in less body roll and improved handling. This is great when driving on pavement, but a sway-bar also limits vehicle articulation, an outcome that can negatively affect off-highway performance.

The beauty of the disconnectable sway bar is that it provides the best of both worlds; enhanced handling on the pavement when it is engaged, and enhanced articulation on the trail when it is disengaged. Note: you must have the vehicle in 4L to disengage the swaybar

2022 jeep grand cherokee trailhawk disconnectable sway-bar

During the off-highway portion of the test drive, I had the opportunity to descend some steep sections of trail that exceeded 20-percent grades on loose dirt and rock, the perfect opportunity to test the Selec-Speed crawl mode. With the Cherokee in 4L, I engaged crawl and felt sufficient descent control without needing to touch the brakes at all.

In the past, I have personally been hesitant to utilize the crawl mode (in any vehicle), but now that it has become more common, I’ve come to appreciate it in a variety of situations and I think most of you will as well.

Different from Selec-Speed, the Selec-Terrain system allows the driver to optimize the vehicle’s 4×4 performance by selecting any of the following five settings:

  1. Auto
  2. Sport
  3. Rock
  4. Snow
  5. Mud/Sand

 

Each of the different terrain settings provides performance changes to 4×4 torque split, braking sensitivity, handling, steering response, suspension dampening, throttle control, shifting ranges, transfer case performance, traction control, stability control, and ABS performance. If that sounds confusing, the takeaway is that your vehicle is very smart, and with your input, attempts to provide the best driving experience possible.

In practice, I noticed the biggest distinctions in sport mode on the pavement, and sand/mud mode while on loose terrain.

Finally, the Trailhawk comes standard with skid plates (steel armor) that protect some of its most vulnerable undercarriage components. Is this an invitation to send it, full-throttle into that rock-garden of baby-heads? Probably not. Will it give you a little extra peace of mind when you are in rocky terrain? Most certainly.

2022 Jeep grand cherokee trailhawk skid plates

 

Is the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Good for Overlanding?

This is probably the most difficult question to answer, mainly due to the fact that there are many different opinions of what overlanding actually entails. If we simply define overlanding as vehicle-based travel, then yes, the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk would make a great overland vehicle. But there are some things that you should take into consideration.

As a new vehicle, and a new generation of a new vehicle at that, aftermarket support is going to take a little while to catch up. The OG overlanders amongst us know that you don’t need a steel bumper or a 3-inch lift to go have an overland adventure. But nonetheless, if aftermarket support is important to you, you may want to let this iteration of the Cherokee mature a bit.

2022 jeep grand cherokee trailhawk overland trail moab

Also along the lines of maturation, it bears mentioning that reliability is a crucial aspect of any overland vehicle, lest you get stranded 100 miles away from the pavement. With a new, updated platform come new vehicle systems. The good news here is that Jeep is still utilizing a fully-sealed air system (suspension), and their tried and true 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. Ultimately, it will require time and miles to uncover just how reliable this new Grand Cherokee really is.

My takeaway: I’d happily take the new Cherokee (almost) anywhere in North America, but I probably wouldn’t try to drive it around the world (unless Jeep wants to sponsor me on that trip, in which case, have your people call my people).

 

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Conclusions (is it better than a 4Runner!?)

2022 jeep grand cherokee trailhawk overland vehicle

I hate to disappoint you, but comparing the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk to the Toyota 4Runner is like comparing apple pie to blueberry pie. They’re similar, but they’re not the same.

The Toyota (TRD Pro) has more trail-specific hardware, while the Cherokee offers an exceptional balance of comfort and trail performance, at a price that feels competitive.

In the end, if you are a one-car owner, and you want a vehicle that provides the comfort and drivability of a sedan, with the ability to tackle moderate and even some advanced technical terrain, I’d absolutely recommend taking the 2022 Trailhawk out for a test drive.

 

Learn more about the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk at Jeep.com.

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