2014 Jeep Cherokee
2014 Jeep Cherokee
2014 Jeep Cherokee. Click image to enlarge

Article and Photos by Jacob Black

Have you ever had the feeling you were being set up for a fall? I have.

“Come to LA,” they said. “We have a new nine-speed gearbox,” they said. “You should see our new Cherokee,” they said.  That all sounded pretty reasonable to me, and I was excited to check out this all-new Jeep Cherokee, especially with some of the tech they’ve packed in.

“What we’ll be doing is driving this 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk up this hill here…”

“Um, that’s not a hill, mate. That’s a cliff, with gravel sides, and a ruddy great ditch in the middle of it.”

“Yep, that hill. Then we’ll drive down into this canyon, and through this river bed, and around that big rock. And we’ll do it all with you only steering, no gas, no brake.”

I really did think they were kidding. Especially given the way the new Jeep Cherokee looks. It puts the ‘cute’ into ‘cute ute’ with its quirky daytime running lamps and the pointy front grill. It looks for exactly like the sort of car my 22-year-old cousin would take shoe shopping.

But looks can be deceiving. This Jeep Cherokee did things I never thought possible, and all with the click of a few buttons. We’d spent the morning driving one of the less trail-focused versions of the car – and I’ll get to that in a minute – but this Trailhawk edition was something else.

With the four-way button cluster on the console set to 4-Low and the Selec-Speed Control button pressed, the Jeep will crawl forward at speeds of between 0.96 and 8.64 km/h without any input from the pedals. Engine torque and brake pressure are managed by the car’s Electronic Stability Control system to a constant speed. The speed required is selected in nine 0.96 km/h (0.6 mph) increments using the gear shifter. By slipping the automatic lever to the left where you might normally find manual mode, you are able to use the selector to increase or decrease your crawl speed.

2014 Jeep Cherokee2014 Jeep Cherokee2014 Jeep Cherokee
2014 Jeep Cherokee. Click image to enlarge

The result? Steep descents and ascents are both doable with little to no input from the driver – just sit and steer and wave to the adoring crowd as you tackle obstacles with total confidence. I was a little less confident when I saw the car in front disappear into a large pot hole, but my lack of faith was unwarranted. Despite having the right-rear wheel some two feet off the ground the little Cherokee crawled out of the crevice with such nonchalant ease it made Arthur Fonzarelli look high-strung.

I don’t know the actual grade we were able to climb, but on a scale of “I could walk that” to “Holy Cow what am I doing?!” this hill was a “Wow this seatbelt sure is digging in”. We’re told the Trailhawk has been down the Rubicon trail – so yes, it has some serious off-road chops.

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