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The 2014 Jeep Cherokee drew a lot of criticism for its design when we first drove it late last year.
However, after spending more time with the Trail Rated Cherokee Trailhawk trim level, we don't really care what it looks like.
The Trailhawk brings true off-road capability to this class, starting with upgrades to the suspension and wheel and tire combo.
The front and rear bumpers have been tweaked to grant the Cherokee improved approach and departure angles.
"Trail Rated 4x4" badges remind you that this Cherokee is ready to go off of the beaten path.
Under the hood, you'll find a 183 horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
The Trailhawk is equipped with the top-tier Active Drive Lock 4x4 system, which features a low range mode and a locking rear differential.
Additionally, the Selec-Speed and Selec-Terrain systems add computer-aided control to the Cherokee's bag of tricks.
On the road, the Cherokee is able to disconnect its rear axle to reduce drive-train drag in high-grip situations.
The rear axle can be instantly and automatically engaged when the road gets rough.
The Cherokee rides a little rough over dirt, but never felt like it was out of its element during our off-raod testing.
With the Selec-Terrain's Rock program, Selec-Speed's brake control, and the 4x4 system locked up in low-range, I was able to keep moving even with a wheel raised 18-inch in the air.
More articulation would be nice -- an adaptive suspension would be nicer -- but the Trailhawk's suspension was remarkably good for easy to moderately difficult trails.
Inside, our example featured Nappa Leather seats with red contrast trim.
Both seats were heated, but the passenger's seat featured this cool little smuggler's compartment.
In the center of the dashboard, you'll find the 8.4-inch Uconnect navigation system.
This system can be equipped with the Chrysler Group's Uconnect Access 3G data connection and telematics.
Standard digital inputs include two USB ports, an SD card slot, and Bluetooth for audio streaming.
Around the interior and exterior, you'll find many hidden Easter eggs, such as this Wiley's Jeep silhouette at the base of the windshield.
The optional motorized rear hatch opens and closes at the touch of a button.
The rear cargo area is spacious.
Dropping the rear seats opens up even more space for bulky items.
This metal hoop removes, but we're not really sure why.
Steering wheel controls are logically laid out. Not equipped here is the optional automatic Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist system.
Instrumentation consists of a pair of large gauges that flank a 7-inch information display.
To find a vehicle in this weight class that can compete with the Cherokee Trailhawk on the trail, you'll have to look to the Range Rover Evoque, a vehicle that can easily cost twice as much.
We were impressed with the Jeep's off-road performance, but noted the Trailhawk's slight compromises to on-road driving. However, non-Trailhawk models are a bit easier to live on a commute.
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