In stock form, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee already more than lives up to the promise of its Trail-Rated badge, but the company is introducing a new model for those who yearn for even more off-road chops. The newest Grand Cherokee variant is called the Trailhawk, and it was previewed this past spring at Jeep’s annual Moab Easter Safari off-road event. In fact, the production Trailhawk is pretty much the same as the concept rig; that’s fine by us, since we thought the concept looked pretty darn cool.
Mechanically, the Trailhawk is much the same as a regular four-wheel-drive Grand Cherokee. The Trailhawk can be had with either the GC’s 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 or 5.7-liter Hemi V-8 engine. The model’s uniqueness largely consists of a bespoke sticker job and a set of off-road tires. The Trailhawk gets red tow hooks and badges, headlights with black bezels, and dark gray wheels, mirrors, and tailgate trim. The exterior’s coup de grâce is a matte-finished black and red hood stripe and a pair of rock rails mounted beneath the rocker panels. Jeep will offer the Trailhawk in only six colors: Bright White, Brilliant Black, Mineral Gray, Winter Chill, Maximum Steel, and Deep Cherry Red. The seats are wrapped in a combination of leather and suede stitched together with contrasting red thread and topped off with a Trailhawk logo high up on the seatbacks.
Whether buyers choose the V-6 or available V-8 engine, the Trailhawk comes standard with the Grand Cherokee’s Quadra-Lift adjustable air suspension and Selec-Terrain traction control setup that offers up preset driveline and suspension settings for sand or mud, snow, rocks, or “sport” situations—plus an “auto” setting for those who just want to let the computer sort things out. Trailhawks powered by the V-8 come with a rear electronic limited-slip differential, while V-6 models do without the stiff rear diff.
We had the chance to briefly drive the Trailhawk down some off-road trails at Chrysler’s Michigan proving ground, and it felt just like the regular Grand Cherokee—which by and large is a good thing. The Trailhawk’s 18-inch Goodyear Silent Armor tires boast Kevlar-reinforced sidewalls, which should reduce your chances of a puncture when rock-hopping the Trailhawk, and the rock rails performed their job admirably. Your humble author is hardly a rock-crawling expert, and as such repeatedly introduced the bottom of the Trailhawk to the, uh, trail. No harm came to the Jeep’s rocker panels or underbody, thanks to the stout rock rails and the Grand Cherokee’s full suite of skid plates. Better still, the knobby tires weren’t any louder on pavement than the regular GC’s tires, though they did add a bit of squish to the SUV’s helm in turns.
The 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk will go on sale in October. Pricing has not yet been finalized, but Jeep representatives tell us to expect the special Grand Cherokee to start around $42,000 in V-6 form. That’s a little more expensive than the 2013 Grand Cherokee Limited, and a heck of a lot more than a four-wheel-drive Laredo. But neither of those models has rock rails and Kevlar-reinforced tires.