Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: the ticket to college admission?

A Girls Guide To Cars | Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk: The Ticket To College Admission? - Agirlsguidetocars Logotype Color Web Transparentbg 16X9 1

Could driving a Jeep Trailhawk help my daughter get into an outdoorsy college?

Jeep Trailhawk

The trunk is filled; thank goodness for the rear view camera

Getting into college is so competitive these days, schools are researching applicants’ social media profiles and judging student son what their parents say and wear. I wonder if they are also looking at the cars the parents drive.

Late model luxury car? No financial aid. Driving a gas guzzler? The environmental science interest is suspect. Rolling up in a Jeep Trailhawk? This kid can handle the rigors of winter in New England.

At least this is what my daughter hopes. We recently put a 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4 X 4, Jeep’s trail-rated, off-road-worthy version of the very nicely appointed and comfortable Cherokee, through the paces on a week-long road trip. Traveling from Brooklyn to Boston, then to New Hampshire, Vermont and rural New York, we even took a 2 hour tour on an unpaved road through the Green National Forest–just what Trailhawk was born to do.

The best part of all? Nora loved every school we visited.

The second best part? The Trailhawk got an outstanding 30 miles per gallon.

The trail rated Jeep Trailhawk is only supposed to get 25 mpg on the highway, and I was feeling green guilt over spewing excess fossil fuels -and then we calculated our mileage. Technically, we got 29.96 miles per gallon, but like colleges that

Jeep Trailhawk

If it’s raining, the rear view camera can be obscured

“super score” the SATs, we rounded up to 30.

Clever storage

Our favorite spot was above touchscreen, there is a pop-up space for sunglasses, EZ pass or wallet (you can fit two of the three items). There is also ample storage between the comfy leather front bucket seats, with a USB port and illuminated space for two cups. And more storage in front of gearshift, with another USB port and a 12v charger.

Oh, and you can fit another water bottle on each front and back door, and use the small storage indentation for a peach pit or apple core.

Fun first fuel fill up

Jeep Trailhawk

Now you see it…

We had an amusing time at a gas station in Hanover, NH, where five adults searched for the fuel door release, finally found on the driver’s door panel. Maybe with all those cute little spaces to hide things throughout the center console and front panel, the Jeep designers thought it would be funny to hide the fuel door release – we couldn’t even find the info in the Jeep handbook. But once we go the door popped open, we didn’t need to think about it again – love that gas mileage!

Lots of room in the back

We used the Jeep Trailhawk to move one kid into college, then take a week-long road trip to tour schools with another kid and our always hungry lab. So we needed a car with lots of room. The Jeep delivered. With 30.5 cubic feet of trunk space, we fit everything except a big bag of dog food. Once we unloaded in Boston, we got a huge bag of dog food, plus really cheap liquor in New Hampshire. The joys of tax free shopping and loads of room.

Jeep Trailhawk you don’t. Very clever storage compartment

You can easily pull a seat down to create more trunk space, and if you have just one or two kids in the rear, they can use the center pull down console, with cup holders. And adults will be fine back there, too – there is plenty of head and leg room.

Easy to use touchscreen and navigation

One of the frustrations with navigation systems is figuring out exactly when to turn; some nav systems tell you to make the next right, for example, but there is a slight curve – is that the turn? Others don’t give you ample warning, and you miss your turn. The Jeep Uconnect system gets it all right. You get a half mile warning, and a spoken ‘turn now’. The nav voice and the touchscreen also note the exit numbers on highways, which is quite useful.

The recalculation when there’s traffic is lightning fast, and you have the option of decline the rerouting. We always accepted the rerouting when we were warned of traffic ahead – I wonder if in the future, the nav system will say ‘I told you so’ when you ignore advice and land in standstill traffic.

Jeep Trailhawk

Even on this rough road, the Jeep Trailhawk provided a smooth ride

Deferred: what’s missing

I’m glad we could visit the colleges Nora is seriously considering, and of course I want her to get accepted by all of them. But just as each school has its own unique profile, each car driver has her own needs. Here’s what I wanted:

I would love a ‘miles to go till empty’ countdown. Driving these county and state roads in rural New York, with gas stations few and far between, we had a long stretch in the red zone, with no gas stations in sight, and no service to search for one on the GPS or our phones. Yikes.

The car did not have a blind spot detector (an available extra) and it really needed one – the blind spot is huge. It was also a reminder how quickly we adapt to new technology; I’ve come to expect this feature in every new car. Scotty Reiss drove a different Jeep Trailhawk with this option.

No sunroof! The Cherokee is for driving in all types of weather, with snow and mud driving modes (along with sport and rocks). But I think of Jeeps as open air vehicles, with no windows, so I was hoping to have a sunroof. You can buy this option.

Jeep Trailhawk

The bright red trim inside and out, and a huge towing hook, make this SUV lovable and tough

What we loved

  • Have I mentioned the gas mileage? It bears repeating – 30 mpg folks! I suspect if you do a lot of off roading, you will get closer to the 18/25 Jeep says you’ll get
  • Takes regular gas
  • SiruisXM traffic service
  • Empowering: you just feel really cool, knowing you can mount snowbanks, pull trailers, traverse swamps
  • Power liftgate (an option ) makes loading and unloading cargo a snap
  • The bright red trim repeated inside and outside the SUV made the vehicle lovable and tough
Jeep Trailhawk

The easy to read and use touchscreen

What you need to know

  • 3 year/3,000 mile warranty
  • 5 year/100K mile power train warranty
  • Base price: $29,495. Price for the model www drove, with leather front, heated seats, heated steering wheel, Uconnect. traffic service, rear view camera, power lift gate, auto headlamps and more brought the price to $36,169


Disclosure: Jeep provided the Cherokee Trailhawk for my test drive; opinions here are all my own.

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Judy Antell, who is's Free in 50 States editor, lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with her husband and... More about Judy Antell