Why go around obstacles when you can go through them
All sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are meant to be created equal. A few become Jeep. And of these, a select few are worthy enough of the Trailhawk badge, i.e. those that have been trail-rated. These are the vehicles that have succeeded in a series of gruelling tests in five categories: traction, water fording, manoeuvrability, articulation and ground clearance.
The Jeep Compass Trailhawk, which will be launched later this month, is the first locally-produced trail-rated Jeep in India. We drive and test it near Aamby Valley, Maharashtra. The Trailhawk is powered by the same 2.0-litre Multijet diesel engine that is offered in the Compass, but this one is BS6-compliant, and gets a nine-speed automatic gearbox. In addition, it has a 27mm higher ground clearance compared to the Compass, its 4×4 all-wheel-drive system includes low range, and the off-road mode selector has a dedicated ‘Rock’ mode, in addition to the Auto, Snow, Sand and Mud modes.
Form follows function, i.e. the shape of a vehicle should primarily relate to its intended function. In the Trailhawk, there is a black decal on the bonnet, which not only makes it look unique, but also cut the glare from the sun, especially on steep off-road inclines. In the wheel arches, there is a wide gap between the body and the tyres, which can help protect parts of the underbody from rocks. The front and rear bumpers have a different design (compared to the Compass) to allow for better manoeuvrability. The Trailhawk’s approach angle—i.e. when you approach an obstacle, like a rocky road—is 26.5-degree, ramp breakover angle is 21.2-degree, and departure angle is 31.6 degrees, all enough to take it across the most challenging of terrains. Lastly, the air intake height of the engine has been raised.
Traction: While driving on a special off-road track, we found it has enough capability to climb some of the toughest terrains, like loose rocks; you just have to choose the right mode.
Water fording: Water can corrode car body parts. The Trailhawk gets additional electrical and body sealing along with a high engine air intake to help you navigate shallow streams and flooded underpasses.
Manoeuvrability: Off the road, this vehicle can navigate the narrowest of gaps and yet avoid cosmetic damages to the upper body, provided you are able to properly use its precision steering.
Articulation: The tyres are your vehicle’s only contact with the road, and should be the only contact. The Trailhawk gets special Falken all-terrain tyres, which offer very good traction. In fact, it’s so good that even when two wheels are above the ground while going through certain obstacles, the other two help ‘pull’ the vehicle across.
Ground clearance: It sits high, very high, at 205mm, which appears enough to take the vehicle through snow, sand, mud or rocks. In addition to these five categories, we have to add a sixth, i.e. on the road, because most SUVs, most of the time, are driven on good tarmac.
On the road: The engine clatter barely enters the cabin, the clutch is light and the acceleration smooth. While it’s not extremely fast, it never really feels out of power. On smooth roads, the Trailhawk pretty much drives like a premium sedan. In addition, it has a high hip-point seating so you get a good view of the road. But it also has a high centre of gravity, and this leads to some amount of body roll on sharp turns. We couldn’t test it for mileage, but the claimed is 17.1kpl.
To be launched later this month, we expect the Trailhawk to be priced around Rs 25 lakh (ex-showroom). That is, no doubt, expensive, but this vehicle comes fully loaded with all the off-road capabilities you can imagine, all the luxuries you can expect in this segment, and is a decent daily-use SUV as well. And considering that it might not sell in large numbers, you would always enjoy that appeal of exclusivity. In sum, the Trailhawk is an SUV that puts a whole lot of ‘sport’ in ‘utility’. (While it is a specialised off-road vehicle, one always has to drive within the vehicle’s ability and one’s own experience level.)