You’re not a bajillionaire, but your head is above water so you don’t mind paying for quality. You drive that vehicle on pavement every day, but often find your way onto more bumpy backwoods trails than the average Joe. You want something reliable for both these purposes, from the AM commute to the weekend off-road adventure. And you want to go with a badge that’s been trusted for decades, but you aren’t quite sure which one fits your lifestyle best.
Does this sound like you? We have a couple good ideas. How about two fine-tuned offerings from some folks who’ve been in the game as long as anyone? To be specific, we’re talking about the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. Both are versions of ultra-capable SUVs, tweaked by the manufacturer with the specific purpose of gettin’ into (and out of) some extreme off-pavement situations. And at the same time, are still designed to fit into the straight-laced, practical side of life that is a reality for most everyone.
Meet the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk debuted its mid-generation facelift at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. Perhaps most noticeably, gone is the upside-down-styled, separated, daytime-running headlight situation that drew so much ire from Jeep purists upon its debut in 2014. In its place is a much more traditional setup, with all the lights in a single cluster. And the Trailhawk still stands out from its Cherokee siblings with its trademark red tow hooks, front and rear.
The 2019 model comes with two power options: A 3.2-liter V-6, making 271-hp and 239 lb-ft of torque, and a new twin-turbo 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, pushing out 270-hp and a burly 295 lb-ft of torque. Both are paired with a ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, a substantial improvement over last year’s offering. The transmission was reworked specifically to match the characteristics of the new turbo engine, and the synergy is noticeable with each smooth gear shift.
Meet the 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is a SUV for the purists, with a respectable and ever-growing aftermarket portfolio of suspension, exterior protection, and cargo management add-ones. This body-on-frame monster, never to be confused for a crossover, has built a loyal following in the off-road community for specs that can only be matched by the Jeepiest of Jeeps.
It stands out from other 4Runners with a bright red logo on the front skid plate (which can save some real damage, too) and the same TRD logo stitched into the front headrests. With no major updates to the 4Runner since the fifth and current generation’s inception in 2009, Toyota is mostly going with a decade-old formula that flat-out works… and adding some killer aftermarket gear to an already super-capable rig.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro doesn’t see any adjustments to its powertrain. While there are some who would argue that it’s “dated,” there are plenty of 4Runner lovers out there who see it as “classic.” Either way, the power source is what it is, and it is what it has been for some time now. Specifically, that would be a naturally-aspirated, 3.2-liter V6. It is mated with the same, trusty 5-speed automatic transmission.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is made to tackle challenges. It rolls off the lot with a one inch factory suspension lift already installed, further improving the already great approach, departure, and breakover angles. The Trailhawk showcases a new Active Drive Lock all-wheel drive system, a refined version of the lesser forms on other Cherokees. This one comes with a locking rear differential, and even has a Rock Mode for when things get really real on the trails.
The Selec-Speed Crawl Control System will be of particular interest to all the real crawlers out there. When engaged, it keeps the Trailhawk moving forward at speeds as low as 0.6 mph. It even does the trick if you’re in a scenario where all four wheels aren’t touching terra firma—no easy task. The 2019 Cherokee Trailhawk rides on 17-inch alloy wheels and all-terrain tires with an extra-high sidewall.
Not to be outdone, the 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro can hold its own away from the blacktop. It, too, arrives an inch higher than the other 4Runners. Its ride over bumpy terrain is especially smooth, thanks to Fox Shocks and TRD springs at all four corners. The front dampers have seven separate internal bypass zones, allowing for progressively firmer off-road action, while still offering a sooth ride when it’s time to get back on the highway. The rear dampers have 11 zones, as well as piggyback reservoirs that house extra oil for when the going gets really rough.
The 4Runner TRD Pro sits on matte black 17-inch TRD wheels, with an increased offset to improve stability even further. And a mean set of Nitto Terra Grappler tires are thrown in for good measure.
Wheelin’ in Comfort
Jeep did not become an iconic brand by accident, and the Trailhawk treatment on the new Cherokee will only serve to further cement its off-road legacy. But a few creature comforts don’t hurt matters, either. The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk features amenities like the newest UConnect infotainment system, a nice improvement in cargo space, and available ParkSense parking assist. All items that make day-to-day life in this beast a thing of enjoyment. And with a price that begins at $34,515, you’re getting quite a lot of ride for your money.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro has plenty of additional upside, too. That plastic-heavy interior is a breeze to hose off after a day playing in the mud. Drivers are loving the new LED foglights, the sleek blacked-out grille, and the sturdy-as-hell TRD roof rails. There’s a whole arsenal of top-notch aftermarket parts going on here, adding to your ride’s value without you having to even consider it. With all that Fox and TRD swag improving the 4Runner from toe-to-tip, $46,415 sounds like a very reasonable price to us.
Are there fancier options for trail-ready SUVs than the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro? Yes, there are. Are there cheaper options? Certainly. But we exist in a culture that is absolutely bonkers for aftermarket improvements. And you would be hard-pressed to find two other rides in this segment that come so well-equipped above their stock counterparts before they even get moving. Some people love to improve their vehicle by hand, piece by piece. Some want a fully complete puzzle from the get go. That’s not to say you can’t improve upon a Trailhawk or a 4Runner TRD Pro on your own because you definitely can. But it will improve your starting position—Drastically.