We have an idea of what a Jeep is -- nimble, tough, and capable -- and our Four Seasons Cherokee Limited has earned its Jeep name by being nimble on ice, tough on flooded roads, and capable on trails. The consumer-orientated crossover can tough it out when the pavement ends, but we can’t help but come back to a question we asked almost a year ago: Should we have opted for the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk?

To answer that question, we’re off-roading a Mango Tango Orange 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk at the same rutted farm we took our Four Seasons Jeep Cherokee Limited to earlier in the year. Before getting dirty, we drop the Cherokee Trailhawk’s tires down to 20 psi, put four-wheel drive in low, and engage the rear locker. The last time we were out here we kept to a conservative route, but the Trailhawk’s red tow hooks beg to be used. We make for a grizzly trail still covered in snow and leaves, bounding up the slippery hills with less effort than our 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited needed on the easier trails.

Out of the snow and leaves, we sit at the base of a dune. Just like we did in our Cherokee Limited, we put the Trailhawk’s traction control into Sand/Mud mode and get a running start. We keep our foot down and get our speed up as the Firestone Destination AT tires paw at sand. The sound of the V-6 engine painfully crowing is familiar; the loud “thud” from the front skidplate hitting the ground isn’t. While the Trailhawk retains the same 8.7 inches of ground clearance as our Limited variation, it has better approach, departure, and breakover angles.

Like our Cherokee, it doesn’t take much to get one of the Trailhawk’s tires off the ground, but the Trailhawk has two extra features: a rear locking differential and an added Rock mode in the traction control system. They keep wheelspin in check and help us creep over obstacles we would otherwise avoid in our Four Seasons Jeep Cherokee.

If we were more willing to bash up our bumpers, bottom out, and get stuck without quick recovery hooks, we could do everything we did in the Trailhawk with our Limited, but the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk inspires confidence in a way the Limited doesn’t. We’ll try to keep our Cherokee in one piece so it can fulfill its role as family-friendly crossover, leaving the real Jeep stuff for the Trailhawk.

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