Black­hawk to Night Ea­gle, are you read­ing me?

South Canterbury Herald - - MOTORING - DAVID LINKLATER

The ‘‘hawk’’ name is im­por­tant in the world of Jeep. It de­notes some­thing pretty spe­cialised and pretty, well, spe­cial.

There’s the legendary Trail­hawk mod­els, for ex­am­ple, which are de­signed to have max­i­mum off-road abil­ity. Just this year Jeep launched a Trail­hawk ver­sion of the Grand Chero­kee.

Then there’s the forth­com­ing Track­hawk, a cir­cuit-fo­cused ver­sion of the Grand with a mon­ster 527kW su­per­charged V8 un­der the bon­net. It’s a bit silly and the use of the ‘‘hawk’’ mon­icker is pos­si­bly ironic, but it’s also a badge of hon­our. It means busi­ness.

Or there’s the model you see here: the Grand Chero­kee Black­hawk. So called be­cause it’s, ahem, got some black stuff on it.

The Black­hawk is an $81,990 machine that’s based on the en­try Laredo model, but adds a black­out treat­ment on the grille, light sur­rounds, bumper de­tail and any other bright­work that hap­pened to be hanging around, 20-inch al­loys (gloss black of course) and leather/ suede ‘‘Capri’’ up­hol­stery. Which is black, by the way.

Why Black­hawk? Why not, thought Fiat Chrysler New Zealand, which has quite a bit in­vested in the hawk-brand, with the re­cent launch of the Grand Chero­kee Trail­hawk and the in­ten­tion to bring the Track­hawk here as a hero model. Bit of re­flected glory and all that.

Bit of a shame re­ally, be­cause a mild dress-up like this does un­der­mine the rest of the fam­ily, don’t you think?

This is a fac­tory model, so don’t dis­miss it as a lo­cal tweak. But in the United States, this car is called the Night Ea­gle. Which is a bit weird, but also more hon­est. It’s not pre­tend­ing to be some­thing it’s not.

Name aside, this is quite an ap­peal­ing machine. There’s a sense of hon­est sim­plic­ity about the en­try Grand, and the black stuff does add a vis­ual edge with­out over­do­ing things.

The in­te­rior seems a bit ba­sic for an $80k-plus machine (no sat­nav, for ex­am­ple), but the Capri up­hol­stery up­grade (same as you get in the Lim­ited, in fact) is very worth­while.

It’s still a good thing to drive in a squishy kind of way. The tur­bod­iesel is strong and the chas­sis rolls in fast cor­ners but tele­graphs its in­ten­tions well. It’s a re­lax­ing way to roll down the road and pretty ca­pa­ble off it – al­beit not quite as ca­pa­ble with those big wheels. But boy, do they look good.

The Black­hawk price rep­re­sents a $5000 pre­mium over the Laredo turbo-diesel. You get an 8.4-inch touch screen that in­cludes Jeep’s Off-Road Pages, dual-zone cli­mate air con­di­tion­ing and a re­vers­ing cam­era.

But this model is still de­void of ac­tive safety aids such as blindspot and lane-de­par­ture warn­ings, for­ward col­li­sion alert and rear cross-traf­fic alert. Which seems a bit stingy for an SUV at this price in 2017.

For that stuff you have to step up to $99,990 Over­land (or op­tion up a Lim­ited). But then nei­ther of those are as glossy-black.

Black­hawk pack­age adds, well, black to a Grand Chero­kee Laredo. And 20-inch al­loys.

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