You might be shocked at what drivers in Tennessee, Alabama say is their 'dream car.' Hint: It's not a Tesla

Photos by Mark Kennedy / The modern interior provides high-tech comfort.


* Model: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4

* Exterior color: Hydro Blue Pearl

* Interior color: Black

* Engine: 3.2-liter, V-6

* Horsepower: 271

* Transmission: 9-speed automatic

* Fuel economy: 24 mpg highway, 18 mpg city

* Local Dealer: Crown Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram (2120 Chapman Road)

* Price (as tested): about $39,025

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a map of the United States that had been color-coded to indicate each state's

The No. 1 "dream car" nationally - insert drum-roll here - was the sleek and nearly silent Tesla Model S.But not in Tennessee.No. No. No.For more Tennesseans, their dream "car" was a Jeep Wrangler SUV. Tennessee joined Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma as the top Wrangler-loving states. (Interestingly, Georgians hold up the Ford Mustang is their No. 1 dream car.)All that is to say, today's tester, a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is perfect for off-road lovers - like the Wrangler crowd - who want a little more refinement in a daily driver. For all its stump-jumping chops, the Wrangler can be a little raw to drive if it has to pull double duty as a grocery-getter.The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, on the other hand, is a smooth operator that happens to have the ground-clearance and four-wheel-drive capacity for occasionally pounding a pasture or hopping a creek bed.Jeeps are available locally at Crown Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram on Chapman Road. As of late this week, the dealership had 20 2019 Cherokees in digital inventory including one in Trailhawk Elite trim.WHAT IS IT: The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is a five-passenger, compact SUV equipped for off-roading. The standard engine is a 3.2-liter, V-6 that makes 271 horsepower. The Jeep Cherokee competes with the Honda CR-V, the Ford Escape and the Mazda CX-5, among others.HOW MUCH: The Trailhawk is on the pricey end of the Cherokee trim ladder. A typically equipped Trailhawk like our tester has an MSRP of a little more than $40,000, before discounts. Common options are a navigation package ($895), nine-speaker audio ($695) and a panoramic sunroof ($1,595).WHAT WE LIKED: Although the V-6 in our tester is eclipsed by an available four-cylinder turbo model, we found the 3.2-liter Pentastar to be smooth and strong. With 271 horsepower, it handles downtown hills and mountain commutes with ease. We also like the masculine styling of the Jeep Cherokee, and the Hydro Blue Pearl paint is eye-catching. The sunroof is enormous, but pricey at $1,595. The all-weather floor mats are a useful perk.ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: The vinyl seats are leather-like, but still - vinyl. Rear seat leg-room is modest, so make sure you take any habitual back-seat occupants on your test drive. Our tester didn't have the automatic rear lift-gate feature, which can be a problem if you on the short side.DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: Steering is light and a little sloppy. However, the V-6 engine is stout enough to inspire confident passing. The nine-speed automatic transmission improves gas mileage which the government estimates at 24 mpg city and 18 mpg highway.BOTTOM LINE: For folks who want a small SUV with a Jeep pedigree, the 4X4 Cherokee Trailhawk splits the difference between comfort and off-road performance.Contact Mark Kennedy at or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at