Jeep Grand Cherokee Blackhawk to Night Eagle, are you reading me?

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

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

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.

Grand Cherokee is still one of the most capable off-roaders around. Shiny bits or not.
DAVID LINKLATER

Grand Cherokee is still one of the most capable off-roaders around. Shiny bits or not.

READ MORE:
* Watch: Trackhawk steals SRT's thunder
* Grand Cherokee added to Trailhawk mix
* The best luxury SUVs that can really go off-road

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.

Black grille surround, shiny mesh both part of Blackhawk package.
DAVID LINKLATER

Black grille surround, shiny mesh both part of Blackhawk package.

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.

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The interior seems a bit basic for an $80k-plus machine (no sat-nav, 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 turbo-diesel 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.

Diesel only, but that's okay: the 3.0-litre V6 is still a beaut.
DAVID LINKLATER

Diesel only, but that's okay: the 3.0-litre V6 is still a beaut.

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 blind-spot 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.

 - Stuff

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