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2017 Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Build

42797 Views 94 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  Moebius01
Hey all!

Long time no talk... I've been on JF for a long, long, long time since before I purchased my TJ a decade ago, but haven't remained as active over the past few years. So this is my formal re-introduction with a new build. I write an endurance adventure blog that with stories of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike, cross country bicycle trip, and recent attempt at Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail over two weeks last month. Disappointed that one ended early, but you can go read about it and see photos if you'd like:

Some of you might remember Big Red from a ways back... She's up on 35" MTR/Ks, 3" lift with Currie suspension components, 8k winch, Undercover Fab aluminum skids from front to back, Rigid LEDs everywhere, strobe lights for on-road recovery stuff (good samaritan lights as I call them) and the rest of the typical works with electronics and radios. The members of the Massachusetts Jeep club I founded in 2011 affectionately call her Big Red. As our club has grown, my close group of Jeep friends began discussing an overland trip through northern New England. As I took on the planning of our adventure with my buddy Rob, I began realizing that the TJ wasn't going to be the best platform for me personally to do these kinds of trips in.

I began shopping for a JKUR, floating the idea of trading my daily driver in and keeping the TJ and the JKUR, each to serve different purposes. As my research continued and I spoke with JKUR owner friends, I realized that I'd much rather have something along the lines of an SUV that would be less of a one trick pony. I travel for work and therefore frequently have rental cars, so I began test driving the Grand Cherokees during my weeks away from home, which ultimately turned my search in that direction. Reading about the current (2016) and new models for 2017, I focused on the Overland and Trailhawk trims as ones I'd be interested in buying. Price was a factor, but I knew early on that I didn't want to heavily mod this truck, so buying a Limited trim and upgrading things wasn't really in the cards for me. The Overland is much more of a luxury oriented vehicle than the name might suggest, and the Trailhawk is the nitty gritty, but still very well equipped, model.

After many months of waiting, debating, test driving, yada yada, I finally went ahead and purchased a 2017 Trailhawk last week. Fully loaded (minus Blu-Ray entertainment), it was a unique package with the active safety package, luxury package - read: panoramic sunroof that I dreamed about, multiple skid plates underneath, 18" wheels wrapped in Kevlar lined Goodyear A/Ts, and the Quadra-Trac/air suspension package. Sticker was $49,500, and after a week of putting dealerships against each other, and after a bit of negotiating I got it from a dealer in New Hampshire (90 minutes from my house in Boston), for $42,799. I am quite happy with the price, and opted to add the 7-year bumper to bumper Mopar warranty for $1,300 for a piece of mind. There's a high likelihood I keep it that long, and I can get money back from FCA if I sell the vehicle first.

I purchased it and dropped it off immediately for the front end to be protective wrapped, so I didn't have a chance to take it for a real high-res photo shoot (save for lining the ladies up for a family photo as you'll see below). Here are some photos to start, since that's what we all love in these threads anyway. This will not be the most advanced or capable build in the history of this forum, but aside the rare iPhone photo, I promise to at least have high quality pictures.

Look forward to writing more posts with mods and adventures.


At the Dealership by Ryan McKee

Three's Company by Ryan McKee
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I do agree that it looks much more aggressive with that spare on the rear.
I <3 this thread
I do agree that it looks much more aggressive with that spare on the rear.
I <3 this thread
Thanks guys!!
Chief Products WK2 Roof Rack Installation

It's with great enthusiasm that I sit down to scribble this install write-up about the brand new Chief Products WK2 Roof Rack. A long awaited release from Chief, this rack steps in as one of few contenders in the industry for modern Grand Cherokees looking to move gear to the roof to save space inside. Boasting an unprecedented and engineer certified 330-pound dynamic weight rating and 1,332-pound dynamic rating, this rack is build to securely and safely handle whatever you can throw on it.

Whether you're looking to store a spare tire, fuel canisters, LED bars, awnings, or a Roof Top Tent of any kind, the WK2 Roof Rack is the solution a great many people have been looking for. A very important thanks to my friend Nick for helping with the initial day of installation of the rack.

Chief Products Arrived! by 2180miles

WK2 Roof Rack Packaging by 2180miles

Shipped to me directly from Chief's warehouse in Australia, the entire aluminum rack (listed on their website as the "Full Roof Rack System") came immaculately packaged and wrapped in more protective bubble wrap than even Amazon sends out. Each piece of the aircraft-grade aluminum alloy was perfectly powder coated, each piece of individual hardware bagged and labeled for assembly. If I've learned one thing over the years of working with Chief, it's that they put thought into each and every aspect of the process, from unboxing to install to customer service, it's all there.

To start the install of the WK2 Roof Rack I needed to remove my roof top tent and existing Rhino Racks and Thule Traverse crossbar, along with the OEM roof rails. Great news - all of this can be done with a simple T-30 torx bit. With all of that put down on the ground behind the Jeep, I washed two years of grime and dirt accumulation off the roof, and we got to work.

Rhino Rack Crossbar Removal by 2180miles

RTT / Crossbars Removed by 2180miles

OEM Roof Rails Removed by 2180miles

Cleaning OEM Nutserts by 2180miles

Bare Bones Configuration

The first step was loosely fastening the small angled brackets to the Mounting Rails in preparation for their installation on the roof. Each bracket mounts with two 10mm bolts and lock washers which, in true Chief Products fashion, sit securely into grooves pressed into the Mounting Rails themselves. Once these 10 brackets were finger tight on the two Rails, we placed the driver's side up on the roof of the Trailhawk. Utilizing the factory T30 fasteners and an angled bit driver, we installed the bolts into the factory nutserts along the roofline, making sure to leave the whole system semi-loose so that it could wiggle around as the rest of the rack was installed over top of the Mounting Rails. We repeated the process on the passenger side of the vehicle before returning to the pile of parts on the garage floor (placed gently overtop of the shipping bubblewrap!) to continue the installation.

Chief Products WK2 Roof Rack by 2180miles

Mounting Rail Fasteners by 2180miles

Mounting Rail Pressed Grooves by 2180miles

Angle Brackets Installed by 2180miles

Securing To OEM Nutserts by 2180miles

Driver's Side Mounting Rail by 2180miles

Initial Tightening of Angle Brackets by 2180miles

Both Mounting Rails Installed by 2180miles

Depending on which multiple Roof Rack configurations you buy from Chief, there are a variety of methods of installation. While I was ultimately working with the Full System configuration, I wanted to ensure that people were able to see the variety of possibilities, so we went forward with installing what Chief refers to as the "Bare Bones" configuration. This consists of the Mounting Rails and two of the Plank crossbars.

The beauty of the Chief rack is the modular nature of the product, allowing these Planks to be placed almost anywhere up and down the length of the Mounting Rails. The full system comes with 6 planks for a complete installation, but is configurable with anywhere from one to all six of them depending on your needs. I figured most people would use a two-plank configuration, so we placed them in positions 2 and 6 to illustrate this set-up. You'll notice the awesome end caps that flank the crossbar planks, machined out in the famous 7-slots that pay tribute to decades of Jeep history.

Each aluminum plank is drilled out for bolts to easily fall through them into the Mounting Rails where a bar with pre-welded nuts mates up to the bottom side. For those of us with larger hands it can be a bit of fun to hold the nut plates into place, but I found that getting one side relatively secure and then adding the second bolt made it a lot easier to get everything tight. Once all 4 bolts were tightened on the first plank we moved onto the second one, buttoning it up in just a few minutes after picking it up off the garage floor. At this point we were losing daylight in the Northeast, so I drove the Jeep back from Nick's house and tested the wind noise with the windows and sunroof both opened and closed. I'm happy to report that the existence of the rack was imperceivable at all rates of speed regardless of the window situation. Huge accolades to Chief for that accomplishment.

Plank Crossbar Installation by 2180miles

Tightening to Mounting Rails by 2180miles

2180miles Chief WK2 Roof Rack-21 by 2180miles, on Flickr

Rear Plank by 2180miles
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Full System Configuration

The next day after checking in with Chief's lead engineer Ben down in Australia, I moved forward with installing the Full System on the roof. The SINGLE most important thing to note here is that there's a specific order to do this in to ensure that everything lines up appropriately. For the sake of this, let's just jump forward to me having removed the two planks and standing in the driveway with just the Mounting Rails on the roof.

Roof Tray Corner Pieces by 2180miles

Complete Roof Tray by 2180miles

The first part of this process is to loosen all the fasteners holding the Rails down, including both the 10mm bolts attaching the angle brackets and the T-30 nuts into the roof nutserts. These all being loose (but not removed) is going to allow the whole set-up to shimmy around as the roof tray is placed overtop. The tray/surround itself is comprised of four straight pieces of aluminum and four rounded end-caps. The endcaps slide into the longer lengths and fasten with four small bolts per corner. Once the frame it assembled it weighs only a few pounds, adding to the beauty of this product where it's entirely possible to install by yourself.

With the corner blocks tightened down I lifted it up onto the roof, following up by placing a plank in the first mounting position closest to the front of the Trailhawk. According to Ben the easiest way to get the entire tray lined up is to install the 1st and 4th position planks first, then to move forward with tightening down the mounting rails as the whole system is now in place to line up correctly. Once the rails and both planks were tightened down completely I lifted the rest of the planks into place and tightened them down accordingly. It's worth noting that I did not re-install the 7-slot end-caps on the planks, as I don't think they'll fit in with the tray surround.

Roof Tray Installed by 2180miles

Front View by 2180miles

Front View - Planks 1 + 4 by 2180miles

Full Roof Rack by 2180miles

Antenna Clearance by 2180miles

Wrap-Up & Product Photos

With 6 crossbars into place and tightened down, I'd officially installed the Full System of the Chief Products WK2 Roof Rack. Total time, including figuring out how things went together and photographing as I went was around 2 hours. I can guarantee that in the future it will be much faster&#8230; I think I spent more time walking around the Jeep going back and forth between driver and passenger side than I did actually mounting and tightening hardware. The roof rack in the full configuration set-up did have some noise in the 200-250Hz range at highway speeds, but I've spoken to the guys at Chief and they've said that they have a fix for it and that it's largely due to the rack being bare/empty at the moment. I'll report back with updates.

Next week I'll be heading back up to Maine's Allagash Wilderness for a winter trip, and will be installing a new-to-the-market RTT to do some testing for the manufacturer. I'll be stripping the WK2 Roof Rack down to their RTT configuration and will be truly looking forward to knowing that the tent, it's weight, and me are 100% supported.

I'll be back with more in the next few weeks, but for now, enjoy the photos and keep an eye out for Chief Product's pre-order opening VERY soon for the incredible WK2 Roof Rack.

Questions? Comments? Let me know!

2180miles WK2 Side View by 2180miles

2180miles WK2 Front View by 2180miles

Chief Products WK2 Roof Rack by 2180miles

Chief WK2 Roof Rack: FM/Satellite Antenna Clearance by 2180miles

Chief Products WK2 Rear Corner View by 2180miles, on Flickr

Chief Products WK2 Underside View by 2180miles, on Flickr

Chief Products WK2 Rear Antenna View by 2180miles

Chief Products WK2 Rear Corner View by 2180miles

2180miles WK2 Rear View by 2180miles
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@ColdCase this should be in the build thread index :2thumbsup:
Looks great... You know its a company that takes quality seriously when they include Nord-Lock washers. Nice!
Seriously nice build you have going there, workmanship is on point.
Seriously nice build you have going there, workmanship is on point.
I greatly appreciate the compliment. It's a project of love, creativity, and caution haha.
Torro Offroad SkyLux Roof Top Tent Installation

A few months ago I was approached by Corey Johnson, founder and owner of Virginia-based Torro Offroad, about testing out their new SkyLux Roof Top Tent (hereinafter referred to as RTT). It's always a great privilege to be able to try out products for companies, but Corey immediately was adamant about wanting transparency with my thoughts on the tent given the experience we have with our previous COE Vehicle Solutions tent. His enthusiasm for that kind of feedback made the idea of taking the SkyLux off-road and into the elements that much more exciting to me.

The SkyLux is a hard-shell styled tent that unfolds like traditional "soft" tents in the market. What makes this stand out so much compared to our current tent is that it doubles the sleeping space, up from a twin size bed to a king size, integrates an overhang from the elements, comes with a winter insulation kit, and even has integrated LED lights both inside and out for nights at campsites. All in all, a great lineup of features that our current tent (and many other tents, for that matter) simply don't offer.

Torro SkyLux Roof Top Tent by 2180miles


The Torro SkyLux arrived well-packaged in a shipping box alike other items of this size. The delivery company easily moved it around on a pallet and it was dropped inside our garage within a few minutes, safely out of the way of pending inclement weather in the Boston area. My Kershaw knife quickly cut through the packaging material and tape holding everything together, and after moving the large cardboard top piece off and away, I was able to lay my eyes on the sleek silver aluminum frame that comprises the floor of the tent. It came wrapped in a protective plastic which can sometimes be a pain to remove, so I used the tip of my knife's blade to delicately run down the lengths and edges of the plastic to more easily pull it off. With it removed the underside was completely bare and ready for install, so I flipped the tent over to get a look at it right side up. It weighs in at about 150lbs, which is twenty more than our previous tent, but is comprised of a lot more surface area. I for one would rather know the flooring system is made to support me than to hear it creak every time I move around inside the tent, so the few extra pounds aren't a huge problem. Chief Product's new WK2 Roof Rack system is designed to carry over 300lbs dynamic (while in motion) so it's barely breaking a sweat with the SkyLux up there.

Torro Offroad - SkyLux Packaging by 2180miles

SkyLux RTT - Removing Protective Wrap by 2180miles

SkyLux RTT - Unboxed by 2180miles

Once the tent was flipped over I made quick work of the six 2" wide Velcro straps and two 1" ribbed plastic retaining straps, and gently lifted the black plastic shell. The two internal pistons immediately took over and raised the clamshell roof to its 60ish-degree angle, exposing both the folded flooring of the tent and the myriad of accessories and hardware that the tent ships with. Included with the SkyLux are the insulation panels for frigid nights, two channel-hung pockets/containers for shoes and the like to be held outside of the tent at night, extra support braces for the gas pistons at super in the event of 40+ MPH winds, and a half dozen metal props for holding the tent's entryway awning and side windows out when you wish to open them.

The hardware that's sent along includes a 13mm ratcheting wrench, eight bolts, four brackets for connecting the tent to your crossbars. In further conversations with the Torro team they've told me that the brackets included here (on the left in the photo below) will be replaced with flat bars to cut down on unnecessary tightening on installation. To the right in that same photo are the RTT brackets that Chief Products sells for integrating a tent with their WK2 Roof Rack. The 1/4" steel plates are drilled out perfectly with the Chief crossbar Planks, and allowed the SkyLux to be installed without a hitch.

Included Accessories (Insulation, Ladder, Etc) by 2180miles

Torro Hardware / Chief Roof Rack Brackets by 2180miles


A mere 24 hours after installation of the SkyLux on the WK2 Trailhawk, I took off for a five day overland trip through Maine's North Woods with a few friends from our overland group. The temperatures would include single digit nights, 30+ MPH winds, and a thousand miles of travel from our Boston home. Our 1 year old black lab, Delta, came with me on the trip and shared the tent with me each night; not only were we dry in all kinds of weather including rain, hail, and snow, but also warm in our sub-zero sleeping bags. The SkyLux did a great job with ventilation and mitigating build-up of precipitation and only minor frost was exhibited each morning, easy to wipe down with a camp towel every morning.

Having only set the tent up once in our driveway before departure I was quite happy with the 2-3 minute set-up time each night, and nearly identical take-down times each morning. The ladder extended easily and unfolding the tent into its fully opened position was no problem at all for a person to do solo. I mainly utilized the "front door" opening for our ventilation, but did open the side windows on one night for some additional air flow.

In the mornings I moved the sleeping bags to the driver's side of the tent where the clam-shell hinge resides, which I found made closing the RTT up much easier. From there I'd remove the metal props that keep the doors and windows open, storing the window ones inside an included pouch in the tent, and the door props in the back of the Jeep for easy access at camp each night. This is a habit I've had since we first for a roof-top tent, as digging around for these while trying to set up camp isn't always the most fun activity when all you want is a beer and a campfire.

Once the inside of the tent was set to be stored I collapsed the ladder simultaneously while pushing up and folding the cantilevered aluminum flooring up over onto the main portion of the tent. Think of the closed SkyLux as a tortilla shell folded over in thirds. With the flooring surfaces folded up I then climbed up and collected the fabric shell of the tent, shaking off any snow or ice build-up and tucking it towards the center of the tent before grabbing the nylon strap and pulling down the plastic shell of the tent. The same exceptionally easy Velcro straps were quick to affix, and the plastic locking straps snapped into place despite the snow and ice buildup I faced each morning.

This tent truly seems like it will be a great match for us and our future trips with myself, Dani, and Delta. The space inside, durability, multitude of well thought out accessories, and overall ease of use make it a fantastic product for veteran overlanders/travelers and the newly vehicular adventurous alike. Dani's thrilled about the king-size bed inside, and Delta loves the view from the top of the ladder more than I could ever describe.

I'll circle back after the next few trips and update this with photos and a more long term review, but for now I'll leave you with a link to Torro's website so you can check the SkyLux out for yourself... you might even recognize the Jeep on their homepage!


Torro SkyLux - Setup by Dani by 2180miles

SkyLux Closed For Travel by 2180miles

Campsite Set with Integrated LED by 2180miles

Torro SkyLux - Campsite Set-Up by 2180miles

Torro SkyLux Entry Door & Cover by 2180miles

Torro SkyLux - Rear Profile by 2180miles
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I don't know how I missed this thread until now, but this is the best thread ever. Awesome mod after mod after mod! Well done dude.
I don't know how I missed this thread until now, but this is the best thread ever. Awesome mod after mod after mod! Well done dude.
Greatly appreciate the compliments Moose. It's been a labor of love, and has definitely been challenging as some portions have required paving the road for some of these WK2 platform mods.

Thanks for the kind words!
I don't know how I missed this thread until now, but this is the best thread ever. Awesome mod after mod after mod! Well done dude.
What a great thread I guess I should look at more often.
It's been a labor of love, and has definitely been challenging as some portions have required paving the road for some of these WK2 platform mods.
This was an awesome thread to read through this morning, gives me hope for some of the plans I have for my WK2.

As this thread seems to still have a spark of life, wanted to ask a question. Since removing the spare tire from the under compartment, have you had any trouble with the deck you built sagging? I'm thinking of doing something very similar for a fridge slide and drawer system that I could easily remove, but I was curious about the weight if there wasn't a tire sitting below to provide a little support.
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