The Cherokee gets a new look as part of a mid-cycle overhaul for the latest model year.
In place of the boxy design of the original model, the new Cherokee wears all-new sheet metal that Jeep says is designed for the future. While the unusual three-tier layout of lights have been subdued with introduction of the Cherokee's refreshed face, the creased version of the automaker's iconic seven-slat grille still marks the front end, while the rear features a sculpted tailgate and narrow horizontal tail lamps.
The new looks are underpinned by an Alfa Romeo-sourced unibody platform that sees action elsewhere in the FCA portfolio. It helps keep weight down and provides a car-like driving experience that's optimized for the kind of excursions for which crossovers tend to be used these days - trips to the mall, journeys to Costco, etc.
Three engines are available - a standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft. of torque, a turbocharged 2.0-liter producing 270 horsepower and 295lb-ft, and a high-output alternative in the form of a 3.2-liter version of Chrysler's Pentastar V6 that's rated at 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft. of torque. All three engines are paired to an efficient nine-speed gearbox. Thanks to the plethora of four-wheel-drive systems available (described in the next section), fuel economy numbers vary widely depending on configuration.
Base 2.4L models are rated at 22 city and 31 highway, while 4x4 drops those figures to 21 and 29, respectively.
Turbo models check in at 23/31 in 4x2 form, 21/29 with Active Drive I, 20/27 with Active Drive II and 20/26 with Active Drive Lock.
V6 models achieve 20/29 with two-wheel-drive, 19/27 with Active Drive I, 18/26 with Active Drive II and 18/24 with Active Drive Lock.
When equipped with the V6, the Cherokee offers best-in-class towing capability of 4,500 pounds. While the turbo engine offers more grunt, it is capped at 4,000 pounds of trailering.
Real off-roading chops
Even though precious few crossovers venture beyond the pavement, Jeep has something of an image to protect when it comes to off-roading, so the Cherokee can be had with no less than three four-wheel-drive setups. The first, dubbed Active Drive I, is fully automatic and primarily designed to provide extra foul-weather traction in everyday driving situations.
For buyers interesting in tackling trails, Active Drive II adds legitimate rock-climbing capability in the form of a low-range transfer case that can lock the front and rear driveshafts and provide a 2.91:1 gear reduction for optimal torque. Finally, an Active Drive Lock adds a locking rear differential for extra low-speed power during serious off-roading.
All three systems offer brake-based torque vectoring that reduces understeer, and are also equipped with a Selec-Trac traction control system with five different modes - Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock - designed to maximize traction in a variety of conditions.
Additionally, a unique rear-axle disconnect feature helps to save fuel by switching to 2WD mode when full 4x4 capability isn't needed.
Fluid lines and upmarket soft-touch materials mark the Cherokee's interior space, which comes standard with a seven-inch touchscreen for the Uconnect 4 infotainment system. An 8.4-inch unit with added features is available.
Uconnect 4 features a voice command system that allows the driver to place phone calls, use the sound system, input navigation destinations and more without taking his or her hands off the wheel. Other notable aspects of the system include the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot over a 3G network - for an additional monthly fee - and downloadable applications such as Bing search. Critically, it is also now compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay right out of the box.
Other nifty interior items include an optional seven-inch TFT screen located in the instrument panel that relays a variety of vehicle info. A ParkSense park assist system transmits data to the aforementioned TFT screen and, amusingly, replaces surrounding vehicles with as many 1941 Jeep Willys as needed.
Another notable extra is a wireless charging system allows passengers to top off the batteries of cell phones and other portable devices by simply placing them in the center console.
Rear cargo area checks in at 25.8 cubic feet with the rear seats up (expandable to 27.6 cubes with the optional dual-level cargo floor) and 54.7 cubic feet with the seats folded.
Trim level breakdown
The Cherokee is offered in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Trailhawk, and Overland trims.
The Latitude comes standard with A/C, power windows and locks, a six-speaker AM/FM stereo with AUX and USB inputs in addition to an SD card reader, Uconnect with 7.0-inch touchscreen, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, remote keyless entry, LED running lights, LED taillights and 17-inch steel wheels. An available Cold Weather Group brings heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, heated exterior mirrors and a windshield wiper de-icer, while stand-alone options include a CD player, satellite radio and alloy wheels.
The Latitude Plus builds on the base model's standard features with body color exterior trim, HID headlights, roof rails, tinted windows, a rear-view camera, foglights, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, ambient LED interior lighting, a fold-down front passenger's seat with underseat storage, a 115-volt power outlet and 17-inch alloy wheels. In addition to the Cold Weather Group, buyers can select Uconnect with 8.4-inch touchsceen, a retractable front sunroof and fixed rear sunroof, the 3.2-liter V6 and a premium audio system. There's also a Comfort/Convenience with dual-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, a power liftgate, remote start, automatic headlights, a power adjustable driver's seat, a cargo area cover and net, and satellite radio.
On top of the Latitude's features, the Limited boasts leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, Uconnect with 8.4-inch touchsreen, a rearview camera, remote start, automatic headlights, a power adjustable driver's seat, a cargo area cover and net, and satellite radio. The optional Luxury Group adds premium leather upholstery, a power liftgate, xenon headlights and ventilated front seats.
The off-road-focused Trailhawk proudly wears Jeep's Trail-Rated emblem and boasts a more exterior aggressive design with skid plates front and back, red tow hoods and model-specific trim inside and out. The Trailhawk also boasts smaller bumpers on both ends that improve its approach and departure angles, and the Active Drive Lock four-wheel-drive system comes standard. Inside, it features Uconnect Access with 8.4-inch touchscreen and satellite radio; the premium sound system and Comfort/Convenience group can be spec'd.
Finally, the Overland model brings a leather-wrapped instrument panel, power front driver and passenger seat with four-way power lumbar, Zebrano high-gloss wood trim on the steering wheel, bright door sill plates, Berber floor mats, Nappa leather seats with ventilated/heated front seats, an Alpine premium audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, Navigation, HD Radio, SiriusXM Travel Link, SiriusXM Traffic, Uconnect Access Advantage, and a memory function for the driver's seat, the radio, as well as the exterior mirrors.
All Cherokee models come standard with an impressive array of airbags, including dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain units. Traction and stability control systems.
A variety of safety tech is optional, including a blind-spot warning system, a lane departure warning plus and rear cross path detection, which alerts the driver if objects are in the Cherokee's path during backup maneuvers. A forward collision warning system uses radar and video sensors to detect potential obstacles, warn the driver and, if necessary, apply the brakes to effect a full stop.
The midsize Cherokee faces competition from a wide variety of so-called "compact crossovers" that are actually quite dimensionally similar to the Jeep. These include the sedate but highly practical Honda CR-V, the efficient Subaru Forester, the tech-packed Ford Escape, the popular Toyota RAV4 and the Chevrolet Equinox.