The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is an all-new model that brings a classic Jeep nameplate back to the Jeep lineup. The first Jeep Cherokee appeared in 1984 as a rough and tumble off-road vehicle that provided little more than basic transportation. Even so, the old Cherokee still has a hardcore following that isn’t easily impressed.
The new Cherokee is a small crossover SUV that has a fair amount of Jeep’s go-anywhere capability, but might be better known for its nicely furnished cabin, car-like ride and powertrain performance. Since Jeep fanatics have no interest in anything like the new Cherokee, this small crossover should suit the next generation of Jeep buyers who have quiet commutes, drive an occasional gravel road, and want something that looks trendy parked in a suburban driveway.
The Cherokee has a boxy silhouette, but keeps enough of the classic Jeep design cues to make it identifiable. The seven-slot grille wraps around the pointed hood for the sake of aerodynamics. Slim, cat eye LED running lights sit atop the fenders while the headlights are almost hidden down by the grille. The design is controversial and certain to draw attention.
Jeep says the Cherokee is mid-size, but it’s about the same size as most of its compact competitors.
You can get Cherokee in four trim levels, beginning with the barebones Sport, the better equipped Latitude, the trail-rated Trailhawk and the upscale Limited. The Trailhawk has a tougher look with different fascias, red steel tow hooks, and Trailhawk badging.
The upscale Limited is as nicely appointed as any vehicle in its segment, and it offers more convenience and safety equipment than most. The cabin is comfortable, well-laid-out, and uses a combination of choice materials that make it feel more like a luxury car than something you would take offroad. A 3.5-inch or 7-inch thin-film transistor screen offers different configurations for real-time information.
The center stack includes a 5-inch or 8.4-inch display screen to view the navigation map or operate some of the controls. The newest iteration of Chrysler's UConnect system integrates infotainment and other controls. Voice commands are fairly easy to execute and can come in handy when driving in unfamiliar territory.
There are plenty of storage spaces throughout the cabin. The front passenger has a hidden cubby under the cushion, and there's a spot on top of the dash that opens up. There are door pockets, map pockets, and even a spot for your cell phone to sit right next to the USB port. The rear storage area has hooks to hang plastic bags and a second row that moves fore and aft or folds flat.
The standard engine on all models is Chrysler's 2.4-liter MultiAir2 TigerShark I-4 that produces 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. This base engine provided enough power to handle Vermont’s hilly terrain, but quickly runs out of energy when fully loaded.
The 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 performs better with its 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque.
Both engines use a nine-speed automatic transmission to deliver both strong acceleration and relaxed cruising. The front-wheel-drive four-cylinder model is rated at 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 on the highway. A four-wheel-drive V-6 is rated at 19 in the city and 27 on the highway. Maximum towing is 4,500 pounds
The Cherokee's electric power steering is nicely tuned for comfortable driving. . The front independent suspension and rear multilink setup provide a surprisingly good ride and decent handling characteristics.
The Cherokee offers three different drive setups. Active Drive I uses an open power transfer unit and a fully variable wet-clutch in the rear-drive module that apportions drive to the rear wheels, disconnecting them when not needed.
Active Drive II adds the ability to vary torque from front to rear and a 2.92:1 low range that locks the front and rear together for maximum traction. Active Drive Lock adds a locking rear differential to the above setup, and it is standard on all Trailhawk models. Combining this capability with crossover comfort, quiet, and economy just might interest a few of those hard core “old Cherokee” followers.