The small crossover segment is one of the most competitive in the industry, filled with affordable, well-equipped and cozy vehicles. The 2016 Jeep Cherokee looks to distinguish itself by offering those traits plus the allure of Jeep’s legendary off-road capability. Additionally, the Cherokee features a roomy interior with straightforward controls and ample sound insulation. Aside from its unusually modest cargo capacity and an underwhelming 4-cylinder engine, this Jeep’s got a lot going for it.
Although Jeep lists that 2.4-liter 4-cylinder at a competitive 184 horsepower, we’re not particularly fond of the way it puts down that power. The Cherokee feels sluggish on the road with it, and the associated nine-speed automatic transmission can be slow to downshift when the driver demands power. The optional 3.2-liter V6 is superior, as it’s much peppier when called upon, yet not much thirstier at the gas pump. We prefer the V6, but opting for the pricier V6 naturally hurts the Cherokee’s value proposition.
While all versions of the 4WD Cherokee are off-road-capable, you really want the Trailhawk to tackle serious terrain.
As for the Cherokee’s off-road credentials, they’re mainly associated with the Trailhawk model, which is easily recognizable by its tough-guy looks and higher drive height. The Trailhawk gets a robust four-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing and adds an exclusive locking rear differential. With 8.7 inches of ground clearance and skid plates, the Cherokee Trailhawk can venture into terrain normally reserved for off-road-ready SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep’s own Wrangler. If the Trailhawk seems too expensive, the other trims offer a regular all-wheel-drive setup that puts the Cherokee on about the same level as competitor AWD-equipped small crossovers.
If you’re shopping for a small crossover, there are some other options to consider. The Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 offer more cargo space and superior 4-cylinder engines than the Cherokee, while the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 are more engaging to drive. You might also consider the Subaru Forester and Subaru Crosstrek, which come standard with all-wheel drive and match the Trailhawk’s extraordinary ground clearance. Overall, though, the 2016 Jeep Cherokee is a solid contender with plenty to offer, particularly if you’re the adventurous type.
The 2016 Cherokee is on the heavy side for this segment, which is why the 4-cylinder engine can feel sluggish despite its competitive horsepower and torque. This engine also has a more raucous sound than most other four-cylinders in this class. We really like the V6 engine, though, as it gives the 2016 Cherokee a relaxed, refined demeanor not found in the typical 4-cylinder SUV. There’s plenty of power, too, and the nine-speed automatic feels more at home in this pairing. With either engine, though, that transmission can be a bit reluctant to downshift once you’re cruising on the highway.
The Cherokee is exceptionally quiet at highway speeds, and over rough city streets it provides about as cushy a drive as you’ll get in this class. The downside is that the Jeep feels rather ponderous when going around turns. Its steering is precise, but this Cherokee doesn’t feel as sporty as segment standouts like the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. All Cherokees have solid off-road potential if one of the 4WD systems is specified, but it’s the Cherokee Trailhawk, which earned a "B" rating from our testing department, that stands out for trail-busting ability. If you have the inclination, the Trailhawk can take on some pretty serious terrain, thanks to its low-range gearing and rear locking differential.
For more driving impressions, be sure to check out our long-term test of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
The 2016 Jeep Cherokee is a five-passenger crossover SUV offered in four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited.
Standard equipment on the Sport includes 17-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, remote keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, height-adjustable front seats, sliding and reclining rear seats with 60/40-split folding seatbacks, a rear wiper, floor mats, Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, a USB charge-only port and a six-speaker sound system with a 5-inch touchscreen interface, an auxiliary sound input and an SD card reader. A Cold Weather Group package is available with a wiper de-icer, remote ignition, heated power-folding mirrors, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel.
The Latitude adds alloy wheels, roof rails, foglights, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, body-colored door handles and mirrors, privacy-tinted glass, LED interior lighting, a folding front passenger seat with a storage compartment inside the seat cushion, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in sound controls and a 115-volt outlet. Latitudes also come with a wider range of options including dual sunroofs (the front roof opens; the rear glass is fixed), an upgraded speaker system with nine speakers, and Jeep’s 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen interface with a USB sound interface, Siri Eyes Free and smartphone-app integration.
Along with the Sport’s Cold Weather package, the Latitude offers a Comfort/Convenience package that bundles a power liftgate, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar), the SafetyTec Group package (blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors and heated mirrors with turn-signal repeaters), an auto-dimming rearview mirror and satellite radio.
There’s also an Altitude package (it can also be referred to as a trim level) for the Latitude that includes special exterior trim details.
The off-road-themed Trailhawk comes with an advanced four-wheel-drive system (Active Drive II) and also boasts slightly wider 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires, increased ground clearance, off-road-oriented suspension tuning, a locking rear differential, hill ascent and descent control, skid plates, haul hooks, unique exterior trim, cloth and leather upholstery, a larger driver information display with color graphics, the 8.4-inch touchscreen and satellite radio.
Options on the Trailhawk include the Cold Weather, Comfort/Convenience and SafetyTec Group packages found on the Latitude model, plus a Leather Interior Group package (bundles the power driver seat with leather upholstery, heated front seats and a steering wheel), a Ventilated/Memory Seat Group (ventilated front seats and driver memory functions), a Technology Group package (automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic low-speed emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, automatic wipers, front and rear parking sensors and an automated parallel and perpendicular parking system) and a navigation system.
The Limited sheds the Trailhawk’s off-road hardware, but includes essentially the same standard convenience items plus 18-inch alloy wheels, remote ignition, a wiper de-icer, the SafetyTec Group’s upgraded side mirrors, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, the power driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Options include the above-mentioned Technology Group and SafetyTec Group (minus the standard side mirrors) along with a Luxury Group that adds xenon headlights, premium leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory settings and a power liftgate. The navigation system is also optional.
A few of the higher trims’ standard features are available on lower trims as separate options. All Cherokee trims are eligible for a towing package, while all except the Sport can be outfitted with a dual-pane sunroof and nine-speaker sound system.
The cabin of the 2016 Jeep Cherokee has a high-quality look and feel, especially on upper trim levels. The available Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen is a fantastic system, featuring easy-to-navigate menus, large virtual controls and an accompanying knob that makes whipping through long lists a breeze. It’s certainly worth the extra cost if you can make the jump out of the Sport, though even that trim’s 5-inch touchscreen is a solid example of the breed.
The 2016 Jeep Cherokee’s Uconnect infotainment system is one of the best in the business.
Passenger quarters are generous in the 2016 Jeep Cherokee. It’s easy to get cozy in the available power driver seat, which offers ample adjustability. The Cherokee features one of the better backseats in the compact crossover class. Not only does it recline, but it also provides for fore-and-aft adjustment, and the high-mounted bench supports adults’ thighs without pushing their heads into the rafters.
Alas, cargo capacity is unimpressive. There are just 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 54.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. Both figures are 5-15 less than what most other small crossover SUVs offer; indeed, they’re closer to the norm in the smaller "subcompact" crossover class. Another drawback is the lack of useful storage space up front for personal effects.
Standard safety equipment on all 2016 Jeep Cherokees includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is optional on the Sport trim level and standard on all other models.
Trailhawk and Limited models can also be equipped with an option package that adds adaptive cruise control, a forward-collision warning and mitigation system (with automatic brake intervention in potential collision situations), a lane-departure warning system and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.
In SUVS brake testing, a Cherokee Trailhawk came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 131 feet. The all-terrain tires contributed to that lengthy stop, but it’s still one of the longest distances we’ve recorded in this segment. A Cherokee Limited with more common all-season tires and 4WD came to a stop in 122 feet, which is slightly better than average.
In government crash tests, the Cherokee received an overall rating of four out of five possible stars, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Cherokee the best possible rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-crash and roof-strength crash tests. The Cherokee’s seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts, but the Jeep received a "Marginal" rating (second worst of four) in the small-overlap frontal-offset test.
Standard on all 2016 Jeep Cherokees is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 184 hp and 171 pound-feet of torque. Optional on all but the base Sport is a 3.2-liter V6 that makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.
You have your choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with either engine, but Trailhawk models are 4WD only. Jeep offers two 4WD systems. Standard on four-wheel-drive Sport, Latitude and Limited models is the light-duty Active Drive I 4WD system; it requires no input from the driver, though it does come with a Selec-Terrain dial that features different terrain modes. Standard on the Trailhawk and optional on other 4WD Jeep Cherokees is the more rugged Active Drive II system, which features low-range gearing and a locking rear differential along with an additional "Rock" mode for the Selec-Terrain dial.
A haul package is available on all 2016 Jeep Cherokees and gives V6 models a healthy 4,500-pound towing capacity.
The 4-cylinder engine is OK, but upgrade to the V6 if you can.
When equipped with front-wheel drive and the 4-cylinder engine, the Cherokee is EPA-rated at 25 miles per gallon combined (22 city/31 highway). With the V6 and front-wheel drive, the estimate is 24 miles per gallon combined (21/29). EPA-estimated fuel economy for Cherokees with the Active Drive I 4WD system and 4-cylinder engines is 24 miles per gallon combined (21/28), which is slightly below average for this class, while V6 Cherokees with the Active Drive I system are rated at 23 miles per gallon combined (20/28). With the Active Drive II system, estimates stand at 23 miles per gallon combined (21/27) with the 4-cylinder and 22 miles per gallon combined with the V6. With its all-terrain tires, the Trailhawk gets an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon combined with either the 4-cylinder or the V6.
In SUVS testing, a V6-powered Cherokee Limited with Active Drive I went from zero to 60 in 7.4 seconds, a satisfactory showing for a small crossover with an upgraded engine. A Cherokee Trailhawk, also with the V6, fell back to 8.0 seconds.
Refined available V6 engine; smooth and quiet ride; spacious seating; abundance of available high-end tech features; Trailhawk offers unique off-road capability for the segment.
The 2016 Cherokee can deliver plenty of off-roading capability, but the bigger story is that it’s civilized and cozy enough to drive to work every day. It’s worth a look if you’re shopping for a small SUV.