The Cherokee is both a polarizing and endearing crossover. When it was first announced that Jeep would revive the Cherokee brand and build an all-new unibody crossover to wear the badge, purists were outraged.
Since then, it seems skyrocketing sales silenced critics. It’s a stylish car-based compact SUV that’s rugged enough for weekends in the wild without sacrificing pleasant road manners.
It’s not the best of both worlds, mostly because of a poor reliability reputation and an anemic standard power plant; but it may be just right for some
Despite being Jeep’s best-selling nameplate in 2015, the Cherokee doesn’t offer a lot of value when compared with its competition. For a base price of nearly 30 grand, you don’t get a whole lot of standard features.
You do get a 2-ton crossover with an underpowered 2.4 Liter 4 cylinder and lackluster driving dynamics. There’s no standard rearview camera and the 5-inch Uconnect system screen is really small, though it is one of better infotainment interfaces on the market. An exception to the lack of value added is the Trailhawk Cherokee, which has impressive off-road chops at a relatively low price.
If you’re one of the niche consumers looking for an out-of-the-box off-roader, the Cherokee Trailhawk offers thousands in savings when compared to the Toyota 4Runner or Grand Cherokee Trailhawk.
The performance and driving dynamics of this compact crossover vary fairly widely depending on which trim you choose. Some models have a 2.4 Liter MultiAir 4 cylinder, while others feature a 24-valve 3.2 Liter V6 with variable valve timing. There are 3 different 9-speed automatic transmissions with different final drive ratios. All feature paddle shifters that allow the driver to manually change gears, something we’d take advantage of, as the transmissions can be sluggish to find the right gear.
Reviewers also complain that the 4 cylinder engine’s meager 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque are anemic for the nearly 2 ton SUV’s heft in 4 Wheel Drive models. The Front Wheel Drive drivetrain is more suitable for that power plant. It will do 0-60 mph in the low 9 seconds, not slow but not as quick as the competitor CR-V’s 7 seconds.
At least fuel economy is great, at an EPA rated 21-22 mpg city and 28-31 highway(4WD/FWD). 3.2 Liter V6 models move more spryly. Their 271 horses are good for a 7.5 second 0-60 mph time and provide enough torque to pass with confidence.
Fortunately, all models drive smaller than previous Cherokees (and the Liberty it replaced). Thanks to the unibody, car-based design, steering is light and suspension is tight. The Cherokee remains planted when pushed and exhibits minimal body roll. It’s not as agile as some competitors but it’s nimble enough for most.
If trails are more your speed, the Trailhawk Cherokee is an impressive SUV. It arrives standard with a sturdier transmission and skid plates galore. There’s a locking differential to help you get up the tough stuff. The suspension is sturdier but also higher, which will affect on-road driving dynamics.
There isn’t another crossover SUV that can keep up with the Trailhawk but a body-on-frame 4Runner allows greater wheel articulation and is more capable off-road. Overall, the Cherokee delivers middle of the road performance with the added benefit of being a Jeep. It’s a little tougher than most crossovers and perhaps a bit less bland.
When you get inside this crossover, you’ll probably want to thank Jeep’s new Italian owners. Gone is the cheap plastic dash that long characterized Jeep interiors. It is a soft touch dash and materials that feel sophisticated, like those in the Cherokee’s big, dare we say “Grand,” brother. There are nice stitching details and some two-tone themes, depending on
There are nice stitching details and some two-tone themes, depending on choice of trim. The stock seats aren’t bad but some supporters claim they lack support. The optional leather seats receive high praise. Second-row legroom is ample for an SUV of this size and reclines for even more headroom and comfort.
The Uconnect infotainment system is universally well-loved for its intuitive UX design. The standard 5-inch system is on the small side and easily replaced with the 8.4 inch for few extra dollars, a box we’d definitely tick.
There are loads of nifty nooks to stash small items throughout the Cherokee but it lags behind the competition in cargo capacity with 54.9 cubic feet overall and just 24.6 cubic feet behind the rear row. Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk trims have an awesome storage compartment beneath the front passenger seat and the rear cargo floor flips up in all models to reveal yet more cargo space.
There are also several little Jeep details to remind you of its legacy, like the “since 1942” embossed on the steering wheel and jeep graphics on the window edge trim. The range-topping Overland trim provides a positively plush cabin with supple leather seating, additional leather trimmed surfaces, and a 9 speaker amplified sound system with subwoofer.
The Cherokee’s interior is one of the crossover’s strengths and packs just enough utility for the adventures we’re sure you’ll enjoy in this Jeep.
The Cherokee returned to the US market in 2014 after a 12-year hiatus. The latest generation is a complete departure from the last design, a box-like SUV featuring a body on frame chassis.
The new Cherokee is a unibody car-based crossover, sharing the platform of the now discontinued Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. FCA discontinued those models to increase production of their best-selling crossover to meet the insatiable demand. There’s a reason! The Cherokee is a sleek small SUV.
It manages to blend rugged Jeep aesthetics with the soft characteristics of a crossover. The result is a distinctive 7 port grille monopolizing the front fascia, flanked by sharp, narrow headlamps. Below, there’s a wide intake between fog lamps in some models. The side profile wears soft lines that slope upward, ever so lightly.
The wheel wells are sharp and angular, enhancing the tough side to the SUV. At the rear, modern LED headlights stand out, above bright chrome exhaust outlets, or an outlet in some trims.
There’s black plastic cladding wrapping the lower edges of the SUV in all but the Overland trim, which receives unique body-color cladding and molding. There’s no denying the Cherokee is a stylish SUV, its impressive sales figures don’t lie.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers an overall rating of 4-stars for the Jeep Cherokee, with 4-star ratings in both the frontal crash and rollover categories and a 5-star side crash rating.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers all “GOOD” crashworthiness ratings, except for the notoriously difficult small overlap front crash test where it received a “MARGINAL” rating.
The reason for the relatively low rating is two-fold. First, the integrity of the safety cage was compromised, causing a possible injury to the lower left leg, according to the dummy kinematics. Secondly, the steering column shifted 13 centimeters to the right, causing the head to miss the airbag after brief contact and slam into the dash/A-pillar.
The side curtain airbag also failed to deploy, further increasing the likelihood of a head injury. It’s worth noting that many of the bestselling competitors suffer a similar fate, like the Ford Escape. However, there are alternatives that protect the driver better in this type of collision.
As a result, we have to say the Cherokee is average when it comes to safety. It’s most likely it will perform well in most situations but this specific accident type poses a grave safety risk.
JD Power offers a 2.5 out of predicted reliability rating for the 2016-2018 Cherokees, up from the 2 out of 5 rating for the 2014 and 2015 models. The transmission in early year models is a serious problem area.
Supposedly, it’s fixable via software update but there are many complaints to the contrary. There are over 1,000 complaints filed with the NHTSA for the 2014 model alone, one of the highest figures we’ve ever seen. A vast majority are transmission related.
There was even a recall issued for certain 2014 and 2015 models for the transmission shifting into neutral unexpectedly. Consumer Reports took this into account in their abysmal 1 out of 5 rating for 2015 and 2014 models. They not several complaints of rough shifting, slipping, and even complete failure.
Our research turned up equally grim complaints. We’d avoid these year models, especially if out of warranty. The problem isn’t as common in later models, but there are still complaints filed for transmission problems in the 2016 and 2017 with the NHTSA. Jeeps, in general, do not have the best reputation for reliability. The previous Cherokee, the late nineties to early 2000’s, not the Liberty, was an exception to that rule. Several lasted 300,000+ miles.
This isn’t that Cherokee. There are reports of complete vehicle failure reported to NHTSA with less than 1,000 miles. We can’t, in good conscience, recommend the Cherokee as a reliable vehicle.
That doesn’t mean some owners won’t have a problem free Cherokee, just understand buying this SUV may be more of a gamble than alternatives.
To be honest, the Cherokee is quite outclassed by many of competitors in nearly all areas: fuel economy, handling, acceleration, and fuel economy. The one area where it truly shines is its off-road capability.
The Cherokee can take you places that no other crossover will. However, if you plan on sticking to roads like most drivers, the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V are better alternatives and come standard with more features.
Both are also available in All Wheel Drive which will handle snow and inclement weather on roads as well as any Cherokee 4WD. We could go on and on about every aspect of these crossover’s superiority, but that would be exhausting.
They both score much higher in reliability and include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. Honda offers advanced safety technology in the CR-V at an affordable price in all but lowest trim.
The Ford Escape has a much nicer interior and better driving dynamics. Unless you plan on spending your weekends tackling the great outdoors, you’re probably better off choosing one of these compact SUVs.
The Sport 4x4 trim starts at $25,695 with a 2.4 MultiAir Engine with immobilizer mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission with an auxiliary transmission oil cooler, and electronic range select that powers the Jeep Active Drive I 4x4 drivetrain. A heavy duty 160-amp alternator is standard, along with a 3.734 Final Drive Ratio, a 600-Amp maintenance free battery with run down protection, electric power steering, and engine oil cooler. On the inside, there are 6-way manually adjustable front cloth low-back bucket seats, a cloth rear 60/40 split reclining bench, rear seat heat ducts, three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets, 8 cargo tie down loops, air filtering air conditioning, cloth door trim panels with map pockets, TFT 3.5 inch cluster display, electronic vehicle information center, front and rear floor mats, and a full-length floor console. It’s also equipped with a media hub, overhead console with sunglass holder, power windows, rear armrest with cup holder, rear view mirror with microphone, speed sensitive power locks, temperature and compass gauge, tilt and telescopic steering column, USB charging port in console bin, urethane shift knob, variable intermittent windshield wipers, illuminated entry, illuminated front cup holders, and sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors. To entertain your passengers, there’s a standard 5 inch UConnect infotainment system with 6 speakers, audio jack input for mobile devices, integrated voice command with Bluetooth, and remote SD card slot. The exterior design features 17 x 7 inch full face steel wheels with 225/65R17 BSW all season tires, roof mounted Jeep Cargo Management System with utility hooks and bag kit, bi-function halogen projector headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps, body color fascias, active grille shutters, black exterior mirrors, black headlamp bezels, bright exhaust tip, chrome grille surrounds, power locking fuel filler door, power mirrors, rear window defroster, rear window wiper, removable short mast antenna, solar control glass, and aerodynamic underbody treatment. Additional features include Selec-Terrain System, 15.8 gallon fuel tank, advanced multistage front airbags, all speed traction control, driver inflatable knee bolster airbag, electronic roll mitigation, electronic roll mitigation, enhanced accident response system, hill start assist, keyless entry with panic alarm, passenger inflatable knee bolster airbag, speed control, supplemental front seat mounted side airbags, supplemental rear seat side airbags, and supplemental side curtain front and rear airbags. The Front Wheel Drive model will save you $2,000.
The Altitude 4x4 runs $26,990 and adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio controls, 18 inch x 17 inch gloss black 5-spoke aluminum wheels with BSW touring tires, Bi-Xenon High Intensity Discharge headlamps, gloss black roof rails, and gloss black grille surrounds. FWD costs $2,000 less.
The Latitude 4x4 equips a front passenger fold-flat seat, passenger in-seat cushion storage, premium cloth bucket seats, a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, an upgraded air conditioning system, one touch front power windows, ambient LED interior lighting, 17 x 7 inch aluminum wheels with BSW all season tires, automatic headlamps, fog lamps, body color door handles, body color mirrors, chrome grille surrounds, and a ParkView rear back up camera for $27,645.
The Trailhawk 4x4 has an MSRP of $31,195 and installs a different 9-speed automatic transmission with transmission skid plate, Jeep Active Drive II, Hill Descent Control II, electronic range select, Selec-Speed Crawl Control, and a 3.517 final drive ratio. Also standard is a locking rear axle, off road suspension, all season floor mats, 7 inch cluster TFT color display, leather wrapped shift knob, vinyl door trim panels, 8.4 inch Uconnect infotainment system, SiriusXM satellite radio, navigation, remote USB port, and Uconnect Access. On the Trailhawk’s exterior, there’s 17 inch x 7.5 inch aluminum wheels with OWL all terrain tires and off-road wheel flares, front suspension skid plate, fuel tank skid plate, 3 red tow hooks, and underbody skidplate.
The $31,495 4x4 Limited trim builds on the Latitude trim by providing heated front seats, leather trimmed seating, power 4-way driver lumbar support, power 8-way driver’s seat, dual zone climate control, auto dimming rearview mirror with microphone, heated steering wheel, humidity sensor, premium air filter, universal garage door opener, keyless enter n go passive entry, remote start system, security alarm, and 18 inch aluminum wheels with BSW touring tires. The Front Wheel Drive version costs $2,000 less.
The High Altitude 4x4 trim costs $32,490 and equips 18 inch x 7 inch gloss black 5-spoke aluminum wheels, gloss black roof rails, and gloss black grille surrounds to the limited trim’s standard features. A front wheel drive version will save you $2,000.
The range-topping Overland 4x4 starts at $37,695 with a premium insulation group, 3.2 Liter 24-valve V6 with VVT and start/stop, a 3.251 final drive ratio, different battery, driver and passenger 4-way power lumbar adjust, memory exterior mirrors and driver’s seat function, memory radio function, power front passenger’s seat, premium leather trimmed seating, cargo net, leather-wrapped instrument panel, power liftgate, premium Berber floor mats, wood and leather-wrapped steering wheel, 5-year SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic subscription, 9 speaker amplified audio system with subwoofer, GPS navigation, and HD Radio. The Overland is dressed with 18 inch x 7 inch polished aluminum wheels, fog and cornering lamps, body color door claddings, body color exterior sill moldings, body color fascias, body color shark fin antenna, body color wheel flares, and bright front door sill scuff pads. Blind Spot and Cross Path Detection are standard, as is the ParkSense rear park assist system. The Front Wheel Drive version costs $2,800 less.