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Thirty years ago, the Jeep Cherokee broadened the way a generation looked at SUVs, and models from this outdoorsy, utility-minded brand. Now the 2014 Jeep Cherokee essentially does it again; the Cherokee is back, and it’s refocusing toward the new heart of the market—a market that it arguably heralded.
Officially, the Cherokee replaces the Liberty in the lineup—the same model that replaced it a decade ago. But it also gives the brand a more mainstream entry in the heart of the market for affordable, family-oriented crossover vehicles. The 2014 Cherokee is built on a new platform, derived in part from the modified Fiat underpinnings used for the Dodge Dart, as well as the upcoming replacements for the Dodge Avenger and Chrysler 200 mid-size sedans.
Jeep calls the new Cherokee a mid-sizer, however it’s really sized quite closely with compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4—at about 182 inches long, with a wheelbase of 103 inches, only a few inches longer than those models, at most, but definitely a half-size down from the likes of the Dodge Journey and Chevrolet Equinox. There’s no third-row seat, but this is a roomy five-seater, with a back seat that’s suitable for adults—or even asking three to sit across for shorter distances. The second row slides fore and aft to choose between legroom and cargo space (aided by a special cargo-management system), and there’s a handy. Depending on the model, there’s a choice between cloth or plush Nappa leather upholstery.
The most controversial part of the Cherokee is its front-end styling—most notably its front end that splits the traditional slotted Jeep grille between the upright snout and the rather low hoodline; overall the front of the Cherokee is smooth and contoured, and uniquely Jeep. From the side, the Cherokee looks more conventional, and in back it could even be mistaken for a Kia Sportage. Inside, the Cherokee’s look is sporty and not at all trucklike—blending some of the look and switchgear of the new Dodge Dart into a more upright dash.
While several models in this class have gone all-four-cylinder, the Cherokee will offer a choice between a four-cylinder or a V-6. The standard engine on the Cherokee will be a 2.4-liter in-line four making 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet, while a new 3.2-liter version of the Pentastar V-6 is available, making 271 hp and 239 lb-ft. Throughout the lineup, the Cherokee will feature a new ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, allowing a lower first gear for quick takeoffs, combined with several tall overdrive upper gears for good highway mileage.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee will be offered in Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk editions, with Jeep's Trail-Rated badge applying to the Trailhawk, which gets a one-inch lift, unique front and rear fascias, an Active Drive Lock and locking rear differential, added skid plates, and red tow hooks. As with other Jeep models, there are several different four-wheel drive systems, including Active Drive I, and Active Drive II (adding a dual-range transfer case). All models with 4WD have the Selec-Terrain system, with separate ’smart’ modes for Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock, and in low-range models, its crawl ratio is an astonishingly good 56:1, which Jeep says is 90 percent better than that of the Liberty.
Although Chrysler hasn't yet released full fuel economy ratings for the Cherokee, it says that with the four-cylinder engine it should earn 31 mpg highway and can go nearly 500 miles on a gallon of gas—and both engines run on regular-grade fuel. With the V-6 and a Trailer Tow Package, the Cherokee can pull 4,500 pounds.
Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus is available, for the first time in any Chrysler or Jeep vehicle. The system can bring the vehicle to a complete stop; meanwhile, a Forward Collision Warning-Plus system will help prime the braking system, warn audibly and visually, and even deploy Advanced Brake Assist to quicken braking times. Another first in the Cherokee is the ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist feature, which will steer the vehicle into a driver-designated space. Blind-spot monitoring, Lane Departure Warning-Plus, and Rear Cross Path detection are also on offer, as is a rear backup camera. Electronic stability control is standard, along with ten airbags.
Highlights from the features list include a CommandView panoramic sunroof and Sky Slider roof, with memory heated/ventilated seats, and infotainment systems include 8.4-inch Uconnect media center, plus Uconnect Access via Mobile; top models include a full-color reconfigurable LED instrument cluster.
The Cherokee will begin reaching dealerships by late summer.
- Aero front styling that fits
- Roomy, family-friendly interior
- Seat comfort
- Available V-6
- Nine (!) speeds
- Snout aside, looks ‘soft’
- Bland rear styling