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FWD 4-Door SportRegular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 22,646||$ 22,995|
FWD 4-Door LatitudeRegular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 23,997||$ 24,695|
FWD 4-Door LimitedRegular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 27,438||$ 28,395|
4WD 4-Door SportRegular Unleaded I-4, 2.4 L
Four Wheel Drive
|$ 24,581||$ 24,995|
An all-new Cherokee returned this past year, and it has some big shoes to fill. The original 'XJ' Cherokees, introduced for 1984, were tough, yet economical enough and charmingly simple, and they arguably shaped the future of sport-utility vehicles.
Flash forward to 2015, and the current Cherokee is definitely inspired by the nameplate's history but clearly more of a mainstream pick ready for family duty—and an alternative to models like the Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, and Toyota RAV4. It’s fortunate that, for the U.S., this new model makes a clean break from its Liberty predecessor and brings back the Cherokee name—because in a lot of ways, the Cherokee answers that call for today’s market, while also giving props to the success of the larger Grand Cherokee.
And while you might see some common cues, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee is nothing like the squared-off, bare-bones SUV that exited the market back in 2001. With the Cherokee, the brand is beefing up its crossover game with a vehicle that can really bridge the on- and off-road worlds. The Cherokee may be the first compact SUV to do both equally well—a city-friendly crossover stuffed with the heart of a Trail Rated Jeep. From the inside out, it does a convincing job of delivering Jeep essentials--ruggedness and a general zest for things outdoorsy.
As for how it does that...well, not everyone is going to be a fan of the exterior. The sheetmetal doesn't straddle this middle ground between Jeep's heritage, contemporary crossovers, and an edgy new direction with the greatest of ease, and it flutters between brain-fighting experimentation and duller design by default. This Liberty replacement, Dart derivative, Compass mea culpa tries to define a new era in SUV design, but gives up about a fifth of the way through. The front end splits its headlamps and underplays the grille—the one design detail that connotes Jeep no matter where it's seen, around the world. Those are unforgivable but reworkable flaws—and frankly, quirks that some will like. The rest of the body impresses as warmed-over leftovers, with a heavy reliance on crossover fallbacks in glass area and fender sculpting—rehashed Hyundai, inherited Grand Cherokee. The cabin does paramedic duty here, healing up all that poorly thought-out stretching with some palliative shapes and some truly nice finishes and Easter-egg touches (consider it a challenge to find all the hidden Jeeps inside).
The Cherokee really sizes right in with models that would be called compacts in the U.S., like the CR-V, Forester, and Escape. Jeep might call it a mid-sizer, but it's right in with those models. There’s no third-row seat, but it's a relatively roomy five-seater, with a back seat that’s suitable for adults—or even asking three to sit across for shorter distances--but the jutting front headrests might enforce a slouching position that robs some of that rear-seat space. The second row slides fore and aft to choose between legroom and cargo space, and there’s a handy organizer for the more retentive fans.
2015 Jeep Cherokee offers a choice between a four-cylinder engine and a V-6—which helps it stand out in a class that includes several models that have gone all-four-cylinder. The standard 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter in-line four is plenty strong for quick acceleration (as well as smooth and quiet for this class), provided there isn't too much weight aboard. The other new 3.2-liter V-6 makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque; it's torquey and generally happy with whatever work you throw its way. With the V-6 and a Trailer Tow Package, the Cherokee can pull 4,500 pounds. No matter which version, the Cherokee has fairly numb but accurate steering, with a well-tuned and well-damped ride.
The Cherokee also sports a new ZF nine-speed automatic, with a lower first gear for quick takeoffs, plus some tall upper gears for good mileage on the highway. The top figure of 31 mpg highway isn't class-leading, but we've seen close to it in real-world conditions; 4WD models post a few mpg lower. One thing that should help improve the mileage of V-6 models -- in real-world stop-and-go driving, if not in official EPA ratings -- is the introduction of engine stop-start (ESS) in all 2015 Cherokee V-6s.
Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk editions are offered, with each model serving a different kind of buyer. Sport and Latitude models appeal to cost- and value-conscious families, while Limited models are the luxurious flagships of the lineup and Trailhawk models are ready for the trail. Jeep's Trail-Rated badge applies to the Trailhawk, and it 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. 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 with four-cylinder engines, its crawl ratio is an astonishingly good 56:1.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has rated the Cherokee at four stars overall, a score it earns in all but side-impact tests -- where it's given five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives it good scores on all tests, save for a small-overlap test not yet performed. The Cherokee offers a number of sophisticated active-safety and convenience features that are still relatively rare in this mainstream class -- including available adaptive cruise control that can bring it to a full stop if an impending collision is detected; optional lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems are also an option; and blind-spot monitors and parking sensors that can also trigger the vehicle to a full stop at low speeds, if obstacles are detected.
For 2015 Jeep has already taken the Cherokee's safety kit and improved it in many respects. Latitude and Trailhawk models now include a ParkView backup camera plus automatic headlamps. And on Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk models, there's a new package that combines Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross-Path Detection, ParkSense rear park assist, and signal mirrors with courtesy lamps. About the only thing missing in the Cherokee's safety feature set is a clever surround-view camera system, which would be a boon for off-road use.
The 2015 Cherokee also offers more options than you'll find in most other affordable crossovers -- if you're willing to spend extra, of course. Highlights include a CommandView panoramic sunroof and Sky Slider roof, memory heated/ventilated seats, and soft Nappa leather upholstery with ventilated front seats in the top Limited model. Infotainment systems include 8.4-inch Uconnect media center audio-streaming app connectivity (Pandora and Slacker, among others); and top models include a full-color reconfigurable LED instrument cluster.
- Sharp new look
- Family-sized interior (albeit with no third row)
- Front seat comfort
- Good even with the base engine
- Active-safety equipment
Next: Interior / Exterior »
- Doesn't go all-in with styling
- Numb steering
- 4WD tasks too much for four-cyl?
- Gas mileage okay but not excellent