2018 Jeep Cherokee Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
March 30, 2018

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee performs its crossover chores as asked, but loves the off-road tasks more.

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee is a rough-and-tumble crossover SUV that could've only come from Jeep. Its ability off-road is unquestionable, its looks and utility are. It lags rivals in space and crash-test scores, which are important factors for buyers.

With the Cherokee, Jeep offers a wide range of trim levels. It starts with Latitude and ascends to Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk hardware. A rearview camera was made standard for 2018.

We give it at 5.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Review continues below

The Cherokee represented a clean break from Jeep’s past when it was new in 2014. Its oddly tiered front end, thin-slatted grille and bland crossover rear end were supposed to predict Jeeps of the future—but then came Renegade, and Compass. The Cherokee’s wan styling is a big blemish, but the cabin gets extra credit for its neatly organized space and myriad clever touches, as well as lovely colors and textures.

The Cherokee draws power from either a 184-horsepower inline-4 or a 271-hp V-6. The 4-cylinder’s fine for commuters, provided there aren’t too many of them on board. The torquey V-6 means even with more passengers and available all-wheel drive, brisk highway passes are never more than a gear or two away. That said, the Cherokee’s 9-speed automatic sometimes judders through shifts, and doesn’t grant direct control over gear changes.

Equipped with available tow packages, the Cherokee can pull up to 4,500 pounds. It handles with the predictable mien of a crossover. It steers numbly but quickly, and the well-damped ride doesn’t suffer on even the big 18-inch wheels. Gas mileage lingers in the low 20-mpg range with all-wheel drive, markedly lower than some of its competition.

No competitor can promise the off-road capability of the Cherokee Trailhawk, though. With knobbier tires, more ground clearance, driver-selectable traction programs, and a simulated low range, the Trailhawk doesn’t leave much territory out of reach.

Interior space measures up well on the spec sheet, but the five-seat Cherokee’s space is narrow and long. Shoulder room for three adults in back is questionable, but leg room abounds thanks to a sliding second-row seat. Cargo space is good, and there’s ample small-item storage in the cabin.

Crash-test scores aren’t great, but all Cherokees now have a rearview camera, and some come with forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.

Power features are standard, as is Bluetooth with audio streaming. Upmarket models have an excellent infotainment system with a sharp 8.4-inch touchscreen. Luxe options can trim out the Cherokee with nice touches like nappa leather, ventilated front seats, and a configurable LED gauge screen.

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2018 Jeep Cherokee

Styling

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee sports a lovely cockpit, but weirdly banal sheet metal renders that cabin a moot point.

From Renegade to Grand Cherokee, Jeep knows what its past and its future look like.

It skipped a generation with the Cherokee. Remember the boxy XJ? Designers tossed out that rugged playbook and slapped a wan face on a me-too crossover body when they designed the latest Cherokee.

We give it a 6 for styling, with extra points for its interior and a docked point for its weirdly banal body. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Let’s start with the nice things, which means turning our styling review inside-out. The Cherokee’s cabin is clothed in fine fashion, smooth and not at all trucklike. It’s robed in petroleum derivatives, sure, but these plastics are chosen and organized well—even color-matched to exotic palettes Jeep imagines you might visit one day, from Morocco to Mount Kilimanjaro. (You may know these colors simply as brown and gray.)

Jeep also displays a vivid sense of humor to match its tactile awareness. Designers drew in an old-school set of Jeeps in the newfangled park-assist screen, and etched a small but perfectly formed Jeep in the glass at the base of the windshield, where it tackles a sensor as if it’s about to trundle through Arches National Park.

Keep those happy thoughts in mind when you step outside and look at the Cherokee’s savaged grille. The wide, chromey bars are inverted here into thin body-color ribs trimmed in metallic plastic. The headlights are broken into LED running lights at eyebrow level, the headlights themselves sunk deeper into the face. Where’s the square-jawed Jeep that liberated us from egg-shaped crossovers for decades? This is a face that looks like it woke up five minutes before its alarm clock, and still can’t get over it, hours into the day.

From the nose on back, the Cherokee may as well be a Santa Fe Sport or CR-V. It’s conventional beyond the pale, with none of the timeless mainstream appeal of the current Grand Cherokee.

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2018 Jeep Cherokee

Performance

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee leaves its SUV roots untouched; it’s decent on pavement, but excels off-road.

The Jeep Cherokee taps Fiat Chrysler car hardware for performance, but extracts great off-road capability from those bits.

It’s great at trail-riding, but could use some more brilliance in its acceleration and handling. We give it a 6 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

With the standard 4-cylinder, the Cherokee serves commuters just fine. The 2.4-liter engine makes 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. With front-wheel drive, it’s strong enough, and its powertrain noises have been damped out well.

The available 3.2-liter V-6 turns in a strong 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque, though it adds weight. It’s north of 4,000 pounds in some trim levels, but delivers on refinement and confident, quick acceleration. V-6 Cherokees also have stop/start, but fuel economy isn’t a notably strong point.

Both engines deliver power to the wheels via a 9-speed automatic, staged with a couple of very low gears for good take-off, a trio of overdrive gears, and a handful of mid-range gears. The wide range of ratios extracts plenty even from the inline-4, but we’ve observed some jerky gear changes and delayed upshifts. Direct control over gears in the form of shift paddles would help. Otherwise, the best way to control the Cherokee’s transmission is to slip it into Sport mode, where it sharpens its responses to what we consider normal range.

The Cherokee can be rated to tow up to 4,500 pounds. Coupled with its off-road ability, that makes it the only Swiss Army knife in the crossover-SUV drawer.

There’s nothing overtly sporty or communicative about its handling, but the Cherokee has predictable manners. The steering carries too much weight and little feedback, but it’s accurate even with all-season tires. The Cherokee rides well, too, though the Trailhawk’s off-road tires and ground clearance are better at soaking up terrible stretches of road than are base Cherokees with passenger-car tires.

Jeep Cherokee off-roading

All-wheel drive comes in three different flavors in the Cherokee. A wet-clutch Active Drive I system can send some power from the front to the rear wheels, but has no low-range operation. It’s offered on 4-cylinder Cherokees.

Active Drive II delivers a simulated low range and a crawl ratio of 56:1 via the automatic transmission’s low set of gears. It’s able to tug the Cherokee through two-track mudpaths and over rocks with relative ease. Selec-Terrain augments this with selectable drive programs that tailor the drivetrain responses to handle rocks, snow, mud and sand, or sport. Snow mode starts in second gear, for example, for less wheelspin; Sport sets a power split of 40/60. This AWD system can even declutch its rear wheels to save fuel.

The Cherokee Trailhawk has Selec-Speed control, a sort of low-speed cruise control for uphill climb, good for up to 5 mph. Trailhawks also have reshaped front and rear bumpers for better approach and departure angles, a 1-inch suspension lift, skid plates, a locking rear differential, and red tow hooks. With ground clearance of 8.7 inches, the Cherokee Trailhawk is nearly alone in its class, in terms of true off-road capability.

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2018 Jeep Cherokee

Comfort & Quality

Oddly arranged space leaves the 2018 Jeep Cherokee with less rear-seat room than some other compact crossover SUVs.

Sized in a niche somewhere between the Ford Escape and the Honda CR-V, the compact Jeep Cherokee crossover SUV skips a useless third-row seat.

Its five-seat cabin has its foibles, though. We give it a 6 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

According to the specifications, the Cherokee has a wheelbase of about 106 inches, is about 182 inches long, and doles out 41.1 inches of front-seat leg room, and 40.3 inches of back-seat leg room.

That space is arranged in a slightly narrower, longer way than the space in chief rivals. It makes for a tighter fit across the cabin, where big drivers might touch the console and door panels more readily than in the spacious Honda. Tall drivers may have a difficult time finding a comfortable position, since the steering wheel is tilted slightly away at its top, and since the windshield frame sits rather low. The seats change by model, too, and most are good, but the best ones are in the Limited, where nappa leather wraps their ample bolsters. The Cherokee’s headrests push too far forward for ideal comfort.

The rear seat doesn’t have a lot of knee room, so passengers will need to compromise with those in front. The back seat can slide on a track to expand passenger space, but cuts into cargo room, and vice versa.

Small-item storage abounds inside the Cherokee, with places for smartphones, a deep glovebox, and a bin at the top of the center stack. In the cargo zone, the cargo floor sits high, which trims space to 54.9 cubic feet of room behind the front seats, or 24.6 cubic feet when the rear seats are up and in use. The front passenger seat folds down so long objects can be carried diagonally, and the Cherokee has a cargo-management system with a hanging grocery bag.

Jeep finishes the Cherokee cabin with lots of low-gloss, high-quality materials. The buttons and switches move smoothly, and in general, feel more expensive than they might. The Cherokee’s powertrain noises filter out well, too.

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2018 Jeep Cherokee

Safety

The Jeep Cherokee posts disappointing crash-test ratings.

The Jeep Cherokee is fairly new, but struggles with modern crash-test regimens.

We give it a 4 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The IIHS says the Cherokee gets “Good” scores in most tests, but merits only a “Marginal” in the tough small-overlap front-impact test. That keeps it from any Top Safety Pick awards.

The NHTSA gives the Cherokee a four-star overall score. In most tests it’s rated at four stars, but in side-impact tests it garnered five stars.

The Cherokee’s performance is surprising, given its 10 standard airbags. This year it adds a standard rearview camera. On most models, Jeep offers blind-spot monitors and automatic park assistance, and some versions can be fitted with forward-collision warnings and automatic emergency braking.

Outward vision is fairly good in the Cherokee, but we’d still recommend those safety systems as they become increasingly prevalent, even standard, on competitive vehicles.

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2018 Jeep Cherokee

Features

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee has plentiful options and an excellent infotainment system.

Jeep offers five distinct Cherokee SUVs for the 2018 model year: the Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and Trailhawk. (The former Sport is now the Latitude, and Latitude Plus is the former Latitude, if you must know.)

With its long list of options, hardcore Trailhawk model, and excellent infotainment, we give it a features score of 7. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Base Latitude Cherokees get standard cloth seats, power features, cruise control, keyless entry, air conditioning, a rearview camera, 17-inch wheels with all-season tires, and a 5.0-inch touchscreen audio system with a USB port and Bluetooth with audio streaming. Options include satellite radio, all-wheel drive, a CD player, heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

With the Latitude Plus, the Cherokee adds an 8.4-inch touchscreen with smartphone-app connectivity, cloth seats with leather panels, an eight-way power driver seat, a 115-volt outlet, keyless ignition, and satellite radio. Jeep’s infotainment system has clear layouts, a responsive and lag-free screen, and in-car data services available for a monthly fee. Options on the Latitude Plus include the V-6 engine, a more advanced all-wheel-drive setup, a 506-watt audio system, remote start, and a panoramic roof.

The Cherokee Limited takes all the Latitude Plus gear and adds leather, 18-inch wheels, satellite radio, remote start, power heated front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control. Newly standard for 2018 are blind-spot monitors, rear parking sensors, and a power tailgate.

Options include navigation, Alpine audio, wireless smartphone charging, towing and comfort packages, nappa leather, cooled front seats, remote start, a panoramic sunroof, and and a tech package with lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, blind-spot monitors, and parking sensors.

Cherokee Overland add to Limited models a leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood add-ons, power-adjustable passenger seat, nappa leather all the way around, fog lights up front and dual exhausts in back. The V-6 is standard with all-wheel drive on Overland models, but optional on front-drivers.

The Trailhawk is the top of the Cherokee lineup. On Latitude Plus gear, it adds a tougher suspension and more ground clearance, tow hooks, transmission and oil coolers, skid plates, new front and rear bumpers for better departure angles, grade-climb control, blind-spot monitors, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, and 17-inch wheels and OWL all-terrain tires. Navigation, Alpine audio, V-6 power, and various packages are options.

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2018 Jeep Cherokee

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Jeep Cherokee posts only middling gas mileage.

With a 4-cylinder engine and 9-speed automatic in its toolkit, the 2018 Jeep Cherokee still posts only middling fuel economy ratings.

Based on its EPA-rated economy, it’s a 6 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

A 2.4-liter inline-4 powers many of the lower-priced Cherokee crossover SUVs. When it’s configured with front-wheel drive, the 4-cylinder Cherokee checks in at 21 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined. With its more basic all-wheel-drive system, the numbers fall to 21/28/23 mpg. With the more rugged Active Drive II setup, it loses 1 mpg on the highway cycle.

V-6 Cherokees with front-wheel drive are rated at 21/29/24 mpg. With all-wheel drive, they are pegged at 20/27/23 mpg. The more advanced Active Drive II system with the V-6 musters EPA ratings of 18/26/21 mpg.

These V-6 models come with stop/start, which turns off the engine at stoplights and other long pauses, in the name of saving gas.

With the Trailhawk model, the Jeep Cherokee 4-cylinder posts EPA ratings of 19/25/22 mpg. V-6 Trailhawks? They’re set at 18/24/21 mpg. Heavier curb weights account for the Trailhawk’s lower numbers.

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$24,395
MSRP based on Latitude FWD
 
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5.8
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 6
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 4
Features 7
Fuel Economy 6
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  • 2018 Cherokee supplies looking good
  • Factory rebate up to $4,000
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  • New 0% APR for 60 months + up to $1,500 bonus
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