- Lovely cabin trim
- Very good front seats
- Trailhawk off-road skills
- Lots of active-safety options
- Good infotainment
- Some styling is derivative
- Fuel economy is just okay
- 9-speed’s occasional hiccups
- Interior space arrangement
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee appeals for its adventurous side, but it isn’t as roomy as rivals.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee gets more conventional styling this year and adds a powerful turbo-4 engine. It retains its off-road prowess, especially in the Trailhawk model, and it’s comfortable on pavement too. Interior room is an issue even though interior materials are not. Crash-test results are less than stellar, though Jeep makes plenty of active safety features available.
In addition to Trailhawk, Jeep offers the Cherokee in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, and Overland trims. We rate it at 5.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Cherokee made its debut for the 2014 model year and it is updated for 2019 with new styling, a new engine, an updated infotainment system, and revised transmission and suspension tuning.
The Cherokee’s new looks do away with the oddball six-eyed look of the previous model and bring the lighting together where it’s supposed to be. The headlights are now LEDs with integrated daytime running lights, and fog lights are located below. The front end is just different enough from the Grand Cherokee to look distinct, but the family resemblance is obvious. The rest of the body is rather generic, however.
Inside, the Cherokee is attractive and functional but lacks the space of rivals. The interior color choices are named after exotic locations, and Jeep updated the infotainment system with faster processors, a larger 7.0-inch touchscreen on base models, and standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
The rear seat moves forward and back up to six inches, but moving it fully back cuts into an already small cargo area. Jeep carved out a little extra space back there by widening the cargo hold, but at 54.9 cubic feet with the rear seats down, it’s at least 15 cubic feet smaller than roomier competitors. The Cherokee also isn’t as wide as some rivals, so occupants won’t have as much elbow room.
Under the hood, Jeep added a new 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine that makes 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It’s the fastest Cherokee and quicker than the 271-hp 3.2-liter V-6. The base engine is a rather weak 2.4-liter 4-cylinder. All three are mated to a 9-speed automatic that is less troublesome this year.
The V-6 can tow up to 4,500 pounds and the new turbo-4 can pull 4,000 pounds. New suspension tuning makes the Cherokee slightly smoother on the road, and the handling remains controlled but far from sporty.
With three all-wheel-drive systems, no competitor offers the off-road prowess of the Cherokee. That’s especially true in the Trailhawk model that adds knobbier tires, additional ground clearance, improved approach and departure angles, and skid plates. All AWD Cherokees also have a Selec-Terrain system to deal with tough surfaces. Jeep offers two types of low-range gearing to handle climbing and hill descent duties as well.
While crash-test scores are less than ideal, Jeep offers many active safety features. The amenities list is long, too, with things like nappa leather, a heated steering wheel, ventilated front seats, and a configurable LED gauge screen.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee sports a more cohesive exterior design to go with its fashionable cockpit.
For 2019, Jeep has updated the controversial styling that turned off many when the Cherokee was released. The new look is more cohesive and it gives the Cherokee the appearance of a baby Grand Cherokee, which is a good thing. Combine that with a fashionable interior and we give the Cherokee a 7 for styling, adding one point for the body and one point for the interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The funky, separated lighting that gave the Cherokee a sleepy face is gone. The daytime running lights are now part of the headlights, which are now standard LEDs that sit where headlights should. Fog lights are standard and they sit in the lower corners of the front fascia. The seven-slat grille is still angled, but the look is much more pleasing than it had been.
As for the rest of the body, the Cherokee could be any other crossover SUV from the from the headlights back. It’s almost overly conventional, though the Trailhawk stands out with its blacked-out bumpers and wheel flares, as well as its black hood insert. Those bumpers are also reshaped for an underbite that improves the approach and departure angles.
Inside, the Cherokee is fashionable and more car-like than rugged. There are plenty of plastics but also more soft-touch surfaces than expected. Jeep names colors after exotic places such as Morocco or Mount Kilimanjaro. Easter Eggs such as an old-school set of Jeeps in the park-assist screen and an etched Jeep in the base of the windshield glass, where it appears to be driving through Arches National Park, show off Jeep’s sense of humor.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee combines competent on-road manners with unmatched off-road prowess in the class, and it now offers a robust turbo-4 engine.
The Jeep Cherokee combines competent on-road manners with traditional Jeep off-road prowess, and this year it adds a turbo-4 engine that becomes the fastest in the lineup. The base engine is lacking, though. We award a point for the Cherokee’s go-anywhere capability, bringing the total to 6 out of 10 for performance. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder produces 180 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, while the next step up is a 3.2-liter V-6 that makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque and comes standard in some models. New this year is a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that spins out 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of twist, and is offered as a premium engine on all but the base model.
The base engine will serve most commuters just adequately. It moves the Cherokee from 0-60 mph in a leisurely 10.5 seconds, though it feels stronger with front-wheel drive.
The 0-60 time drops to 7.5 seconds with the V-6, and the refinement improves.
It gets even better with the turbo-4. The 0-60 time falls to 7.0 seconds and the additional torque makes this the engine of choice for the toughest off-roading situations.
All engines come with stop/start, but fuel economy isn’t a strong point for any of them.
They are all also mated to a problematic 9-speed automatic. This transmission has suffered from jerky gear changes and delayed upshifts and downshifts, but Jeep has re-tuned it this year. Instead of aiming for fuel economy, engineers are now going for drivability. That means the transmission won’t try to upshift so quickly, and fewer shifts mean power is more readily available.
On the road, the 9-speed is improved. It doesn’t search for gears as often, but it isn’t nearly as responsive as the new 9-speed that General Motors is using in vehicles like the Buick Regal and Chevrolet Equinox. One way to make the transmission better is to use the Selec-Terrain system’s Sport mode, which holds gears longer, splits the torque 40/60 front to rear, and tops out in seventh gear on the highway. We’d also like to see steering wheel shift paddles.
Jeep has updated the suspension for 2019 and tweaked the springs, dampers, roll bars, and bushings for a slightly smoother ride. The ride was already fairly smooth, and the changes only make it more comfortable, especially in the Trailhawk with its taller tires. The suspension tweaks do nothing to improve the rather uncommunicative but perfectly competent handling. The steering offers little feedback and can be a bit too heavy, but it points the Cherokee in the right direction every time.
When equipped with a V-6, the Cherokee can tow up to 4,500 pounds. The turbo-4 can tow 4,000 pounds, and the 2.4 can pull 2,000 pounds.
Jeep Cherokee off-roading
The Cherokee offers three all-wheel drive systems and one dedicated off-road-oriented model. The base AWD system is Active Drive I, which features a wet clutch and a new rear-drive module that cuts 17 pounds. It’s an automatic system that can send some power from the front to the rear wheels, and it has no low-range gearing.
Active Drive II delivers a simulated low range and a crawl ratio of 51.2:1 via the automatic transmission’s low set of gears when paired with the turbo-4. Cherokees with this system can conquer two-track mudpaths, rocky surfaces, and steep hills with relative ease. Selec-Terrain helps when needed with its Snow, Sand/Mud, and Rock settings. All of the modes work with various vehicle systems, including the transmission, throttle, and traction control, to help the Cherokee deal with various types of terrain. Active Drive II also can declutch the rear axle to conserve fuel.
Active-Drive Lock comes with a true two-speed transfer case and an electronically activated mechanical rear differential lock. That lock ensures that both tires on the rear axle are churning no matter the surface.
The Cherokee Trailhawk is the choice for off-road enthusiasts. It has unique front and rear bumpers to improve the approach and departure angles, taller tires that raise the breakover angle, skid plates, and red tow hooks. It also comes with Selec-Speed control, which works like a low-speed cruise control for uphill or downhill runs. This system has nine settings, one for each transmission gear, between 0.6 and 9 mph. Selec-Speed is great for controlling the Cherokee’s speed through tight, technical terrain or on hills.
With 8.7 inches of ground clearance, the Cherokee Trailhawk is an adventure vehicle in a class of family haulers.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee benefits from soft-touch materials, but it offers less rear seat and cargo space than rivals.
The compact Jeep Cherokee is about as long as but narrower than most of its rivals. It doesn’t bother with a mostly useless third-row seat, and its rear cargo room trails the competition. However, its rear seat moves forward and back, and the interior materials are a cut above for the class. We give it a 7 for comfort and quality based on usable space and those materials. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Cherokee’s interior materials are a notch above the competition and Jeep has updated the look this year with contrasting lighter colors on lower panels. The dash, door panels, and armrests are all soft to touch and feature low-gloss surfaces that absorb light. The switchgear moves smoothly, and the whole effect is pleasing and even a bit upscale. Powertrain noises are also well muted.
Space is an issue for the Cherokee. At 182 inches long, with a wheelbase that ranges from 106.5 to 107 inches, the Cherokee is about as long as the rest of the class, but it is skinnier. Front leg room measures a plentiful 41.1 inches and rear leg room is fine at 40.3 inches when the rear seat is pushed back (it moves forward and back up to six inches).
That width means bigger drivers might come into contact with the door panels or center console and three across in the rear won’t be as comfortable. Limited and Overland models have the best seats; they have ample bolsters and nappa leather surfaces. We’ve also found that taller drivers can have an issue because the steering wheel is tilted away slightly at the top and the windshield frame sits a bit low.
That sliding rear seat can leave enough rear leg and knee room, but when pushed fully back, the rear seat cuts into cargo space.
Jeep widened the cargo area this year to carve out another 1.2 cubic feet of space in the back with the rears seats up. The top total is 29.1 cubic feet with the rear seats pushed forward. That shrinks to 24.6 cubic feet with the rear seats pushed all the way back. Fold those seats down, and the total is 54.9 cubic feet, which is at least 15 cubic feet less than the most spacious rivals. Thankfully, Jeep offers a cargo-management system with eight tie-downs to secure grocery bags.
Small-items storage is quite good, though. The Cherokee has a deep glove box, a generous center console, a pair of cupholders in front of the center console, a bin at the top of the center stack, and a slot for cellphones at the base of the center stack.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
The Jeep Cherokee’s middling crash-test ratings are somewhat offset by lots of available safety equipment.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee has not yet been crash-tested, but its structure hasn’t changed with its update, so its middling crash-test scores shouldn’t change. It comes with a decent amount of safety features, though, and more are available for most models.
Based on its anticipated crash-test scores, we give it a 4 out of 10 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year’s results aren’t in yet, but the IIHS said the last Cherokee received “Good” scores in most tests, though it only scored “Marginal” in the tough small-overlap front-impact test. New headlights could help its overall score, but the small overlap results prevent any kind of Top Safety Pick award.
The NHTSA gave the previous Cherokee four stars out of five overall, with four stars in most tests and five in the side impact test. Those are below average.
Standard safety features in the 2019 Jeep Cherokee include eight airbags (the usual plus rear side bags and knee bags for the driver and front passenger), a rearview camera, hill-start assist, and trailer sway control. Blind-spot monitors and rear cross-path detection are standard for Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk trims. Those models also can get the optional Technology Group, which adds forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
With a range of models and host of options, 2018 Jeep Cherokee buyers can outfit their vehicles to suit their needs.
With five models, three engines, three all-wheel-drive systems, a dedicated off-road variant, and a host of options, Jeep Cherokee buyers can have it their way. That variety and an improved version of an already fine infotainment system give the Cherokee a score of 7 out of 10 for features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The model lineup consists of Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk models. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is standard in the Latitude, Latitude Plus, and the front-wheel-drive version of the Limited. The rest of the models get the 3.2-liter V-6 as standard. The new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder is optional on all but the Latitude.
When buyers choose four-wheel drive, they get the base Active Drive I system in all but the Trailhawk model and they can upgrade to Active Drive II in all but the Latitude. The Trailhawk comes with Active Drive Lock. Active Drive II simulates low-range gearing, while Active Drive Lock has a two-speed transfer case with real low-range gearing, plus a mechanical locking rear differential that is electronically actuated.
The Latitude’s standard equipment consists of automatic LED headlights, fog lights, roof rails, 17-inch steel wheels, eight cargo-area tiedowns, cloth upholstery, a six-way manually adjustable driver’s seat, power accessories, air conditioning, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. It gets an updated infotainment system with a center touchscreen that grows from 5.0 to 7.0 inches this year. Other infotainment features include a USB port, an auxiliary jack, two 12-volt outlets, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker audio system.
The Latitude Plus adds alloy wheels, cloth and vinyl upholstery, power eight-way driver’s seat and power four-way front passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, keyless ignition, satellite radio, and additional USB ports.
The Limited trim level adds a power liftgate, memory for the driver’s seat and exterior mirrors, 18-inch wheels, a windshield wiper deicer, blind-spot monitors, a 7.0-inch information display in the instrument panel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, nappa leather upholstery, heated front seats with four-way power lumbar adjustment, a heated steering wheel, an 8.4-inch center touchscreen, remote starting, rear cross-path detection, and a universal garage door opener.
The Overland is even swankier, with a hands-free power liftgate, 19-inch wheels, a rear tonneau cover, perforated nappa leather seats that are heated and cooled, navigation, five years of real-time traffic, and a nine-speaker Alpine audio system that puts out 506 watts of power.
The Trailhawk is equipped for off-roading, with an off-road suspension, taller and knobbier 17-inch tires, and a rear fascia skid plate. Otherwise, it is mostly equipped like the Latitude Plus, though it also adds the 7.0-inch instrument panel screen, the 8.4-inch touchscreen, dual-zone automatic climate control, and blind-spot monitors.
Options include higher-end equipment for lower-end models, plus several notable option packages. The Heavy Duty Protection package adds skid plates for the fuel tank, front suspension, transmission and underbody, plus a full-size spare.
A SafetyTec Group comes with blind-spot monitors, rear cross-path detection, and rear park assist. A Technology Group adds forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking. A Trailer Tow Group comes with heavy-duty engine cooling for the 3.2- and 2.0-liter engines, an auxiliary transmission oil cooler, a Class III hitch receiver, 4- and 7-pin wiring harnesses, and a full-size spare tire.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee gets just average fuel economy for its class.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee drops some weight and adds stop/start technology to all engines instead of just the V-6, but its 9-speed automatic transmission is retuned for drivability instead of fuel economy. Jeep says fuel economy should improve, but the numbers for the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder improve only slightly, while the ratings for the 3.2-liter V-6 drop slightly.
The new turbo-4 is a bit more efficient than the base engine, but with any engine the Cherokee still gets middling fuel economy ratings and it remains a 4 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With front-wheel drive, the EPA rates the 2.4-liter Cherokee at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, 25 combined. With all-wheel drive, those numbers fall to 21/29/24 mpg.
The new turbo-4 gets slightly better ratings, but it requires premium gasoline. It is rated at 23/31/26 mpg with front drive, 21/29/24 mpg with Active Drive I, 20/27/23 mpg with Active Drive II, and 20/26/22 mpg in the Trailhawk.
The V-6 requires mid-grade gasoline. It is rated at 20/29/23 mpg with front drive, 19/27/22 mpg with Active Drive I, 18/26/21 mpg with Active Drive II, and 18/24/21 mpg in the Trailhawk.