By on March 6, 2014

2014 jeep cherokee at sunrise

This is the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. By now, you’ve probably even seen it out on the road. For sure, you’ve seen it in pictures and likely reacted viscerally.

Shut up.

2014 jeep cherokee rear view

If running the King of the Hammers is on your “to do” list, your Jeep is the Wrangler. While it’s available in four-door Unlimited form, it makes a preposterous family car.  The Liberty, which the new Cherokee replaces, did better with families but was still happier on unimproved roads than filling the back with boxes full of “New and Improved!”

Even the beloved XJ Cherokee, a family vehicle thanks to fashion-conscious families with money to blow, was not roomy or frugal. The 2014 Cherokee is the best family-car Jeep in more than a generation. That’s because the Cherokee actually is a family car. The Compact US-Wide platform, the stuff of cars like the Dodge Dart and the upcoming 2015 Chrysler 200, forms the basis of the 2014 Cherokee.

Is it weird that Jeep, the quintessential American nameplate, is basing its latest entry on passenger cars from Europe? It’s a talking point, but it probably doesn’t matter. Besides, the XJ had a whole bunch of French stuff in it, courtesy of Renault. All you really need to know is this: because it’s car based, the Cherokee is the best mid-range Jeep in…forever.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-008

The 2014 Cherokee fits in right above the Compass/Patriot and just below the Grand Cherokee. Enthusiasm for the new Cherokee has followed a similar pattern. While the Grand Cherokee gets all the gushes and accolades, the Compass and Patriot are universally derided. Response to the Cherokee is an average of both extremes. After early drives in the Cherokee, TTAC’s own Derek Kreindler voiced significant reservations. Derek makes plenty of valid points, but my outlook for the Cherokee is rosier.

I drove a 2014 Cherokee Latitude and came away terribly impressed. First, the styling moves all of Jeep beyond seven slats, round lights, and blocky shapes. The looks are polarizing, but the Cherokee stands out on the road, and that means that there’s more people asking “what’s that?” I do think it looks better in person than in pictures. In fact, I think the Cherokee looks fantastic, and it’s still got some visual toughness while breaking new ground. Styling is hard, and getting everyone talking is sometimes the best you can hope for. Generating interest is going to help Jeep grab the brass ring of 1 million vehicles sold.

Lately, Jeep is on a roll, selling 731,000 vehicles in 2013. The Cherokee didn’t have a whole lot to do with that. Barely on dealer lots in 2013 after delays related to the 9-speed automatic transmission, there have only been four months of Cherokee sales figures reported so far. The best month was December 2013, with 15,038 Cherokees sold in the US, but that number dropped back to 10,505 units sold during January 2014. If the Cherokee naturally settles in around 11,000 per month, that represents 132,000 per year, putting it in third behind the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee (and mid-pack in the small CUV segment). Maybe that’s something to celebrate, but it’s a sales position the Liberty also occupied, so fool me once, won’t get fooled again. Third place in the Jeep lineup only means you managed to not be outdone by the ancient Patriot and Compass. The Liberty held those two off by moving just over 75,000 examples. So while the Cherokee is doing better than that in monthly numbers, let’s let it play out for a whole year before declaring the Cherokee as some kind of revolution.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-012

Your impression of the Cherokee is going to hinge on what you expect out of it. Do you want it to be the Jeep of mainstream crossovers, or do you want it to be everything to everyone shopping in the segment? If you want to cover all of the on-road bases, there’s a multitude of choices, from the Honda CR-V to the Kia Sorento, Toyota RAV-4, and the Ford Escape. They all take their best whack at satisfying new parents and downsizing boomers alike. Jeep has wisely gone the other way. The Cherokee is hefty, it’s got actual off-road chops and a lockable center differential. It drives like it was taught by the Grand Cherokee. If that’s not enough, there’s the more hardcore Trailhawk that will get you even further into the woods before you run out of talent.

Taken as the Jeep in the segment, it’s brilliant. That said, because it’s the Jeep, you pay more and get less. Many are willing to make that tradeoff, but objectively, you get less cargo space, less fuel economy, and less car-like behavior. I came at the Cherokee expecting that it would be a significant improvement over the Liberty while also delivering an experience that wouldn’t alienate a Grand Cherokee intender. What I found was a vehicle that basically succeeds at that mission.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-018

The Cherokee is luxuriously quiet inside, and the clear controls and easy ergonomics are welcome in this class dominated by buttony center stacks. The seats in the Latitude-trim Cherokee I tried were comfortable, though the bottom cushion is short, reducing thigh support, important for long stints behind the wheel. The passenger seat has a storage compartment under the cushion, a nice trick the Cherokee learned from several veteran Chrysler products. Those controversial low-mounted headlamps are only adequate, at best, and my average fuel economy of 22.2 mpg is what you’d expect out of a significantly larger vehicle.

Manufacturers often send out the most loaded-up examples for the media to drive, so it was refreshing to get a mid-spec vehicle. Standard for the Latitude 4X4 trim I tried is the 2.4 liter four cylinder, cloth upholstery, UConnect 5.0 with 5” screen, manually-adjusting front seats, 17” alloy wheels, instrument cluster with 3.5” TFT display, and a $26,495 starting point. My Cherokee was powered by the smooth, punchy 3.2 liter Pentastar. Instead of the four cylinder Tigershark’s 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, I was treated to 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. When you’re tipping the scales at 4,044 lbs unladen, it makes a difference. The V6 no doubt added to the air of refinement, and even with the excellent sound insulation, I’m sure a four cylinder Cherokee would feel less premium to me.

As it is, the cloth seats feel out of place in a vehicle carrying a $32,970 bottom line. For $33K, you’re in Grand Cherokee Laredo territory, and a Limited-trim 4X2 Grand Cherokee isn’t that far away at $37,000. What’s four grand when you’re financing? With the V6, UConnect 8.4 (but no nav, only “nav-ready”), Active Drive II, Trailer Tow Group and Customer Preferred Package 27J, the Cherokee I drove was well-equipped, the equivalent of a $40,000-plus Grand Cherokee 4X4. If you’re looking for those kinds of features and capabilities, the Cherokee is your huckleberry.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-021

On the family measures, the Cherokee is banking on Jeep’s name to carry the day. With just 24.8 cubic feet, cargo room is noticeably tighter than the major players. Folding the second row will net you 54.9 cubic feet, but you’ll get 70.9 cubic feet in the CR-V, and 72.5 cubic feet in the value-by-the-pound Kia Sorento. Even the Ford Escape, which has drawn space efficiency flak, has more cargo space. All of the competition offers four- or all-wheel drive that may lose to the Cherokee in the woods, but proves more than adequate on paved roads and, most importantly, the showroom floor. While there’s more rear legroom in the Cherokee than others, it’s narrower, and headroom is on the low side in the rear, too. There are spacious storage cubbies in the doors, adequate storage areas in the dash and center armrest – helpful when hauling the kids, but that small rear cargo area is a real Achilles’ heel.

The ride and handling of the Cherokee may be off-putting to some, too. It feels substantial and solid, because it is. But it’s not as light on its feet as the non-Jeeps, and while it feels like a smaller Grand Cherokee, that’s not what everyone is looking for. The nine-speed transmission was a question on everyone’s lips during my time with the Cherokee. I didn’t find it to be an issue, a bump here and a slow response there, perhaps, but it’s easy to find evidence of Extra-Terrestrials if that’s what you’re searching for. There are lower-tech issues with the Cherokee that bite way before the transmission ever will. The SUV-grade ride and handling – this thing is no Mazda CX-5 – and higher ground clearance leads to higher entry and load height.

2014-Jeep-Cherokee-015

If you like Jeeps, you’ll like the Cherokee. If you’re looking for the best value in the segment, this is not it. The Cherokee is a waypoint for the future of Jeep, however. It’s going to influence the styling of models to come. It’s also not likely to outsell the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee, but I’ll take a more optimistic view than Derek and suggest that it will come in as a solid #3 in the lineup by doubling the just-barely-third performance of the Liberty. Call it tempered optimism.

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109 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4X4 V6...”


  • avatar

    I might just buy one of these good lookers. with four more kids in line for becoming drivers I’ll be needing more wheels and this baby is sharp!

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    They just have so_many_panel_gaps. I saw two the other day in traffic, and I ended up stopped at lights behind both of them separately. They were a Latitude and a Limited. Both examples had a misaligned tailgate, and big gaps between tailgate and bumper, where I could see welds and other things I shouldn’t have been able to see. The concave tailgate also flips the image of anything close behind it, making my / Infiniti logo look like a V for Vendetta.

    The interior, I’m sorry, is FAR too cheap for $32k. For LESS than $32k, as in about $30k, I can have a CRV AWD EX-L with leather and navigation. And there won’t be panel gaps big enough to see trim edges and welds. I bet for $30k I could get a really nice Outback as well. Let me check. Yep, a 3.6R Limited is $32k.

    This car does annoy me so.

    • 0 avatar
      frozenman

      The Outback 3.6R is a completely under-rated, under-the-radar, quality constructed roomy crossover, with a sweet sounding beast of an engine ( ala Porsche) and resale to die for. Some ( many actually) people are just misinformed( aka clueless). Another trendy poser-mobile for the masses.

      • 0 avatar
        jettaGL

        The outback 3.6R is great for someone in it for the long haul. I believe people don’t want to spend $30K+ on a rather ugly looking subaru, no matter how great the quality and functionality, and that is why there aren’t many on the road. Shoppers see so many other vehicles they prefer style wise for the same price or less, you know, and go elsewhere.

        • 0 avatar
          56BelAire

          I don’t know about style…but I prefer the styling of the Outback to the new Jeep and I have owned 2 new Jeeps.

          I just can’t wrap my arms around the styling of the new Cherokee.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            The Cherokee is confirming the worst fears that the desecration, rather than resurrection, of the Jeep badge will be continued by Fiat.

            I hate everything about this vehicle. It looks pussified, it will be as unreliable as a FIAT, it will be fragile, won’t be rugged enough to wear the Jeep Cherokee name yet won’t be nearly as efficient or have the utility of far less expensive vehicles.

            It represents the worst of Fiat & the worst of Chrysler, married to each other on the same chassis.

            For shame. The Grand Cherokee had given me such high hopes, only to see them dashed by this ne2 Cherokee abomination that’s a taller version of the Dart abomination.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @DW

            From what I understood the GC was not a Fiat-Chrysler product, it was in development long before. Now we’re seeing Fiat’s hand in the product development department. Evidently emasculation was a design theme.

        • 0 avatar
          jettaGL

          @ DW, you turned my feelings into words.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Regretfully the Subaru has become over-rated and over-priced for its real value; someone wanting to buy a decent-quality used model tends to see a price tag between $5K and $10K higher than any “similar” model from other brands–which really hurts when you’re on a budget and that “famed” Subaru quality is desired. On the other hand, it seems Subaru is sitting on its laurels, too. I’ve read too many reports that their reliability is slipping and costs are rising. On top of that, Subaru seems to be sacrificing some desirable models for more “family friendly” models–once again ignoring those who simply want a fun car.

        • 0 avatar
          jettaGL

          What issues do you know of with Subaru now? I am not an owner, but being from the NE, i know a numerous people who own new models and have owned ancient models. Are you talking about CVT problems? Head gasket problems? Basic poor construction? Rust prone steel? Bad OEM tires? What exactly are you referring to?

          The 3.6R isn’t overpriced in the used market. It is higher priced than the “similar” models you don’t delineate. The used market is an accurate reflection of a vehicle’s value in a given region.

          I should add, if you are just referencing a slight downward movement in quality of material or a stagnation in improvement and engineering, I agree with you. I do think subaru has become a bit complacent, but I do not think that means they’re no longer better than comparable vehicles

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            As I said, reports I have read, private reviews and public reviews on other websites *by owners* and pointed out that the Subaru’s vaunted reliability is ‘slipping’. They’re costing more to fix and needing repairs more often. And as I also pointed out, their price on used-car lots is notably higher than almost any other vehicle from the same year until you reach the more luxury brands.

          • 0 avatar
            jettaGL

            Everything is getting more expensive to repair and hard to get repaired well. It is irritating.

          • 0 avatar
            Dan

            When was Subaru reliability ever vaunted? They have a long history of eating gaskets, O2 sensors, CV boots, differentials, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            jettaGL

            Kind of agree with you, I’ve always known of the common repairs in subarus of past, because they were just that, common. But, they were rarely catastrophic incidents and usually didn’t happen until a good way into the ownership experience right?

    • 0 avatar
      jettaGL

      This car really aggravates me, it has me asking how and why over and over again. Thanks for doing the $ analysis. This car bothers me more than the new models coming out of Acura. It looks like a shortened chevy traverse suffering from a sour patch kid overdose. It has no merits besides the badge it carries, it is undeniably a failure. I know people with Grand Cherokees who really like them. The GC got jeep back on the right path, and this one is going to send them into another ditch. It is as if they strove for better than the Compass and Patriot and nothing more. I’m sure I’ll see plenty of them here in the periphery of Boston, piloted by clueless Yuppies who care only that it has more status than the alternatives.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        You remind me of my own parents, who thought every car I ever bought for myself was intended as a “status symbol”.

        While I will admit I haven’t driven one yet, there are things about the underpinnings of the Cherokee that makes me think it will be far more than merely “adequate” in foul weather driving. I’ve read too many times how most AWD cars fail right when their vaunted capability is most needed. With the locking center differential and more honest 4×4 capability I think the Cherokee will end up walking away from the rest when the going gets harshest.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Given the holding back of the model launch to correct the transmission, I think much detail and care was put into the Cherokee. I’m sure it will be capable in the snow and might be able to do some basic offroading, but the fundamental difference between this and the Liberty/XJ which came before it will be longevity.

          This strikes me as being designed for the first and CPO owner only to say 80-100K, and subsequent owners will fight the bean-counting on the undercarriage and other parts which remain to be seen. My ex’s near hill-billy parents, who destroy cars, took an 07 Liberty to 218K last I saw it. Sure it looked like s*it and I believe it was going to/did need a transmission at that time, but I was truly shocked a Chrysler product had held up so well. This new Cherokee is basically a heavy car, these people would probably destroy it before 100K as they typically did the Dodge or Ford cars they drove.

          • 0 avatar
            ponchoman49

            Contrary to belief Chrysler products can and do go over 200K pretty common today. We see Caravans, Intrepid’s, 300′s and various Jeeps all the time with this mileage and more at the auctions.

        • 0 avatar
          jettaGL

          I have no idea what you are talking about.
          My comment on what is an obvious sociological dynamic in my neighborhoods makes you conflate me with your parents. Then you talk about AWD cars failing when their vaunted capability is most needed. What circumstances are you referring to? Most people with AWD vehicles never see a harrowing path.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            Some people would consider the Cherokee a “status symbol” as you so clearly pointed out. My parents called every car *that they didn’t buy for me* a “status symbol” because I bought 2-door cars and not “sensible sedans”. To be blunt, I never needed a “sensible sedan” because I never carried people in the back seat more than once or twice a year at most. To me, a sedan is a waste of space when I could be much more comfortable in something lower, sleeker and more sporty. Despite all the capabilities of today’s “sport sedans”, I simply do not like them–they are not “sensible” in my eyes or in the eyes of any childless household unless you expect to carry people on some sort of regular basis.

            As for the statement, “Most people with AWD vehicles never see a harrowing path,” you are right. On the other hand, I’ve driven a ’96 Camaro through three blizzards on freeways over the years and watched as supposed AWD vehicles went slip-sliding off the road. One of the arguments against AWD–especially some of the more recent versions–the stability control actually costs you control as it kills power when a tire loses traction, only to kick it back on again when it regains traction–throwing off the less-experienced driver’s reactions.

            One of the early complaints even about the Cherokee itself pointed out how power was dropped when it lifted a wheel off the ground–causing it to roll back rather than continuing its climb. That’s why Jeep held off release until they got that drivetrain logic worked out. I watched Cherokees of several models lifting a front or rear wheel with no loss of forward drive during a recent auto show. Can you guarantee that with those other models?

          • 0 avatar
            jettaGL

            So, that’s a little different. You wanted a completely different sort of car where as the jeep is exactly like everything else in the class, objectively worse in most metrics, and subjectively worse minus the badge.

            As far as AWD and snow, you’re right, it can be bad. Everything can be bad in a given circumstance, but more often than not for average person AWD is better than RWD. Traditional 4wd with high/low probably is better, i’ve heard many people with experience with both say so. I drove AWD and have for 10 yrs now. Never had a problem, but that’s an audi or volvo with nokian so maybe i’m just spoiled…

            Getting back to it, how does anything from your post relate to the Jeep Cherokee?

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            I don’t consider the Jeep as, “exactly like everything else in its class.” There’s really nothing else in its “class” as far as modern SUV/CUVs are concerned, though some offer similar capabilities. That said, I will agree that the Compass/Patriot don’t belong in the “Jeep Class” as they were designed and built by Daimler to capitalize on the on-road SUV market. From what I’ve seen of the current Cherokee, while I accept it doesn’t have the heavy underpinnings of its namesake, it has still proven capable enough to play at Moab and the Rubicon–at least the Trailhawk version has and the others have proven themselves on logging trails and other remote but reasonably marked trails. Let’s put it somewhat in the class of the more recent Rover models from the UK with reasonable capabilities combined with reasonable comfort. Of course, if you haven’t watched Top Gear (UK) in the last decade, even they complain about the Rover’s “loss of off-road capability,” while running them in Death Valley and other American sites. I look at it this way: If the Cherokee can compete in capability with the Rover Evoque off road, it’s good enough to carry the Jeep brand.

            And how does it relate? Because the average crop of AWD CUVs simply CAN’T compete with the Evoque–much less the Cherokee. Sure, you sacrifice a little comfort from some of them or a little cargo capacity from others, but it can still handle certain situations better than either of those other types.

            The objective is to pick the vehicle that best meets your PERSONAL needs and desires. If the Cherokee isn’t it–hey, that’s your thing. When going best value for the money *for me*, I’d be very strongly tempted to trade even my JKU Wrangler for a Cherokee Trailhawk. On the other hand, I’ll be trading my full-size pickup for something smaller in the next year or two and if I get that in 4×4, then the Renegade may be an even better choice to replace the Wrangler in the long run.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Corey!

      But it looks good. This is not going after the SUV crowd, this is going after the CR-V people. To go after the CRV, coming from behind, you can’t just do what the CRV does. You have to offer something different. In this case, they’re offering design. A design that will appeal to younger people and women. Ultimately, that may lead to sales and market gains.

      A top executive at Fiat Brazil once told me that it was looks that sold cars. I protested. He insisted. Being that he was a top executive and I’m a nobody, I wonder who’s right?

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        He was speaking of the Brazilian market, which I’d argue is very different from the American market. As you say, VW is held in the highest esteem there – not so here. It seems like Brazilians are always focused on appearances, yes? Isn’t it the country with an extremely high rate of plastic surgery? It’s also a developing market, whereas the US is a well-established market. Up and coming markets typically focus more on appearances as a “new middle class” sort of distinction.

        A different design isn’t enough in the US market, when Jeep is known as A) foreign-Fiat-owned now, B) typically less reliable than Japanese marques, and is C) more expensive for D) less standard equipment and build quality. It has had a history since the early 90s of making cars which generally suck, depreciate quickly, have electrical and mechanical gremlins, gulp fuel, and rust.

        • 0 avatar
          srogers

          Right.
          The US is known for its indifference to superficial appearances. No plastic surgery there.

        • 0 avatar

          Corey,

          We were talking cars in general, going back and forth between the European and Brazilian market. Saying that, I can’t argue with you as to the importance of appearance in the Brazilian market (though rest assuread that I, the proud owner of a Logan, am one of many not that easily duped). As to cosmetic surgery, I read something the other day. Didn’t really pay attention and can’t seem to remember if Brazil or the US were ahead in absolute or per capita numbers. But we share the top spots in that area.

          Now, as Fiat is taking Jeep international, the design was made to call attention to the car the world over. And like I explained in my article comparing the Twingo to the Cherokee, polarizing design is done intentionally.

          In the case of the Cherokee, I guess it is a shock to most Americans. It doesn’t use a lot of traditional American design elements. I do see some Asian and Italian characeteristics in there though. As Asian design is generally well-received in the US, I can’t see a problem there, either.

      • 0 avatar
        56BelAire

        I agree with the exec. I don’t care how fast a car is, how great it handles, how long it lasts…….I don’t buy it if don’t like the way it looks, the styling.

        For example, I loathe high belt lines with gun-slit windows(Camaro), weird enormous grilles(Lincoln of years back), unnatural sculpting on fenders, doors and 1/4s(many), fenders and 1/4s with huge tire bump-outs(many), and 4dr fastback coupes(Crosstour).

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I’m willing to bet that next years Cherokee will have the interior sorted out, much like every other car as of late where nice interiors are always a year late.

      I can’t stand the styling on this thing, its ugly, and not as original as it may appear, therefore it serves no purpose but to make headlight replacement a nightmare.

    • 0 avatar
      MLS

      Uh, have you seen the interior of a CRV? It’s a completely underwhelming amalgamation of hard plastics. The new Cherokee’s interior is nowhere near luxurious (high-tech options aside), but it’s worlds better than the CRV’s.

    • 0 avatar
      zoomzoom91

      Have you sat in a new Cherokee? The interior is actually quite nice. I’d put it up against any of the other small-midsize volume segment crossovers. Soft touch materials, nice seats, good trim materials, excellent controls/center stack.

      And if you think the CRV has a nice interior, I’m curious what you think is nice about it? I have sat in both the current CRV and Cherokee and the Cherokee has a nicer interior…not the mention the fact that the CRV has Honda seats….which are not very good. Source: I own an Accord. The seats suck.

  • avatar
    trackratmk1

    So compared to its competition, the Cherokee is uncomfortable, offers less cargo space, is less fuel efficient, slow with anything but the V6, has cheaper materials, is far more expensive, and it’s ugly (different you say?). Okay, so it’s possible to get it with some off road chops. But the idea that “it’s a Jeep, so it will sell in this segment” only carries it so far. If FCA had found a way to improve on all the points above AND call it a Jeep, they would have a stronger product. In a sense though, you are very correct– It’s saving grace may be that it’s actually not cross-shopped with others in the segment.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    As a owner of a 06′ Liberty CRD Limited I went and checked out the new Cherokee, Trail Hawk.

    Interior was a upgrade, but I miss the up-close up-right windshield of my Liberty. But then I crawled underneath it… seriously, these car reviews are lacking, big time. Don’t care to get your knees dirty, or wouldn’t know what you’re looking at? I mean the sincerely, but as serious as I could.

    Compare the drive train components, the suspension components, and overall construction of it to my old Liberty and it’s way below-par. Forged suspension components have given away to stamp steel. The plastics around the fender wells are so thin and cheap I swear I could poke my finger through them (no really, check it out). The drive shaft is smaller, u-joints at all, and then there’s the whole transverse-mounted engine thing and solid-axle vs. IRS. About everything I could see was smaller, thinner, and cheaper.

    Now a lot of this would be excusable on something far cheaper, like maybe the upcoming Renegade. But on a $37,000 “off-road ready” Trailhawk? It’s a $18k Dodge dart with a V6 and beefy tires…

    You might like how it drives better, all fine and dandy, whatever, but this is by far not built like “beefy” by any means. As you said, it’s based a car platform, but do you really understand what that means?

    • 0 avatar
      jettaGL

      Thanks for this valuable information. Its always nice to hear about what is intended to not be seen by the average joe.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Thank you!

      What’s with so many journalists having a fundamental lack of mechanical knowledge of automobiles? Stop saying “well the XJ was unibody too!” The new Cherokee is a lightly constructed sedan-based crossover, no matter how many trick 4wd gizmos Jeep brags about. You mention a locking center diff, the Rav4 has one of those too. The low hanging plastic valence is no different than other CUVs, albeit it with an inch or so more clearance. The TrailHawk atleast has decent clearance, but underneath it’s the same old articulation-lacking, weakling sedan platform.

      To sell it as a refined, smaller Grand Cherokee, sure. But to claim any serious off road chops is disingenuous.

      • 0 avatar
        AMC_CJ

        Funny you mention the unibody thing.

        I’m not sure what chassis is stiffer, maybe the Cherokee is built stiffer somehow, but the Liberty had two nice beefy “frame rails” built into the uni body that ran front to back. But maybe the new Cherokee has something I didn’t catch to match that, I don’t know, I just pointed out what a 10min crawl around the vehicle revealed. I wanted to take it for a test drive, but I’m pretty sure I pissed off the old crusty sales guy and I just left it at that.

        I hold this outfit to a higher standard, and lately it’s been all wish-washy reviews like any other rag. I think the best car reviews I ever saw on here came from Murilee, but it looks like he’s done with that side of things here as it’s been awhile. You don’t have to hold an engineering degree to have some common sense (infact, the two usually seem to contradict each other) when looking over a vehicle.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah the XJ/ZJ/WJ also had “uniframes.” On really severely abused XJs (we’re talking legit rock crawling) there was some risk of the steering box cracking/tearing the “frame.”

          But the biggest thing is those Jeeps had solid axles front and rear, which gave fantastic articulation. Especially on the front end, when compared to the competition.

          The XJ/Liberty were SUVs through and through, did not share a platform with a transverse sedan. The new Cherokee is just that, a crossover based on a Dart. With that comes a MacPherson strut front end and independent rear, using light stamped sheetmetal control arms. Very little articulation, and no where as much built in durability as a solid axle, or a Short-long arm IFS setup seen on many SUVs and trucks (or torsion bar based IFS setups). I will agree that 90% of people that bought Liberties and even the XJs when new would probably not miss the capabilities of the older trucks, and would in fact benefit from the car underpinnings.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          Considering that I saw the Cherokee “in action” during the Philadelphia Auto Show, I watched it on approach and departure from their 30° traverse ramp, where the cars literally lifted one wheel well off the ground and made its way across that slope and leveled back down to floor level. Through several laps, the different Cherokee models (not just the Trailhawk) flexed no more than the Wrangler Unlimited working the circuit with them. (I’m talking body flex, not suspension.) All the vehicles, even the stock JKU, lifted a rear tire more than a foot off the floor on approach and held the same-side front tire off the floor on departure. For an on-road model you simply don’t need those “off-road chops” and Jeep has clearly demonstrated that it can handle most of the same off-road conditions that a stock JKU can handle.
          I also remember how TJ owners scoffed when I took my stock ’08 JKU to a certified off-road park and insisted that it couldn’t do the same things their LIFTED TJs could do. They were surprised when I crawled just about everywhere they did, even to some technical–albeit low-grade–rock crawling.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Way to completely ignore the point everyone is making regarding the DURABILITY of the car. Sure the Cherokee will climb all over the cute little demo that Jeep puts on for journalists. The Cherokee is a lifted AWD Dart with a few trick pieces of hardware. It desperately NEEDS that rear locker and every sort of electronic traction control precisely because it has such poor wheel articulation. It’s band aid fixes to a chassis that is fundamentally disadvantaged on off road terrain.

            I’m planning an off road outing with a friend, whose buddy is bringing his new Rubicon. So it’ll be my stock 4runner (v6, auto, 4wd +rear diff lock), a Tacoma (same drivetrain as 4runner except 5spd manual), and the JK Rubicon. I’m really looking forward to it, wheeling is a lot more fun when someone is there to winch you out :)

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Good comment.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Yes! Thank you! I’ve been saying this since the first pictures of the Cherokee’s underside surfaced but few here seem to notice or care. All of the lockers, low ranges, and traction control gee-gaws are worthless if you snap an axle, bend a suspension arm, or destory the steering rack while out on the trail. This is a car, not an SUV, and calling it the “Trailhawk” is laughable and misleading.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan Roth

      Hey now, it’s not that us car reviewers don’t know about the stuff we’re looking at, it’s just that the stuff you’re talking about really doesn’t matter for the Cherokee.

      That’s not who’s buying it, and all that heavy-duty stuff is overkill on the road.

      You said it yourself “It’s an $18K Dodge Dar with a V6 and beefy tires…”

      Jeep is giving the people more of what they want, and less of what you want.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Thats fine, but they failed there as well. The Cherokee isn’t good at things CUV buyers care about. At least when its compared to the popular compact CUVs (Escape, Rav-4. CR-V, etc).

        • 0 avatar
          Dan Roth

          Yep, it’s more expensive, less roomy…but it’s a JEEP.

          Driving the Cherokee is very pleasant, though.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          In all honesty, it doesn’t have to be. Jeep could slap their styling and name on a Fiat 500L and it would sell. ;)

          I think both the Cherokee and Renegade will sell very well. I also think, objectively, they are heavy, inefficient, slow, and small inside compared to the mainstream CUVs. That doesn’t matter, though. As long as they are better than the Compass and Patriot, people like saying, “We can take my Jeep!” and that moves metal.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I guess I don’t get it. I hate to say it, but I would buy an Equinox over this.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            They’re doing that with the Renegade, Quentin.

            The thing is, the typical CUV doesn’t make any claims to off-road capability and honestly most CAN’T make any claims to off-road capability. That Chevy Traverse that was mentioned? I wouldn’t trust it on a gravel road, much less one that gets a “Not Maintained During Winter” sign posted at either end.

            Sure, the Cherokee on average doesn’t have the big, beefy, “I’m a Rock Crawler” look or hardware, but if it can get you where you’re going, especially when conditions get bad, then it’s a far better choice than one that fails even on a simple snowy hill.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        I would argue that it does matter, if a vehicle has a low range transfer case, a locker and a name like the “Trailhawk” it is implied that the vehicle can hold up to serious off-road driving.

        To me this is no different than putting a massive wing and racing slicks on a 100hp Honda Civic, only difference is that Honda would never stoop to offering these as factory options.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Jeep is giving the people more of what they want, and less of what you want.”

        Disagree, FCA is brand whoring the “tough” heritage of the Jeep brand to sell an expensive pseudo SUV on a cheap car platform.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        “Jeep is giving the people more of what they want, and less of what you want.”

        This is about it. This Jeep doesn’t needs to last forever; it only needs to last long enough.

        These days, off-road Jeeps are what we engineers call “corner cases”.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “Jeep is giving the people more of what they want, and less of what you want.”

        Bravo. I just had the thought that TTAC should partner with Wikipedia and create an Outlier Rage portal.

        I say this realizing that my pot metal is deepest black.

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      Yes, this exactly. I much prefer my xj and plan on keeping it around as long as possible.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      I too have a KJ Liberty in the garage. I’ll agree that the KJ is a solid built vehicle compared to todays crossovers and I won’t sell it anytime soon. One of (I think the two) recalls that my KJ had was to replace the lower rear control arms. As I was told by a Jeep engineer, it wasn’t that they didn’t meet specifications for typical use, it’s just that if someone were to really off-road it, there *could* be a failure. The replacement control arms are truly beefy, more so then even what came stock on my TJ Wrangler.

      In reality, most people don’t off-road their Jeeps, even Wranglers. So beyond the Wrangler, I’m sure Fiat is looking to cut costs so why pay for something that people don’t need? Even the KJ Liberty was mostly a street Jeep that was generally overbuilt for that. Jeep’s marketing is just going to have only show these new city Jeeps at most at the beach. And for those owners that actually wheel, there are a lot of aftermarket support for that. (At least for the Wrangler… Ask me about that… LOL)

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      I think that the driving force of what you’ve seen (on the soft, white underbelly of the Cherokee) is to improve upon the Liberty’s abysmal MPG numbers. Most every Liberty owner that I’ve talked to got 16MPG, their major complaint. And few of these used the off-road capabilities enough to appreciate the hit in gas mileage.

  • avatar
    dwford

    I checked out the Cherokee a month ago and I’d agree with the cost more/get less conclusion..but keep in mind that that’s how the domestics play the game – inflated MSRPs with a rebate attached. As a former Hyundai salesman I couldn’t help compare this to the Hyundai Tucson Limited AWD which tops out at $32k completely loaded or even the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0t for about $33k. It seems the compact CUV market is getting expensive with this Cherokee, the Escape, Equinox and Terrain all getting into the very high $30′s when loaded.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Well written review. As you’ve touched on the Cherokee falls into a dead spot in the market: it is easily bested by its more polished CUV competitors and those who want to go off-road (even just a little) or want people to think that they go off-road will pick the Wrangler. I had hoped Jeep would have learned their lesson from the Compass/Patriot.

  • avatar
    Yesac13

    There’s one aspect some people may overlook:

    If you want something small and still tow no more than 3000 LBS once in a while…

    Try and find a new SUV or CUV that can tow at least 3000 LBS. Take a look. You’ll be shocked. Almost none these days. 2000 LBS maximum is the typical rating you find. If you have a boat weighting 1500 LBS (trailer included) or a small camping trailer weighting the same… If you don’t want a Jeep, you’re stuck buying over-sized new half ton trucks! (assuming buying new)

    The Jeep Cherokee tows 3000 LBS with the 4 banger and 4500 LBS with the V6. It will sell well for these who want to tow and do not want a truck. There are many Grand Cherokees who do the work of a truck in my part of Maine. People often use cheap 1k trailers and haul stuff to the dump and so on. Beat up the trailer instead of a nice truck bed. Plus, the trailer is only a foot above the ground instead of 4 feet off the ground for new trucks…

    The Grand Cherokee tows 6200 LBS by the way. This is almost the same as pickups with tall axle ratios or V6s! (6-7k towing capacity).

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      This is exactly why it is on the list to replace my wife’s Hyundai eventually. I will give it a while to check for reliability though but if it proves to be good I am going to give it a hard look, front end be damned. For a point of reference I currently use a Frontier for these duties and it is rated at 6500 pounds for which I get anywhere from 16-22 MPG which is bearable because of what it replaced but hardly stellar.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      ^This^ and the fact that it has real 4×4 capabilities that everyone’s been crying for but no one seems to mention when comparing it to the CR-V, Escape etc. Part of me is glad the sacrifices were made on interior volume, perhaps the Cherokee can avoid the “mommycar” stigma that so many in this segment are saddled with

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        But does it really have offroad chops in the non-trailhawk* version? Independent suspension all around (not portal hubs like the H1 everyone likes to bring up when someone mentions independent suspension) and a “center diff lock**” is not out of the ordinary for the segment. A crawl ratio is the only thing that really stands out over the rest of the segment. Basically, I see it as an offroad vehicle looking for a very specific terrain.

        *I’d even question the sanity of someone that would do anything like rock crawling with a Trailhawk. There is an amusing youtube Cherokee video talking about the offroad chops and articulation where it immediately shows the vehicle with one tire a foot off the ground.

        **Ability to lock the clutch pack on the rear prop shaft

        • 0 avatar
          srogers

          The Cherokee, with its independent suspension, has no chance of competing with the Hummer. What was Chrysler thinking?

          • 0 avatar
            Quentin

            The Hummer does have an independent suspension. That is the first thing brought up when someone questions the offroadability of IFS and IRS. Just like the leaf springs in a Corvette are in no way like the leaf springs on the back of a pickup truck, the independent suspension in the Cherokee is in no way like the independent suspension of the Hummer. It is a normal car suspension rather than some special independent suspension that was better than normal. Hence, I have doubts that the Cherokee is that much more capable offroad than your more mainstream CUVs despite the checks the Cherokee name writes.

            For as much as the Liberty was despised, it was a pretty darn capable vehicle off the showroom floor.

          • 0 avatar
            Vulpine

            There’s no Hummer to compete with. So why try?

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      “Try and find a new SUV or CUV that can tow at least 3000 LBS.”

      Where are you getting this from? Almost every CUV that that has an up engine is rated to tow 3500 lbs with it. Escape, Edge, Sorento, Equinox, Santa Fe Sport, etc.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    The Cherokee doesn’t make me say “what’s that”, it makes me say “the f*ck is that thing?!” :P

  • avatar
    tedward

    I thought this was a great review. It really does put it into context to pin it down as the Jeep of the CUV market. Best tow rating, best off road equipment, highest curb weight, and nothing in life is free so the extra mechanical gear comes at the cost of interior trim materials and content. Now I know exactly who to recommend the vehicle to.

    If this was a plain-jane CUV with Jeep styling it probably wouldn’t be that competitive or compelling a proposition. Let’s face it, Jeep has no track record making competitive car-like vehicles, but this, this is their jam.

  • avatar
    EX35

    I must not have driven the same cars as others in this thread have.
    CRV: equally cheap feeling interior, decent cargo space, drove like an econobox, weak, noisy engine, expensive when “loaded” with essentially required equipment.
    Rav4: even cheaper feeling interior, good cargo space, drove like a corolla, not cheap when decently equipped.
    Escape: nice interior, very substantial feeling, OK cargo space, expensive when nicely equipped.
    Cherokee: interior on par with CRV/Rav, very substantial feeling, very solid, expensive when nicely equipped.

    Reliability aside (which is huge), how is this Cherokee not class competitive? It may not be the clear class winner like the JGC (nothign else in the class is even close), but the cherokee is up there.

    NB: I own an Infiniti and have never owned a “domestic.”

  • avatar
    Cubista

    Love these in white…look like dinosaur skulls.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Liking this vehicle or not depends a lot on what you are like. I’m no fan of SUVs or off roading or Chrysler/Jeep/Fiat for that matter. Still seeing it at the car show I thought it was nice enough to test drive. I checked out a 4 cyl, 2WD Lattitude and didn’t like it’s rough ride, vagues shifting and small cargo space. V6 Trailhawks seem to get more praise. Oh and if you order it in black the front end doesn’t look so crazy.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    According to all these comments the only “real” Jeep is the Wrangler, guess what, they still sell them, so buy one, but not everyone finds them practical for everyday use, so they make these other more practical vehicles. If they didn’t then there would be no Jeep and we’d be talking about the great 4×4 Wranglers back in the day. That nobody here bought because they weren’t practical, but they sure were great

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      No, we’re bemoaning this Jeep’s false pretenses at being a capable off roader, particularly the sullying of the Cherokee nameplate.

      The red tow hooks sum up my argument in a single object.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      I’m confused as to where this perception that the Wrangler needs subsidization comes from, it is not a Porsche 911. The Wrangler is Jeep’s top selling model at 140k+ units sold per year. Jeep sells nearly 3 times as many Wranglers per year as Land Rover sells vehicles. Wrangler sales last year were nearly equal to that of the Camaro and Mustang combined.

      You’d think Jeep would have taken these remarkable sales numbers as an indication of what buyers wanted when planning the new Cherokee.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        And this is what I find amazing, the jeep is simple straightforward vehicle with a modern approach. Why, as jeep wrangler sales continue to climb are the possibilities of completely changing the architecture to full independent suspension even on the table? Why is it that a design that’s only received tweaks (some big(engine) but none major(design)) can actually increase in sales?

        Why are there no companies trying to capitilize on this market? The wrangler is a print press for cash, meanwhile every generation of CUV goes out of style in just a few years.
        The original scout was jeeps first competitor, and no where nearly as many jeeps were sold per year then. But what happened next? All the other automakers dived into the segment. I argue what killed the market was the manufacturers civilizing the products rather than keeping them true to their truck roots that doomed the segment. A Tahoe doesn’t appeal to any consumer that wants this form of SUV, it appeals to people in the city and to people who are still stuck in the truck like state of mind.
        It seems if some company could bring a competitor to the table and just sit on the design eventually it would become easy money.

        • 0 avatar
          azmtbkr81

          I often wonder this too, there is a lot of interest online in the resurrection of the Bronco, in fact Jalopnik had a Bronco design contest just last month.

          The market is swimming in CUVs of every size, shape, and price range, do we really need more? I agree that a Wrangler competitor, maybe even a reasonably priced, full size SUV with a short wheelbase would be a hit.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The Wrangler captures customers looking for an SUV that meets those sepcifications, of which there are a limited amount as of late. The Cherokee captures customers in the CUV segment of which there are a greater amount. Jeep is on track to sell about as many Cherokees as Wranglers this year. You really think they could have doubled their sales between the two vehicles if they had taken a similar approach as the Wrangler with the Cherokee?

        The two vehicles capture a larger group of different customers by taking different approaches, which makes good business sense. Just because you don’t like CUVs doesn’t change the facts. Customers are moving away from traditional SUVs and into CUVs and it’s smart of Jeep to put a vehicle in that segment that meets those needs.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    I’m one of the few people who would find a CUV with decent off-road capabilities appealing, so the Trailhawk version of this Cherokee immediately shows up on my radar. Until I realized it costs $30k and holds only 25 ft3 of cargo. I’d give up some road manners and get a 4-door Tacoma for that price.

    This Cherokee is receiving a lot of abuse on here for claiming offroad ability, and I shared that general view several years ago when the Trail Rated Patriot came out. Then I saw a few youtube videos of the thing going over terrain that would probably kink a RAV4 pretty badly. Not anything that would impress Moab-invading yahoos, but if you wanted a camping and exploration vehicle it would get you farther into the backcountry than you would expect.

    If this Cherokee can pull that off, then I will certainly respect it even though I’d take my $30k to the Toyota dealer instead.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      You bring up a good point regarding the Patriot. I think the big difference there was that Patriots are pretty cheap, utilitarian looking things. For me personally, their lack of pretense while having some undeniable rough road ability is what sets them apart from the garish Cherokee TrailHawk. Mind you, while the Patriot can indeed hold its own off road,

      (see:http://www.expeditionswest.com/equipment/reviews/patriot/)

      The car will not sustain this sort of use. I was poking around on Patriot forums at one point because I was genuinely interested in one, Most owners who did take theirs on trails came to the conclusion that yes the car can make it, but that they felt bad for the car: they started to get all sorts of squeaks and rattles, and there’s just not enough clearance or serious enough skid plates on the bottom.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        Sure, I wouldn’t expect the Patriot to hold up if used that way regularly, it’s for us folks who can’t get out there more than once a month in the summer. I’d have some concerns about the durability of that oddball low-range CVT as well. Does the Patriot even have a full size spare? Or the Cherokee for that matter?

        My problem is that I like cars for everyday use, and on that front the Patriot is a kind of a crapbox with an unpleasant powertrain that retails for Jetta GLI money when equipped with the needed Freedom Drive II package. Too much of a compromise in around-town and freeway use.

        I’d also have to ignore the used 30K mile Xterras I see around here for $22K or less.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah I hear you. I too liked the idea of having decent MPG during the week and I really only need something to get me to hiking trail heads and campsites. But the interior and small trunk put me off, and with FDII, the mpg takes a nosedive down into the low-mid 20s at best. At that point a heavily depreciated 6spd Xterra is calling my name. But in my case, any time I look at an alternative to my 4Runner that I bought for $6300 (plus $1500 parts/maintenance to get it perfect), I can’t help but wonder “how is this any better than what I already have?” Except for picking up a few MPGs and a smoother ride, nothing. That isn’t worth over $10k to me.

          • 0 avatar
            adamsd

            I think this is the whole crux of the issue – it is a very very limited group of people that can dish out 30K kind of money and not have the vehicle be their daily driver. So for the greater majority of people who buy a vehicle (financed) and have it as their daily driver, they don’t want to get crappy gas mileage and have bad handling(which happens when the vehicle is made with 4×4 as fully capable since all the extra weight from reinforcing frame, and extra heavy duty and extra components cause).

            The car manufacturers have responded based on exactly what does well in the market – tall car based vehicles that are now getting better gas mileage because they are made lighter and are mostly car tuned and feature laden that adds most of the money that is added to the very base model creating a very large range in price. TISNSTAAFL.

            As far as car styling this has followed as well with how the market has responded – the mommy mobile drivers want vehicles that hold a lot and have the most space for their size and drive as safe as possible and are easy to get in and out of. So the makers have made pod mobiles in response that only resemble the original SUVs in that they are taller.

            Also, when you are financing a 30K vehicle, the people who are willing to go take it off road and do real 4×4 is a really small subset when this is your daily driver.

            So what do most 4×4 drivers want, they want the vehicle to be a real SUV, but they want to wait until the price is much more reasonable and buy it used so that they can then take it out and not worry about destroying their daily driver that they are financing but that will be able to handle real 4x4ing.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    It’s very odd to me how people can drive the same vehicle, and walk away with totally different views on it. I’ve driven 3 Cherokees, and I might have one, probably a banger one, as a loaner when my car has body work next week to repair the right rear quarter where I sideswiped a neighbor’s car when my street was a skating rink and I got sideways and almost, almost saved it. Anyway, two of the three I drove were V6 ones, and I had very little to complain about, I’m not a big fan of the front end, but I really don’t have anything but nitpicky things to pick on about it. It seems solid and rides fine, IMHO, both in base and higher level trim. The trans is a little odd at first, but after a few minutes, it’s no concern at all.

  • avatar
    sclark

    The look is growing on me rapidly.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Ugly. Jeep managed to dethrone the Aztec as the ugliest thing on four wheels.

  • avatar

    Winston, please replace semicolons with commas in the tag field.

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Interior looks cheap, even on the highest end models.

    Exterior has panel gaps that make a plastic Saturn look well put together.

    Styling is polarizing.

    Turning Jeep into a company that makes car-based crossovers will eventually lead to the demise of the brand as their product line will merge with the blandness of every other offering Chrysler has.


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