2020 Jeep Cherokee Limited Review - Moving in Anonymity

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2020 Jeep Cherokee Limited Fast Facts

2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (270 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm; 295 lb-ft @ 3,000-4,500 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic, part-time four-wheel drive
20 city / 27 highway / 23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
11.5 city, 8.6 highway, 10.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$34,595 (U.S) / $36,891 (Canada)
As Tested
$42,075 (U.S.) / $45,182 (Canada)
Prices include $1,495 destination charge in the United States and $1,995 to $2,695 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2020 jeep cherokee limited review moving in anonymity

Before I became an automotive journalist, I wanted to write about sports. And one of the first things I learned from more-experienced sportswriters while I was in journalism school is that writing about a .500 team sucks unless there are colorful personalities on the roster.

This is because it’s generally more interesting to write about really good or really bad teams. I am sure there are exceptions, but generally speaking, mediocre teams were more challenging to cover.

In a decade-plus of writing about cars, I’ve discovered this applies to vehicles, as well.

I find it easier to reach for the best adjectives when praising or ripping a car. I use the thesaurus less. The creative juices don’t need much to get going.

Give me a car that’s perfectly fine, neither particularly good nor bad, and I have to work harder to convey my thoughts. Sometimes, y’all even notice and tell me so in the comments.

The 2020 Jeep Cherokee is one of those vehicles that is just, well, fine.

I’ll do my best to be creative and interesting, regardless. It won’t be easy – even my test unit was painted a pedestrian gray.

(Full disclosure: In the time between my loan and this write-up, one of my parents bought a Cherokee, though a different trim.)

Jeep has its hands full – the Cherokee has to fend up recently re-done stalwarts like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Ford Escape, and now the Escape-based Ford Bronco Sport is coming to play, complete with a Badlands trim that is meant to square off against the Trailhawk. Nissan has an updated Rogue. And the Chevrolet Equinox still exists, too.

Not to mention Kia’s Sportage and Hyundai’s Tucson, and others.

I’ll get to how the Cherokee stacks up later. On its own, it’s a fine little commuter crossover, which is enough for many people.

It’s not quick, even with the 2.0-liter turbo four that is the most powerful of three engine choices. Two-hundred and seventy horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque isn’t bad on paper, but it doesn’t blow any doors off here. You’ll have enough thrust to merge onto the highway without stress, but that’s about it.

Oh, and the much-reviled nine-speed automatic trans is standard across the board, though I don’t recall any misbehavior on the part of this particular example. Getting the thing to actually shift into ninth gear does seem nigh impossible, though.

Perhaps the best part of the on-road experience is the steering – it feels nicely heavy and it seems accurate with little play. The handling is also a pleasant surprise. While there’s some body roll, the Cherokee is spritelier than one would expect. It’s not the best handler in the class, but it’s competent enough in cornering.

The ride is acceptable, if a tad on the stiff side.

Another standout is the interior – Jeep, as with most of the rest of its Stellantis brethren, does a good job of laying controls out logically, with big knobs and easy to reach buttons, and Uconnect remains one of the best infotainment systems in the biz. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom up front, too.

Aesthetically it’s a bit boring, but it works.

The same can’t be said about the wonky snub-nose styling that has never quite worked for me. Ugly is too strong a word, but pretty she ain’t.

New for 2020 are features including more available driver’s-aid tech: An advanced safety group includes lane-departure warning plus, forward collision-warning plus, and rain-sensing wipers. There are also new exterior paint color choices, a new skill for Alexa with the right Uconnect and touchscreen combo, new standard wheels for Latitude trims, and newly available 19s for the Limited. Limited Plus models get one more interior color choice, as well.

Maybe some of those things can bring more spark to a mid-pack crossover.

Certainly, the Limited isn’t limited in terms of standard features (the long-time OEM convention of using “limited” to represent a top/luxury trim that isn’t limited in terms of features or production numbers continues unabated) – this one includes blind-spot detection, rear cross-path detection, power liftgate, keyless entry and starting, automatic start/stop, hill-start assist, Uconnect, Apple CarPlay, 8.4-inch infotainment screen, Android Auto, satellite radio, Alpine stereo, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, 18-inch wheels, and automatic headlamps.

Options included the Technology Group (advanced brake assist, rain-sensing wipers, lane-departure warning plus, automatic high beams, full-speed collision-warning plus, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, side-distance warning, and park assist). This model had an off-road-tuned suspension with hill-descent control and Jeep Active Drive II. Other options included the 2.0-liter engine, sunroof, navigation, and Wi-Fi hotspot.

Total price? A tick north of $42K.

The Cherokee isn’t a bad vehicle. But it’s not as a strong an all-around package as the RAV4, not as refined as the CR-V, not as fun on a curvy road as the Escape, not as stylish as the newest Rogue, and not as cool as the new for 2021 Bronco Sport. It’s also pricey, and some of the competition can be had with similar equipment for a lower MSRP.

Yes, this is a 2020 model, but that doesn’t fundamentally change things. The addition of the Bronco Sport is notable, but the Cherokee was mid-pack before the baby Bronco hit the market.

There’s no reason – save, perhaps, concerns over Jeep reliability – not to buy the Cherokee. But there isn’t a strong reason – save, perhaps, for cash on the hood – to buy one, either.

Mired in the middle. Just like a .500 sports team.

[Images © Jeep]

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  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Mar 24, 2021

    The Jeep quality control issues are well known but it seems to vary from one vehicle to another and also the year. My intern drove a 2016 Cherokee V6 to work on a daily basis with about 80K on the clock and that was when several issues cropped up including the timing cover on the 3.2 V6 starting leaking, the door seal on the driver's side was worn right out, both front wheel bearings needed replacing, the check engine light kept coming on due to a bad evap canister and shortly after he needed to replace both front axle shafts. Most of these issues were corrected save the timing cover leak and that has got to the point where it's pouring out so thus this vehicle sits in the driveway until several grand is coughed up to correct that. He also calls the 9 speed automatic the worst piece of ill shifting crap he has ever encountered! Another co-worker had a 2018 Compass that ate control arm bushings and wheel bearings for breakfast and surprise her driver's side door weatherstripping also wore out at only 35K! After getting a third set of control arm bushings changed she traded for a 2020 Hyundai Tuscon and has been very happy with it so far with zero issues. I would guess that a newer 2020/2021 Jeep Cherokee or GC would be pretty reliable but would still be leery after 100K with what I have seen so far.

  • Sigivald Sigivald on Mar 25, 2021

    "not as stylish as the newest Rogue" ... wat?

  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.
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