2014 Jeep Cherokee: First drive review
The fondly remembered SUV returns as a comfortable on-roader and capable off-roader.
Jeep revives a name from the past to replace the unloved Liberty. Jeep calls the new 2014 Cherokee a midsize crossover, but it competes with compact crossovers such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape.
The Jeep Cherokee enjoyed a nearly 30-year run from 1974 to 2001 as a compact SUV with plenty of space and lots of off-road capability. Simple in design and execution, the Cherokee was essentially a box on wheels, but to this day it has a devoted following. After letting the Cherokee's replacement, the Liberty, grow long in the tooth, Jeep has gone back to the Cherokee name for the Liberty's replacement. Those fond of the last Cherokee won't recognize this one. It's far more comfortable and luxurious than its forebear, but still possesses Jeep's signature off-road prowess.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is offered in four trims: Sport, Latitude, Limited and the off-road-oriented Trailhawk. Front-wheel drive is standard on all but the Trailhawk, which comes with a 4-wheel drive that's optional on other trims.
The $22,995 Sport has standard cloth upholstery and includes a 6-way manually adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, auxiliary input jack, two USB ports, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and 17-inch steel wheels with wheel covers.
The $24,995 Latitude adds fog lights, front passenger seat under-cushion storage, a 115-volt power outlet, LED ambient interior lighting, tinted window glass and alloy wheels.
The $27,995 Limited gets leather upholstery, an 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a Uconnect 8.4-inch touch screen with rearview camera, a 7-inch color TFT instrument cluster and 18-inch polished alloy wheels, as well as other goodies.
The $29,995 Trailhawk comes with cloth and leather upholstery, speed-selectable hill descent and ascent control, skid plates, a raised suspension and 17-inch all-terrain tires.
Notable options include a navigation system, a Class III trailer hitch, keyless starting, Nappa leather upholstery, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, forward collision warning, blind spot monitor, adaptive cruise control and an automatic parking system with parallel and perpendicular parking functions.
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Under the hood
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee offers a choice of V6 or 4-cylinder power. The base engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder that produces 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. It features FIAT-sourced MultiAir technology, which is an electro-hydraulic means of controlling the intake valves to improve both power and fuel economy. Optional for all versions is a new 3.2-liter V6 engine based on Chrysler's 3.6-liter V6. It makes 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability.
Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy ratings for the 2.4-liter are 22 mpg city/31 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 21/28 mpg with 4WD. The V6 is rated at 19/28 mpg with front drive and 19/27 mpg with 4WD.
The Cherokee is offered with three 4-wheel-drive systems. The base system is called Active Drive I. It is basically an all-wheel-drive arrangement that can send as much as 100 percent of the power to the rear wheels when the front wheels slip. Active Drive II adds low-range gearing for greater off-road capability. Active Drive Lock, which is standard on the Trailhawk, furthers the off-road prowess with a locking rear differential. All 4WD Cherokees come with a Selec-Terrain system with settings for Automatic, Sport, Snow and Sand/Mud. Active Drive Lock adds a Rock setting that is only available when low-range gearing is engaged.
Hop into a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, the compact crossover leaders, and you'll notice a lot of hard plastics. The new Jeep Cherokee has a much more inviting environment, with soft-touch materials on the dash, door panels and center console. Impressive.
Jeep has also put considerable thought into the Cherokee's interior colors. Buyers can choose from five different interior environments with colors influenced by the hues of nature. For instance, Vesuvio features dark brown and dark blue hues with white accents and silver trim, while Kilimanjaro mixes brown with red, and Morocco is mostly black with gold accents. For the most part, these are traditional interior colors, but some of the combinations are unique. All choices are attractive.
Cherokee buyers also get the latest in in-car connectivity. The base trim comes with a 5.0-inch touch screen with voice controls, and higher-line versions come with Chrysler's 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen and a 7-inch TFT customizable instrument display. The 8.4-inch screen is one of the best infotainment systems on the market. The layout is intuitive, the large screen makes the virtual buttons easy to access, and the reaction times are pretty quick. The customizable instrument display also lets drivers choose the information they want to view at a glance.
A crossover needs space for passengers and cargo, and the Cherokee delivers. Passenger room is excellent, thanks to a roomy front seat and a rear seat that slides fore and aft up to six inches. Front-seat passengers sit on comfortable seats and the elevated driving position affords a good view of the road. While the Cherokee has less total cargo space than many of its competitors, that space is well thought out and quite useful. With the rear seats down, the Cherokee has 54.9 cubic feet of cargo volume compared to 68.1 in the Ford Escape and 73.4 in the Toyota RAV4. However, Jeep offers some useful features, including a fold-down front passenger seat, storage under the cushion of the front passenger seat, and a rear cargo management system. This system features a track on the side of the cargo area with four utility hooks and a reusable grocery bag. Other items, such as an off-road accessory kit, a cargo bin, a cargo mat, and a foldable cooler, are also available as accessories.
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I've driven my 2000 Jeep Cherokee for about 12 years. Fairly rugged, good of-road, quick on the highway, handles well, looks like a Jeep, and has grease fittings and glass headlights, Suffers a bit from weak wiring and too much dried up plastic. Not too bad for the home mechanic.
My Dad had a 1949 Jeep wagon that was simple and fun even if underpowered. WWII reenactors, I know, have "real Jeeps" that are a dream in simplicity much like Henry Ford's Model "A".
The new Cherokee has the design of an ugly cartoon in the same league as the Edsel, With all the extras it may have some appeal to those suburban "off-roaders" whose sole off road experience will be
over a few feet of their lawn while backing out of their driveway. Wouldn't want to take this over-priced complicated contraption anywhere it might get scratched or dirty. Suspect the new owners will wear the appropriate designer clothes while in this vehicle. YUCK.......!!!!