The last time a new Jeep Cherokee was announced, Bill Clinton was in office.
Yes, it’s been a while — over a decade in fact — but now, here we are with a brand new 2014 Cherokee making its triumphant return all these years later, garnering many accolades and being considered for truck of the year at January’s NAIAS auto show.
When you go that long between models, it’s hardly going to be the same car. In fact, with a new look and technology that wasn’t around back in 2001, it’s really the same car in name only. It’s a new era of the Cherokee, and after spending a week driving one I’m here to let you know how it fits in with the modern Jeep lineup and who might be interested in picking one up.
The 2014 Cherokee fits in a category that wasn’t really around back in 2001. It’s in the crossover SUV category, meaning it’s not a hulking large SUV of yesteryear, but is more roomy and spacious than a midsize sedan (even though its platform is the same as the Dodge Dart). The tradeoff for more legroom, though, is less storage space. You can’t have it all when the form is a small SUV.
It looks somewhat small from the outside but is a rather roomy vehicle inside. If you’re a Jeep fan and you’re hunting around, you’ll find it a nice middle ground between the smaller Compass and Liberty models, and the larger Grand Cherokee offering.
The Cherokee looks sharp though, inside and out, and it gets a signature Jeep look up front so you’re clear what it is from a distance.
My test vehicle featured a 3.2-liter V6 engine and a 9-speed automatic transmission, with an impressive 271 horsepower.
The V6 is a zippy motor that will get you moving, but isn’t overly powerful.
Base versions of the Cherokee feature a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, and 184 horsepower. I didn’t test a model with this engine, but others who have say it’s a bit sluggish compared to the competition due to the vehicle’s weight. If you’re gonna get a Cherokee, V6 is the way to go if you want maximum performance.
A nice touch is the mode dial that allows you to adapt to situations like snowy conditions (which I definitely got to test out and was impressed), or try out a more sporty drive.
If you plan to tow with the Cherokee, the 2.4-liter engine can tow 2,000 pounds and the 3.2 liter engine can tow up to 4,500 pounds.
Front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations are offered on the Cherokee.
Keeping with the theme of this being a brand-new car essentially; forget about the off-roading focus of past Cherokees; the 2014 model does very well in the city, getting you around comfortably and fitting the family quite well unless you have a big brood. The ride is smooth, nimble and enjoyable on flat pavement. Can it still do some off-roading? Sure, and there’s one trim level aimed at that crowd (Trailhawk). But that’s not the overall focus with this relaunch of the Cherokee. This is aimed primarily at the city dwellers and families looking for crossover vehicles.
The V6 version of the 2014 Cherokee has official numbers of 19 city and 27 highway. I got between 20 and 21 mpg during my time with the vehicle — decent numbers for this category.
On the base engine, the numbers are better: 22 city/31 highway and 25 combined (the upside of the less powerful engine is you get better mileage).
The tech in the Jeep Cherokee is all new — a decade-plus passing will do that.
Standard features include: Bluetooth connectivity; 10 air bags (including driver/front passenger knee bags and rear seat-mounted air bags); Trailer Swap control (standard on 4Ã—4); projector headlamps and LED tail lamps; dual-zone climate controls; AC power outlet (115 volt).
Optional features include: Heated steering wheel; Handsfree voice-to-text system; forward crash warning system with crash mitigation; LaneSense Lane Departure Warning Plus; Blind-spot monitoring; Rear Crosspath Detection; Rear back-up camera; Perpendicular and Parallel park assist (a first for Jeep); and Premium Audio (Alpine 10 speaker system, 506 watts)
The standard touchscreen and LED instrument cluster are both 5 inches; but you can upgrade to an 8.4-inch touchscreen and a 7-inch full-color LCD cluster for a slightly larger view of all your information. The UConnect system is easy to learn and use, voice commands work well, and I also like the placement of the volume and forward/rewind buttons behind the wheel where your fingers already are placed — it’s quite convenient.
The base price for the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is an affordable $22,995, but remember you’re getting the weaker engine. My test vehicle was a Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4Ã—4 with the upgraded engine and convenience package and some other options, and came in at $31,480.
Four trim levels are offered: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited. … Trailhawk is the version most aimed at off-roaders (it only comes in four-wheel drive and features a suspension aimed at driving better in the dirt, among other changes).
The reincarnation of the Jeep Cherokee brings it into the modern era, adding all the technology that wasn’t around the last go-around, and adapting it to a new style of vehicle. Of all the Jeep offerings, it’s the best on fuel economy (a week area for the lineup as a whole) and should gain some buyers back due to its family-friendly size and decent starting price.
There’s a lot of strong competition in this area, from Ford’s Escape, Honda’s CR-V and a bunch more who may offer a better overall ride depending on the configuration on the Cherokee. But there’s no denying that Jeep’s reintroduction of the Cherokee nameplate has put another worthy contender on the map for folks considering a crossover, and may get folks to consider buying a Jeep who may not have done so prior to the launch of this vehicle for 2014.