2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited
Living up to the Cherokee name, most of the time.No Comments
The new Cherokee hits all the marks in its segment and stands a good chance to take a bite out of the sales figures of Toyota, Honda, and Ford.
The Jeep Cherokee of old - the XJ, as the purists call it - is a different beast than Chrysler's Cherokee of new. The old model was far more utility-based, and it looked the part, as well; the XJ was no more aesthetically pleasing than the mailbox that your Cherokee-driving mailman just filled up. You could choose between four-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, maybe a manual transmission, and some trim levels that added a hint of luxury and nothing more.
But oh, how the times have changed since then. No longer are people searching for dedicated off-roaders or hardcore utility vehicles to complement their current garage; instead, they'll want to buy something that has a healthy mix from several different genres, resulting in a vehicle that's a jack of all trades, yet a master of none. Say hello to the new Cherokee.
The Limited-trim Cherokee is the luxury model - if you want to sip a glass of fun on the (literal) rocks, the Trailhawk is where you should look. In order to keep with the safety-minded sensibilities of the modern car buyer, the rear-drive offering has been scratched in favor of front-wheel drive. Yes, you read that right. Take a moment to grab a tissue and weep before I remind you that this is how the market operates, folks; we did this to ourselves.
If you start ticking options boxes, your Cherokee will be loaded with all sorts of computerized trickery that would seem pointless in anything but a vehicle that's meant to be driven exclusively on-road - lane-departure warnings, blind-spot monitors, and active cruise control are all available. Even if you stick with the standard suspension (although off-road suspension is available at no cost, even on the Limited), you get a four-wheel-drive system that outperforms every all-wheel-drive system from its competitors without a ride so harsh that it comes with a chiropractor's license.
Even though most auto aficionados will poo-poo the new Cherokee, instead choosing to kiss the XJ's ring as it sits on a gilded marble pedestal, the new Cherokee hits all the marks in its segment and stands a good chance to take a bite out of the sales figures of Toyota, Honda, and Ford. Yeah, the Limited is a total mall-crawler, but if you bought the Limited instead of the Trailhawk and wanted an old-school off-road experience, that's your own fault, dummy.
The ride is very SUV-ish, as to be expected, but if you're in the market for a small crossover, you know that a bit of pitch and body roll are par for the course. The Pentastar V-6 is very eager to get going, and it provides V-6 power and response in a segment dominated by small four-bangers, a big benefit for fans of cylinder count and displacement. Sadly, the pedals don't contribute to the fun; the brakes require effort typically seen in much heavier trucks, and the accelerator seems to deliver messages to the throttle with a great degree of inconsistency - it's just way too soft for a pedal that's supposed to be used sparingly in low-traction conditions. Also, while Jeep has done a great amount of work to smooth over the ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, upshifts are still occasionally rough, and it takes a fair bit of pedal travel to get the car to downshift through enough gears to pass on the freeway.
Also, our greatest exultation for this car is also a send-up to every other automaker out there. Jeep got the manu-matic function right - push forward for a downshift, pull backwards for an upshift. That's how they do it in motorsports, and your arm isn't busy fighting the forces of physics like it is with every other manu-matic out there. How is it that the only car to get this right is the one car that isn't meant to be driven in a sporty fashion?!
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Power Output: 271 hp / 239 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 19 city / 27 highway
Base Price: $29,995
As Tested: $37,030 (not incl. $995 destination)
Optional Features: Luxury Group (bi-xenon headlamps, power liftgate, leather-trimmed seats, ventilated front seats, memory settings for the radio, seats, and exterior mirrors), Technology Group (adaptive cruise control, advanced brake assist, automatic high-beam headlamps, blind-spot detection, forward collision warning, lane-departure warning, parallel/perpendicular park assist, rain sensitive wipers), Trailer Tow Group (seven and four pin wiring harness, class III receiver hitch, full size spare tire, trailer tow wiring harness, 180-amp alternator, 3.517 final drive ratio, additional engine cooling), dual-pane panoramic sunroof, off-road suspension, UConnect infotainment system with navigation, nine-speaker premium audio with subwoofer