2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review

Jeep revives the name from its classic sporty wagon.

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March 28, 2014

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review

We are encouraged by Jeep's decision to downsize its front end - massive, gaping grilles have been the bane of new car design for most of the last decade - but we just don't find this particular rhinoplasty job to be particularly appealing.

Introduction
Jeep has semi-resurrected its Cherokee nameplate for 2014 (it's 'semi' because the Grand Cherokee never went away), adding yet another vehicle to its already crowded mid-size lineup. Jeep is apparently using the Cherokee as a trial balloon for a new design style - a fairly radical one for a brand as conservative as Jeep -- that it calls 'forward-looking,' but we call 'funny looking.'

Aside from the oddly out-of-proportion front fascia, which comes to an abrupt point that makes it resemble a dolphin's beak, and the long, thin headlights that look like a sideways exclamation mark, the Cherokee shares the same silhouette with every other mid-size SUV and crossover on the planet.

Resurrecting the Cherokee badge now makes sense, since the original Cherokee was basically the sporty version of the Jeep Wagoneer, and this new Cherokee is the sporty (ish) version of the current would-be wagon, the Grand Cherokee.

Placed side-by-side, the Cherokee doesn't look a whole lot different from the Grand Cherokee. Except for that front end. Oh yeah ... Well, I'm sure some people will think it looks great.

2014 Jeep Cherokee On the Road

The new Cherokee may not share anything physical in common with the original (which went off sale in 2001, although the Jeep Liberty has been known as the Cherokee outside of the U.S. since 2002), but it's clearly trying to capture some of the sportiness of the classic models.

The Trailhawk, being the off-road version, has several settings for its 4-wheel drive system, each tailored to a particular driving condition: snow, sand/mud, rock, auto, or sport. There are also the heavy-duty off-road settings, like 4LO and Diff Lock, which anyone who buys this car really ought to try out sometime on a real off-road course.

It's hard to call anything this big sporty, but the Cherokee Trailhawk is anything but underpowered. Its V-6 provides enough forward momentum to tow 4,500 pounds (the base Cherokee comes with a 2.4-liter inline-4), so there's more than enough horsepower to get you up to speed in time to merge on the freeway.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Exterior

The look of the Cherokee is obviously its most interesting feature. It's always encouraging to see car companies - especially American ones - taking chances with unusual design choices, and we really hate to criticize them for it, because they should be doing it more not less ... but ... it's really hard to get what they're going for with the curved grille.

Again, we are encouraged by Jeep's decision to downsize its front end - massive, gaping grilles have been the bane of new car design for most of the last decade - but we just don't find this particular rhinoplasty job to be particularly appealing.

However, the softer design language could catch on with the intended audience (even if Jeep doesn't care to admit it), which is women. The new Cherokee sits astride the Liberty and the Compass, both of which have earned the dreaded 'chick car' label, deservedly so or not, and there's a similar design aesthetic at work on the Cherokee.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Interior

The Cherokee has a more upscale interior than other midline Jeeps. It's fairly understated, except when it comes to the dashboard, which, by virtue of it being a Jeep, has to look 'manly,' which usually translates as big, chunky, and made of cheap shiny stuff.

This is a comfortable interior, and it comes (on the Trailhawk edition, anyway) with heated seats, heated steering wheel, parking sensors and back-up camera, and - a first - a wireless charging platform for your phone (should your phone be equipped with built-in wireless charging capability or a suitable adapter).

Overall, the Cherokee offers a near-luxury-level interior at a not so luxury-level price.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Conclusion The Cherokee is a fairly unspectacular mid-size SUV (it's amazing that something so huge can be called midsize), but the Trailhawk edition adds a level of off-road ability that makes it second only to the Wrangler for a Jeep with actual utility, instead of just the logo of a brand that's associated with utility. It's perfect for people with the money and the time to lead an incredibly active lifestyle, and not so bad for the rest of us, either.
2014 Jeep Cherokee Specs & Prices Engine: 3.2-liter V-6 (standard on the Trailhawk edition)

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Power Output: 184 horsepower / 171 lb.-ft. torque

Fuel Economy: 18 mpg (city) / 25 mpg (hwy)

Price: $29,495 (base) $36,120 (as tested)

Features: 17-inch aluminum wheels (standard), all-terrain tires (standard), back-up camera, power liftgate, remote start, Uconnect premium navigation.

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