2014 Jeep Cherokee

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2014 Jeep Cherokee review

By Kirk Bell of MSN Autos
Rating: 9.0

Bottom Line:

Like the Dodge Dart it is based on, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee's driving character isn't a match for the best in the class, but this new crossover is competitive as an on-road driver and by far the best in class for off-road prowess. The interior is another strength, boasting quality materials and the latest in connectivity. Unfortunately, like other new compact crossovers, pricing reaches into the mid-$30,000 range all too easily.
Pros:
  • Refined interior
  • Lots of off-road capability
  • V6 power or 4-cylinder efficiency
Cons:
  • Not much fun to drive
  • Pricing tops $30K too easily
  • 4-cylinder lacks power

View Pictures:  2014 Jeep Cherokee

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.

Model lineup
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.

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.

Inner space
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.

On the road
The Cherokee shares the Dodge Dart's Alfa Romeo Giulietta-based platform, and it drives similar to its compact car counterpart. That makes for a comfortable but somewhat dull driving experience. The electric-assist power steering is fairly direct and predictable, but it lacks the feel and feedback that can contribute to a fun driving character. Handling is typical of the class, with a slightly tall stance that creates some lean in turns and a tendency to understeer when driven hard through corners.

While the on-road dynamics are just average, the Cherokee's competitive advantage lies in its off-road prowess. While front-wheel drive is standard, the Cherokee is available with three 4-wheel-drive systems, each with more off-road ability than the last. Active Drive II has low-range gearing, which helps the Cherokee climb hills and crawl over rocks, and the most advanced system, called Active Drive Lock, adds a locking rear differential, which helps the vehicle conquer even tougher terrain. The Trailhawk also adds an inch of ride height to improve the approach, departure and breakover angles, and skidplates to protect the underbody from off-road obstacles.

A portion of our test drive included some technical off-roading in the Trailhawk. The Cherokee handled the various climbs and descents with ease, thanks in part to the available Selec-Speed Control system that moves the vehicles along at speeds ranging from 0.6 to 5.4 mph whether going uphill or downhill. The suspension articulation also dealt well with rock climbing. All of these situations were aided by the Selec-Terrain system, which adjusts various vehicle systems to best deal with various surface conditions.

The Cherokee also boasts powertrain offerings unmatched in the class. The base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine is pretty typical, but the new 3.2-liter V6 and the 9-speed automatic transmission that works with both engines are class exclusives. The 2.4-liter puts up a pedestrian zero-to-60-mph time of 9.8 seconds, slower than average for the class, but it actually feels fairly peppy from behind the wheel. Passing requires some planning and the engine is a bit gruff, but the 2.4-liter should serve most buyers quite well.

The 3.2-liter V6 engine, which is a downsized version of Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar V6, cuts the zero-to-60-mph time to 7.5 seconds and offers a more refined engine note. While we like this engine, it didn't feel as powerful as most of today's V6s and some turbocharged fours. There isn't much of a fuel economy penalty with the V6, though, so those who want more power won't have to sacrifice fuel efficiency.

Part of the reason both engines are so fuel efficient is the new 9-speed automatic. With so many gears, it lets the engines operate efficiently more often. Jeep postponed the Cherokee test drive to reprogram the transmission, and the extra time seems to have paid off. With either engine, the transmission shifts smoothly and responsively. It was never confused during our test drive, and it seemed to get the most power out of either engine during aggressive driving.

Right for you?
Compact crossovers are attractive choices as family haulers due to their useful space, affordable pricing and frugal fuel economy. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee hits those beats and also offers off-road prowess unmatched in the class. That makes it a fine choice for adventurous families or couples who lead active lifestyles or like to vacation off the beaten path.

(As part of a sponsored press event, the automaker provided MSN with travel and accommodations to facilitatethis report.)

Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, andcurrently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.

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BB02 - 8/28/2014 6:29:44 AM