Competes with: Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue
Looks like: The Cherokee is brought back into Jeep styling normalcy
Drivetrains: 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder; optional 271-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 or 270-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; nine-speed automatic; front- or all-wheel drive.
Hits dealerships: Early 2018
Jeep won’t admit it, but we pretty much know the truth of it here — the wild, weird redesign of the new-for-2014 Jeep Cherokee didn’t go over that well. Sure, Jeep sold more than a few of the compact crossovers, but given the deals Jeep dealers were handing out and the overall market craze for small SUVs these days, it’s hard not to sell a new crossover.
But the oddball styling of the Cherokee’s front end never spread to any other Jeep model — instead, the Grand Cherokee’s far more successful, cohesive and conventional design proliferated, such as on the new 2017 Compass. Well, Jeep has remedied its Cherokee problem with this new-for-2019 incarnation unveiled this week at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Related: More Detroit Auto Show Coverage
The new face should look familiar — it’s much more similar to the one seen on the Compass and Grand Cherokee, and it’s one of two looks the Jeep brand employs (the other is the boxy, traditional look seen on the Wrangler and Renegade). The front end has conventional headlights again, and the traditional Jeep seven-slot grille is nicely integrated into the hood. The side doesn’t look much different, but the rear gets a mild makeover with some new taillights and a lighter composite tailgate that sheds around 17 pounds compared with the old one.
As before, a Trailhawk version will top the trim levels, a more off-road-ready model that features a 1-inch lift (for a total ground clearance of 8.7 inches), off-road tires, and higher LED lights in higher bumpers for better approach and departure angles. The red tow hooks are back, as well, a dead giveaway as to which model you’re looking at from a distance.
The Cherokee gets a mild redo on the interior, but nothing too dramatic. Materials have been upgraded, with nicer bezels and trim pieces, a new center stack, and an updated multimedia system and gauge cluster. Two new color themes are available, depending on which trim level you choose. The Overland model is available with contrasting seat colors.
The new base multimedia system is a 7-inch touchscreen, with the 8.4-inch Uconnect screen an option. The screens both have better resolution than the old models, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. The center console has been redesigned, as well, and has more storage for things like smartphones.
The cargo area has received some significant attention, with a redesign that maximizes available space to provide a nice bump over the outgoing model. The rear cargo floor now drops further, and optimization of rear structural pieces widens the space, as well — it can now accommodate the proverbial golf bag with ease. Numerically, the cargo area rises from 24.6 cubic feet to 27 cubic feet just through some panel design improvement.
Under the Hood
The Cherokee gets a new powertrain, as well, with a lot of the engineering work focusing on improving the vehicle’s efficiency. Three engines are available — the carryover 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 180 horsepower is standard, while the optional engine remains the 3.2-liter V-6 making 271 hp and 239 pounds-feet of torque. But a new motor has appeared — an Alfa Romeo-derived turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that makes 270 hp but 295 pounds-feet of torque.
All engines are mated to a new nine-speed automatic transmission. No fuel-economy numbers were yet available for the Cherokee’s powertrains. Front-wheel drive is standard, with three all-wheel-drive systems optional: Jeep Active Drive I for all-wheel drive; Active Drive II, which includes a low-range gear; and Active Drive Lock standard for the Trailhawk only that adds an electronic locking rear differential.
Other efforts at lightening up the Cherokee have been successful, as well. Items like a redesigned front engine cradle, the aforementioned liftgate redesign and other measures should bump fuel economy up nicely. The off-road ability of the Cherokee is maintained, however, with the same five selectable drive modes for the all-wheel-drive system, including a two-speed locking transfer case for truly challenging off-road situations.
Jeep has thrown the book at the new Cherokee, making available just about every possible safety system known to man on the new model. Available on the new Jeep are parallel/perpendicular parking assist, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitor with cross-traffic detection, and a backup camera to name a few.
The new Cherokee will arrive in dealerships early this year, sometime in the next couple of months. Five trim levels will be available: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Trailhawk, Limited and Overland. Pricing will be announced closer to the on-sale date.
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