2019 Jeep Cherokee – Hawaii Cars

2019 Jeep Cherokee

You’re just tough by association

By MALCOLM GUNN
www.wheelbasemedia.com

Is the Cherokee an honest-to-goodness Jeep, or is it a poser hiding behind an iconic off-roader’s badge?

The answer very much depends on how the vehicle is outfitted, but there have been compromises to make the Cherokee appeal to a broader swath of utility buyers. That is to say, clean-cut city folk who might also cross-shop the Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe, Chevrolet Equinox and similar wagons.

The previous Cherokee was a rough-and-tumble brute launched in 1983 by long-since-passed American Motors. Although still revered by “Jeepers,” the classic warhorse was retired in 2001, although it remained available in China for 13 more years.

Fast-forward more than a decade and the current Cherokee, which is built on a platform developed in Italy by the Fiat division of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), arrived for 2014. An updated version is now on sale as a 2019 model.

The new nosepiece — including grille, hood, bumper and LED headlamps and fog lights — channels a dash of the big-brother Grand Cherokee, while a lightweight composite liftgate has been installed behind the new cap-free fuel filler. These mods, which have resulted in a 150-pound reduction in body weight, should placate those thought the design was perhaps too far from the pail.

The interior also receives some minor updates, including adjustments to the touchscreen location plus new trim and seat-cover material.

Although none of the Cherokee’s key dimensions and interior volumes have been noticeably altered, the body structure ahead of the windshield has been strengthened and the suspension has been retuned for a more compliant ride.

Among all the changes, easily the most significant is the addition of third engine option. The new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder can also be ordered in the new 2018 Wrangler. It’s rated at 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

The turbo joins the carryover turbo 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 180 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, and the available non-turbo 3.2-liter V-6 with 271 horses and 239 pound-feet.

Each powerplant is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission with a manual-shift mode.
Official fuel-economy numbers for the new engine haven’t been announced, but Jeep claims they will improve upon the V-6’s rating of 20 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway. The base 2.4 is rated at 21/30.

What sets the Cherokee apart is an unrivaled range of available four-wheel-drive systems, beginning with Active Drive I that automatically engages whenever tire slip is detected. The optional Active Drive II comes with a two-speed transfer case with a low-range gear for big-time torque multiplication. Active Drive Lock adds a mechanically locking rear differential to Active Drive II, which is suited to clambering up steep grades where loose, slippery rocks and gravel can wreak havoc with traction.

Active Drive Lock is standard in the extreme-off-road-capable Cherokee Trailhawk that also comes with Selec-Speed ascent and descent crawl control. The system maintains vehicle speed between one and five mph without the driver touching the throttle or brakes.

Trailhawk buyers also get a slightly increased ride height, protective undercarriage skid plates and 17-inch off-road-rated tires.

All 4×4 systems include the adjustable Selec-Terrain, with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock terrain settings.

Trailhawk pricing starts at $34,500 (including destination charges), but you can pay as little as $25,200 for the least-expensive front-wheel-drive Latitude trim. At the top of the pecking order is the $37,450 luxury-laden Cherokee Overland V-6 that comes with a perforated-leather and wood-trimmed interior as well as a 506-watt Alpine-brand audio system. Despite being the top dog, you’ll still pay extra for Jeep’s active-safety technologies such as emergency braking and lane-departure warning.

The range of drivetrain and content choices means that, functionally, there’s a Cherokee for just about everyone. Dialing in the new looks for 2019, however, will likely do the best job of bringing in new buyers.

What you should know: 2019 Jeep Cherokee

Type: Four-door, front- /four-wheel-drive utility vehicle

Engines (h.p.): 2.4-liter SOHC I-4, turbocharged (180); 3.2-liter DOHC V-6 (271)
2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (270)

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Market position: Although the Cherokee is a mainstream utility model (it can be had as a front-wheel-driver, after all), there’s real off-road content for those who have the desire and the credit.

Points:
• Minor design modifications significantly improve overall style.
• Additional engine choice could eventually replace the V-6.
• Lack of standard dynamic safety tech in the premium Overland model is puzzling.
• Trailhawk’s go-anywhere four-wheel-drive setup is the most desirable setup, even if you stick to mostly paved roads.

Active safety: Blind-spot monitoring with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (opt.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.).

MPG (city/hwy) 21/30 (2.4); Base price (incl. destination) $25,200

B Y C O M P A R I S O N

GMC Terrain
Base price: $26,000
Three turbo-engine choices and an available luxury Denali model.

Ford Escape
Base price: $24,500
Stylish wagon sticks to turbo and non-turbo I-4 engines with up to 245 h.p.

Kia Sportage
Base price: $24,400
Recently updated model is a bit smaller than the competition. Excellent warranty.