2014 Jeep Cherokee
Jeep has come a long way from the Wrangler
Date Posted: June 25, 2014
By Zack Spencer
Jeep enters the hot compact utility market with an edgy looking crossover. Sold with two engines and three all wheel drive systems
Jeep has been one of the strongest brands for the Chrysler Group thanks to the fantastic Grand Cherokee mid-sized SUV and the always-popular Wrangler. Building off that success is the introduction of an all-new Cherokee. It has been almost twenty years since we had a Cherokee in the market and this one is radically different from anything one might remember. Since the Chrysler group didn’t have a small SUV in its portfolio to take on established players like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape, this 2014 Cherokee has a lot riding on its success. And successful it has been, selling in vast numbers since it was introduced last fall and winning awards like the Automotive Journalist Association of Canada (AJAC) Canadian Utility of the Year award.
Unlike the last 1990s Cherokee, this radically different Jeep is based on a car platform instead of a rugged truck chassis. This approach is lighter, to save fuel, and rewards the driver with good on-road manors. Built off the same Alfa Romeo derived platform that the Dodge Dart uses, the styling is edgy and modern. The sharp nose and small headlamps, along with the curved Jeep grille make a statement that some might not appreciate. I’ve come to learn that edgy designs really do mellow in the marketplace after they have been out for a while and this one is no different. Now that there are a number of Cherokee’s on the road, they don’t stand out as much. Some Jeep aficionados might no be intrigued by this new design but newcomers to the brand might actually like it. The starting price is $23,495, which is less than all the major competitors. For this price you get standard air conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity, two USB ports, a 5-inch Uconnect screen and power windows/doors. The AWD model starts at $25,695, which is also the lowest price model in this class. The closest competitor, on price, image and capability might be the Subaru Forester for $25,995.
As edgy as the exterior is, the interior of the all-new Cherokee is more upscale than most of the competitors in this class. The doors, armrest and dash are covered in soft touch materials. The front seats are supportive and comfortable. The rear seats too are comfy and slide for and aft for more cargo storage. When placed in the normal position, the legroom isn’t ample but on par with others in this class. Connecting to the Cherokee is a snap with the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect system that pair’s smartphone sin seconds, is very quick between commands and has nice looking graphics. The base screen is 5-inches but has many of the same functionality. Behind the steering wheel, inside the instrument cluster, is another programmable screen for all the information the driver needs frequently. In fact Ward’s awarded the Cherokee “Best Interior Award” singling out the upscale design combined with the attractive price.
Jeep has done a great job of packaging the two engines available. The base 2.4L 4-cylinder with 184hp is the base engine on all trim levels. For just $1300 any Cherokee can be equipped with the optional 3.2L V6 engine-- making the walk up to this 271hp engine within reach for many buyers. In addition, this is the very first application of a 9-speed automatic anywhere in the auto industry, providing improved fuel economy and drivability. Having a chance to drive both the 4-cylinder and V6 models with the all-new 9-speed automatic, I’m torn between the two. The V6 is the engine of choice for towing, steep mountain runs and longer distance driving. The flip side is the 4-cylinder is a very good in-city commuter and the lighter engine helps this Cherokee to corner, brake and maneuver better. The 9-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly, in fact I forgot it had so many cogs but it does improve fuel economy with a highway rating of 6.4L/100km with the 4-cylinder and 7.0L with the V6.
Most Canadians will opt for the AWD versions thanks to our winter conditions but here too there are more choices. Jeep has included three AWD systems. The first is a called Active Drive 1 with a selectable drive mode called Select-Terrain, for automatic, snow, mud and sand settings. The second is called Active Drive 2 and offers a two-speed mode for low speed crawling. The most aggressive system is Active Drive Lock, which comes in the off-road purpose-built Cherokee called Trailhawk. The Trailhawk is a real Jeep, This is thanks to a locking rear differential and a host of electronic aids. The most impressive feature is the low speed crawling mode for both up and down hill tasks. So Jeep purists, yes there is a Cherokee for you.
This new Cherokee is off to a fantastic start. Sales are strong and the sharp design is bringing in buyers, not shoving them away. The interior, road handling and features, for the money, are all helping to make a statement. The 2014 Cherokee couldn’t be further away from the last model; this is a thoroughly modern SUV with go-anywhere capability and around town refinement that needs to be experienced.
Power: 184hp 2.4L 4-cylinder, and 271hp 3.2L V6.
Fill-up: 9.9L/7.0L/100km (city/highway AWD)
Sticker price: $23,695-$32,195
Sales are strong and the sharp design is bringing in buyers