This week, we’re driving the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee, a mid-size SUV delivered in upper class Trailhawk dress.
Sporting a 3.2-liter V6 coupled to a nine-speed automatic transmission, this Jeep is the first Cherokee to feature parent Fiat platform input at its assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio.
Subsequently, Test Drive is impressed at how well the new Jeep/Fiat union is progressing as the future of Chrysler/Jeep is in good hands thanks to Fiat monies that will allow further product development.
Our 4×4 Trailhawk, with a base of $29,495, is built for both highway comfort and some serious off road maneuvering. Additionally, Trailhawk is the only Cherokee that comes only as a 4×4. The sibling Sport, Altitude, Latitude and Limited all offer 4×4 as an upgrade.
And speaking of Sport, Cherokee’s entry model comes delivered in 2WD layout with an inline-four cylinder for just $22,995. Sport offers just about everything the other Cherokee’s do mechanically…including the high-tech nine-speed automatic.
Although 2014 Cherokee features a first ever “un-Jeepman-like” front end design, where razor thin headlamps catch the initial glance, Cherokee’s core utility is still intact, although I will admit the headlight design wavers perhaps a bit too much from decade long Jeep design expectations. The grille, meanwhile, is still customary Jeep as are other ancillary items like steel tow hooks, a sturdy undercarriage.
With some 70 different safety and security features built into each and every Cherokee, Jeep is proud to note that Cherokee is first mid-size SUV to feature three separate 4×4 systems with one or two speed transfer cases: Active drive 1, Active drive 2 and Active drive lock. The aforementioned nine-speed automatic, not surprisingly, allows the V6 power to deliver 30-percent better fuel economy versus the current Liberty V6 without sacrifice in Jeep off-road capability or acceleration.
With 17 city and 25 highway the V6 fuel mileage expectations, consumers might consider the four-cylinder powered Cherokees, which is the standard engine across the Sport, Latitude, Altitude, Limited and Trailhawk line. The four cylinder 2WD finds EPA numbers of 22 city/31 highway, while the 4×4 four-cylinder comes in at 21 city/28 highway, both substantial moves. If you don’t intend to tow, the four-cylinder might be the better choice. However, if you do plan on bringing your boat or travel trailer along, Cherokee’s best-in-class V6 will allow 4,500 lb. capability.
In addition to numerous cabin upgrades and amenities galore, the new Trailhawk features Jeep’s Active Drive Lock system as standard, with a low range and locking rear differential for additional 4×4 abilities. Owners will delight as a Selec-Speed feature combines hill descent and ascent control while protective skid plates keep the underpinnings safe while enjoying off-road-jaunts. Standard 17-inch tires on nice alloy wheels, traction control and brake stability also help.
Our Trailhawk options include a $1,895 comfort and convenience package featuring power liftgate, rear backup camera, dual zone air, power front seats, and a few other items. The rear back-up camera should be standard by now as the government has already informed the manufacturers they will mandate rear cameras soon.
Trailhawk’s leather interior costs an additional $1,295, the V6 adds another $1,495, a black hood decal is $150 and the Uconnect stereo system with premium NAV, HD radio and Sirius XM comes in at $795. Add the destination of $995, and you arrive at the final retail of $36,120. Your dealer is waiting to explain all options and current incentives available on all the new Cherokee models.
Overall, we’re impressed with Jeep’s quality and ever evolving 4×4 systems, it’s “built in America” advantage and a most impressive legend that dates back to WWII. Notable are comparisons with competitors, where Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester roam. From a fold-flat front seat (not available on the others) to 10 standard air bags (which is two to four more than the competitors), Jeep Cherokee for 2014 is a winner.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 107-inches, 15.8 gallon fuel tank, 29.7 cu. ft. of cargo behind second row (expandable), 4,044 lb. curb weight, 8.8-inch ground clearance, and a 5 year/100,000 limited powertrain warranty.
Likes: Power, nine-speed transmission, comfort, off road capability, cabin, Jeep legend.
Dislikes: Razor thin headlight design, back-up camera not standard, ride a bit harsh on uneven roads.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist).