The Jeep Cherokee is back, though no one recognizes the 2014 model – with sleek, modern styling, a long list of safety features, pleasant handling and comfortable on-road ride – as a Cherokee.
Remember, the last vehicle to carry the Cherokee name was a 2001 sport utility vehicle that had slab sides and noisy ride.
In contrast, the new Cherokee looks distinctly different from any previous Cherokee – or Jeep, for that matter. It also has the segment's first nine-speed automatic transmission. It uses a platform that's based on cars from Jeep owner Fiat of Italy.
The new Cherokee offers safety equipment that's on luxury cars and includes nifty storage places and hooks, plus sliding fore and aft back seats, that some other SUVs do not. The 2014 Cherokee even has 40.3 inches of legroom in the back seat.
Still, the new Cherokee, which retains 4X4 off-road capability and weighs more than many other five-passenger SUVs, isn't tops in fuel mileage.
The best mileage rating from the federal government is 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 31 mpg on the highway when the Cherokee has the base, 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder engine. This is lower than other five-passenger, four-cylinder-powered SUVs that intersect the Cherokee's price range, such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4.
Note that the Cherokee also offers an optional, 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6.
The 2014 Cherokee has a starting retail price, including destination charge, of $23,990 for a front-wheel drive Sport model with the turbocharged four cylinder and nine-speed automatic. No manual transmission is offered. The lowest starting price for a new Cherokee with four-wheel drive is $25,990. This is with the four-cylinder engine. The lowest starting MSRP, including destination charge, for a 2014 Cherokee with the Pentastar V-6 is $26,985, and this is for a front-wheel drive model.
The test Cherokee felt solid in its handling and ride. There was a hefty feel to the 4,000-pound tester, which was a Limited 4X4 model with V-6.
Doors closed with acceptable quality sounds, and the vehicle moved over potholes and other road imperfections with decent management of shocks and vibrations. It was not a “cush” ride but it was well-controlled, with body sway in curves held at bay.
Brakes worked strongly, with progressive, linear response to brake pedal pressure, and the Cherokee rode like a tightly constructed, cohesive piece – nothing like Cherokees of old.
The vehicle averaged 21.6 mpg in city/highway travel. This compares with the federal government's rating of 19/27 mpg for this model.
This is a modern SUV with a communication display between gauges right in front of the driver. A bigger display atop the dashboard provides access to audio, navigation and the like.
Attention to detail was unexpected. There's a bit of a shelf at the base of the dashboard center stack where a power connector and USB port reside, making for a handy spot for a phone.
There are hooks in the cargo space to hang grocery bags. Cargo room in the Cherokee grows from 24.6 cubic feet to 54.9 cubic feet when rear seats are folded. A bit more room can be had for long items, because the front passenger seatback can fold down, too. Maximum towing capacity is 4,500 pounds.