• 4-cylinder or V6 engines with 9-speed automatic transmisison
  • Front or four-wheel drive including trail-rated Trailhawk
  • Up to 31 mpg highway or 4,500-lb towing capacity

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee returns as a replacement for the boxy Jeep Liberty and serves as Jeep's new midsize SUV. Jeep doesn't officially call the new 2014 Cherokee a crossover, but it is based on a front-wheel drive platform sourced from FIAT.

Rugged Looking and Capable

For the Cherokee to achieve trail-rated status, Jeep offers a new Trailhawk model that adds a four-wheel drive system with a locking rear differential, a raised suspension, skid plates, all-terrain tires and styling modifications to improve approach, breakover and departure angles. In addition to the rugged Cherokee Trailhawk, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is available in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels.

All four Cherokee trim levels feature a bold 7-slot Jeep grille equipped with what car designers call a snap -- a kink intended to add visual interest. The grille is flanked by three lighting elements with LED running lights and turn signal indicators at the top, fog lights at the bottom and headlights in the middle. The result is a unique look, but it's unmistakably Jeep. The rest of the Cherokee's exterior design is comparatively conservative.

New Interior, Engines and Four-Wheel Drive

For the Cherokee's interior, Jeep says it sought to create a quiet cabin equipped with premium materials, and points to the soft-touch materials on the dashboard, upper door panels and armrests as evidence. Premium cloth seat material and a 5-inch touchscreen control panel are standard equipment, and the Cherokee's rear seat slides forward and back on tracks to increase room for cargo or passengers as needed. Maximum cargo capacity measures 54.9 cu ft, and the front passenger's seat folds in half to help the Cherokee accommodate longer items.

Cherokee buyers can choose between a 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, which the Jeep shares with the Dodge Dart, and a new 271-hp, 3.2-liter V6 engine that is based on Chrysler's acclaimed Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. A new 9-speed automatic transmission is standard equipment, delivering power to the Cherokee's front wheels. With the 4-cylinder engine, the Cherokee gets 31 miles per gallon. With the V6, the Cherokee can tow up to 4,500 pounds, according to Jeep.

Jeep supplies three optional 4-wheel drive systems for the Cherokee. Jeep Active Drive I is an automatic system that transfers power to the rear wheels when necessary to improve grip. Jeep Active Drive II is a 2-speed system with low-range gearing. Jeep Active Drive Lock adds a locking rear differential to the Active Drive II system.

All three 4WD systems have a rear-axle disconnect feature to help improve fuel economy, and Cherokee 4WD models are equipped with a standard Selec-Terrain traction control system with an Automatic setting and additional driving modes, including Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud and Rocks. Cherokees equipped with Active Drive II or Active Drive Lock ride an inch higher than other versions.

New Options

Options for the new 2014 Cherokee include leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a color reconfigurable instrument cluster display and a Jeep Cargo Management System. A panoramic glass sunroof is also available, as well as a sliding canvas roof to let in the sunshine. ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist is a new technology from Chrysler. It uses sensors to identify vacant parking spaces and automatically park the Jeep while the driver operates the transmission and pedals.

Jeep's Uconnect 8.4-inch color touchscreen infotainment system is also available, and a new Uconnect Access via Mobile service provides Bluetooth music streaming, voice-to-text messaging, 9-1-1 Assist emergency calling and access to mobile applications on a paired smartphone. The technology also turns the Cherokee into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot.

Some new safety systems are also debuting with the 2014 Cherokee. In addition to its 10 standard airbags, the new Cherokee can be outfitted with a backup camera, a blind spot monitoring system and a Rear Cross Path Detection system. A first for Chrysler, the Cherokee's optional Lane Departure Warning Plus system employs a camera to identify when the SUV is unintentionally drifting from its lane, and it can apply the brakes selectively to nudge the vehicle back into its lane. A new Forward Collision Warning Plus system uses a camera and a radar unit to identify unsafe closing rates with objects ahead. It automatically prepares the braking system to deliver full stopping power while providing warnings to the driver. If the driver fails to take action, the system can apply the brakes automatically.

Another new option is Adaptive Cruise Control Plus, which uses the same radar and camera system as the Forward Collision Warning Plus system to provide full-speed-range capability, meaning it can bring the Cherokee to a complete stop without requiring the driver to use the brake pedal. To resume motion, the driver presses the gas pedal or pushes a button.

What It Means to You: With the 2014 Cherokee, Jeep offers improved fuel economy and genuine off-roading capability in a distinctively designed SUV packed with technology.

See all New York Auto Show news.

author photo

Christian Wardlaw is passionate about the cars, trucks, and SUVs people actually buy, not the models about which they fantasize. An industry veteran and former editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com, this father of 4 loves to inform and entertain everyday car buyers.

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