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2015 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2015

For those of us who remember its predecessor, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee takes a little getting used to. The original Cherokee, you may recall, was the proverbial box on wheels, a lovable lunk with a bare-bones interior and trucklike driving dynamics. Similar in spirit to the current 4-door Wrangler Unlimited, the old Cherokee was about as far from today's civilized crossover SUVs as you could get. As such, it's a little disconcerting to see the iconic Cherokee name adorning a sleek compact crossover with family ties to the Dodge Dart sedan.

But crossovers are all the rage these days, and Jeep has a darn good one on its hands in the reinvented Cherokee. In fact, it's hard to think of a single thing crossover shoppers are looking for that this Jeep doesn't have. You name it, and the Cherokee has it, whether that's refinement, versatility, technology, or carlike ride and handling. It also features the first 9-speed automatic transmission in any vehicle, and for those who expect true off-road chops in a Jeep, the capable Trailhawk model should more than satisfy.

The bottom line? The current Cherokee may be a dramatic departure from the old one, but it's also one of the best reasonably priced crossovers on the market. If you're shopping in this segment, you should take a spin in Jeep's latest.

What's New for 2015?

Cherokee models equipped with the V6 engine get an auto stop/start system that improves fuel efficiency. Other equipment changes include the addition of automatic headlamps and a backup camera as standard for the Latitude and Trailhawk trim levels.

What We Like

Daring styling; comfortable and quiet ride; excellent Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen; high-quality interior; real off-road capability

What We Don't

Steering wheel may not tilt low enough for some; slightly quirky 9-speed automatic transmission

How Much?

$23,990-$31,290

Fuel Economy

The Cherokee starts with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. Optional is a 3.2-liter V6 good for 271 hp and 239 lb-ft. Every Cherokee utilizes the first 9-speed automatic transmission in the industry.

Four-cylinder fuel economy ranges from 22 miles per gallon in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive (FWD) to 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive (AWD), while the stronger V6 compares quite well at 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy with FWD and 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with AWD.

Opting for Active Drive II with low-range gearing (see below) yields fuel economy of 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy for the 4-cylinder engine and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy for the V6.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee is offered in Sport, Latitude, Limited or Trailhawk trim. All Cherokees except the Trailhawk come standard with front-wheel drive, offering all-wheel drive (Active Drive I) as an option. Latitude and Limited models with AWD are eligible for the Active Drive II upgrade, which adds low-range gearing and an off-road suspension. The Trailhawk comes standard with a special version of Active Drive II that includes a locking rear differential.

The base Sport ($23,990) starts with standard amenities including 17-in steel wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a 5-in touchscreen display, an SD card reader and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input jack.

The Latitude ($25,890) adds 17-in aluminum wheels, a fold-flat front passenger seat with integrated cushion storage, a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls and eligibility for numerous desirable options (including the V6 engine, which is unavailable on the Sport).

The Limited ($29,790) throws in luxuries such as 18-in aluminum wheels, keyless entry with push-button ignition, leather upholstery, a power driver's seat (the passenger seat remains manual), a 7-in driver information display, dual-zone automatic climate control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage door opener, a heated steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, USB connectivity, a rearview camera and the excellent 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system (optional on the Latitude, unavailable on the Sport).

The Trailhawk ($31,290) loses the Limited's standard power driver's seat (it's an extra-cost option) and a few other convenience items but gains unique 17-in wheels, skid plates, an off-road suspension with a 1-in lift, front and rear tow hooks, flared fenders and sporty cloth/vinyl/leather upholstery (leather is also optional).

Notable Cherokee options include some of the higher trims' standard features plus xenon headlights, a power lift gate, a navigation system, a 9-speaker premium audio system and a panoramic sunroof. The Technology Group package (Limited and Trailhawk only) tacks on adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-path detection, a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking, a lane-departure warning system, and parallel and perpendicular parking assist. There's also a lesser SafetyTec package that consists of the blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-path detection and rear parking sensors.

Safety

The Cherokee comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and nine airbags (front, front-side, front-passenger knee, rear-side and full-length side-curtain).

Available safety technologies include a forward-collision mitigation system that can monitor traffic ahead and apply braking force up to a full stop if an impact is deemed imminent.

The 2015 Cherokee received four stars overall in government crash-testing, including four stars for front impacts and five stars for side impacts. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Cherokee its top rating of Good in all tested categories.

Behind the Wheel

When settling into the Cherokee's driver's seat, the first thing we noticed was the laudable materials quality. Soft-touch surfaces abound, and the overall look is one of quality and sophistication, particularly with the attractive, easy-to-use Uconnect 8.4-in touchscreen aboard. The steering wheel has a rather aggressive upward tilt, however, even at the lowest tilt setting, so make sure you can find a wheel position that's to your liking.

The Cherokee's standard 4-cylinder engine is adequate, but it runs out of breath at highway speeds, and we noted some unpleasant droning at higher revolutions per minute. More intriguing is the 3.2-liter V6, which offers extra punch without much of a fuel economy penalty. Either way, the novel 9-speed automatic transmission mostly stays in the background, though if you ask for full power in a passing situation, it sometimes hesitates before finding the right gear.

Jeep tells us that the Cherokee Trailhawk ran the famed Rubicon Trail, and having driven the Trailhawk ourselves on a demanding off-road course, we have no reason to doubt that claim. This is a highly capable vehicle in the dirt, especially considering that it's derived from the humble Dodge Dart. Realistically, though, the vast majority of Cherokees will stay on the beaten path, and we're pleased to report that this Jeep's on-road behavior is just as impressive. Road noise is less prominent than we're used to in this segment, and the ride remains smooth even on rutted roads. In corners, the Cherokee's handling is safe and secure thanks to those carlike underpinnings.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Ford Escape -- The Escape drives like a Ford Focus on tiptoes (that's a good thing) and has a nice interior to boot, though it lacks the Cherokee's off-road chops.

2015 Honda CR-V -- The best-selling CR-V is more basic inside than the Cherokee, but its reputation for reliability is second to none.

2016 Kia Sorento -- The Sorento matches the Cherokee's engine offerings (base 4-cylinder and optional V6), and it offers a third-row seat, too.

Used Jeep Grand Cherokee -- If you're looking for a true SUV with rear-wheel-drive underpinnings, the Grand Cherokee is an excellent choice, and depreciation brings lightly used examples into the Cherokee's ballpark.

Autotrader's Advice

We'd want the punchy V6 in our Cherokee, and the 8.4-in Uconnect system would have to be in there, too. The well-equipped Latitude offers both as options without breaking the bank.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review - Autotrader