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2016 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader February 2016

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee blazes its own trail in the compact crossover SUV world. From the distinctive styling to the refined ride to the handsome cabin to the off-road talent, it's hard to think of anything crossover shoppers are looking for that this Jeep doesn't have.

This was an all-new generation for the 2014 model year, so it's still fresh and able to offer useful technology such as adaptive cruise control and parking assistance. There's a good amount of space for rear passengers, the seats are comfortable and they slide forward, slide back and recline by a few degrees. The Cherokee is simply one of the best reasonably priced crossovers out there. If you're looking around in this segment, you really should take this one for a spin.

What's New for 2016?

Aside from a new range-topping trim level, Overland, most of the changes for this model year center on the Uconnect infotainment system with the 8.4-inch display. Siri Eyes Free compatibility joins a new drag-and-drop menu bar, and a Do Not Disturb function directs phone calls straight to voicemail and sends automatic replies to text messages.

What We Like

Daring design; comfortable and quiet ride; excellent Uconnect 8.4-in touchscreen; high-quality interior; real off-road capability; refined V6

What We Don't

Steering wheel may not tilt low enough for some; somewhat quirky 9-speed automatic transmission; so-so 4-cylinder engine; unimpressive cargo space

How Much?

$24,390-$35,690

Fuel Economy

The basic engine is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder making 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. A 3.2-liter V6 is optional, and it makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission.

With the combination of a 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts consumption at 22 miles per gallon in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined. All-wheel drive moves the meter to 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined.

Once the V6 comes into play, the EPA's figures are 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined with all-wheel drive.

Opting for Active Drive II with low-range gearing (see below) yields 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined for the 4-cylinder engine and 19 mpg city/26 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined for the V6.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee is offered in Sport, Latitude, Limited, Trailhawk and Overland trims. All Cherokees except the Trailhawk come with front-wheel drive as standard, offering all-wheel drive (Active Drive I) as an option. Latitude and Limited models with all-wheel drive 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 ($24,390) comes with 17-in steel wheels, LED daytime running lights and taillights, remote keyless entry, a rear wiper, height-adjustable front seats, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, 5-in touchscreen display and a 6-speaker audio system with an SD card reader and auxiliary input jack.

The Latitude ($26,290) has 17-in aluminum wheels, roof rails, a fold-flat front passenger seat with integrated cushion storage, a rearview camera, a 115-volt auxiliary power outlet, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with auxiliary audio controls and eligibility for several options, including Uconnect with the 8.4-in touchscreen.

The Limited ($29,990) adds 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 and the excellent 8.4-in Uconnect touchscreen infotainment system (which is optional on the Latitude and unavailable in the Sport).

The Trailhawk ($31,990) loses the Limited's standard power driver's seat (it's an extra-cost option) and a few other convenience items, but gains a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, its own design of 17-in alloy wheels, skid plates, off-road suspension with a 1-in lift (raising ground clearance to a useful 8.7 in), front and rear tow hooks, flared fenders and sporty cloth/vinyl/leather upholstery.

The lavish Overland ($35,690) features body-colored fascias and side cladding, 18-in polished alloy wheels, powered driver and front passenger seats that are also heated and ventilated (memory with the driver's seat), a steering wheel with wood trim, a leather-wrapped instrument panel, Berber mats, an upgraded audio system, power lift gate, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection and parking sensors.

Some of the higher trims' standard features are optional in the lower levels. The Technology Group package (Limited and Trailhawk only) brings adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-path detection, a forward-collision warning system with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and parallel/perpendicular parking assist. There's also a lesser Safety Tec package consisting of the blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-path detection, rear parking sensors and heated side mirrors.

When properly equipped, a V6-powered Cherokee can tow a maximum of 4,500 pounds. When the rear seats are up, cargo space is 24.6 cu ft., about 5 cu ft. short of average. With the rear seats folded down, it's still only 54.9 cu ft., and many rivals have at least 10 cu ft. more.

Safety

The 2016 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). A rearview camera is standard in every trim level except the Sport, where it's an option.

Safety technology options include a forward-collision mitigation system that can monitor traffic ahead and apply braking force up to a complete stop if an impact is deemed imminent.

The 2016 Cherokee received four stars overall in government crash testing: 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 most categories, except for the small-overlap frontal-offset test, where it took a second-worst (out of four grades) score of Marginal.

Behind the Wheel

First impression: This model has great cabin materials and plenty of soft-touch surfaces. The overall look is one of quality and sophistication, particularly with the attractive and easy-to-use Uconnect 8.4-in touchscreen. The steering wheel has a rather steep upward tilt, however, even at the lowest setting, so make sure you can find a wheel position that's comfortable.

The standard 4-cylinder engine is adequate, but runs out of energy at highway speeds. There's also some droning at higher revs. The 3.2-liter V6 brings extra punch without drinking too much gas. It also has a stop/start function. The 9-speed automatic transmission (which is still quite a novelty) rarely makes its presence felt. But if you're asking for full power in a passing situation, the transmission sometimes hesitates before finding the right gear.

Jeep claims that the Cherokee Trailhawk made it through the famed and daunting Rubicon Trail, which we have no reason to doubt. This is a highly capable vehicle in the dirt. Realistically, though, the vast majority of Cherokees will keep to the tarmac, but on-road behavior is just as impressive. Road noise is less prominent than this segment's norm, and the ride remains smooth, even on rutted roads. The handling is safe and secure, thanks to a car-based platform.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford Escape -- Though the Escape doesn't have any Jeep-like off-roading chops, it's an excellent drive on the roads. This model is well equipped, too. A new generation is due for 2017.

2016 Honda CR-V -- The CR-V is a best-seller. Though it does many things well, it does not master any one thing. The model's reputation for reliability, though, is indisputable.

2016 Kia Sorento -- The Kia Sorento is all-new for 2016. It matches the Cherokee's engine offerings (base 4-cylinder and optional V6). This model has plenty of tech available, and offers a third-row seat, as well.

Used Jeep Grand Cherokee -- As a true SUV, the Grand Cherokee is an excellent choice. Depreciation brings lightly-used examples into the Cherokee's ballpark.

Autotrader's Advice

If you can afford the initial outlay, you should go for the V6 engine. It's far more satisfying and there's a negligible penalty in fuel consumption. You should select the 8.4-in Uconnect system, too. The well-equipped Latitude trim offers both as options without busting the budget.

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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.
2016 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review - Autotrader