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2017 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2016

The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is among the best reasonably priced crossovers out there. It blazes a trail of its own through the compact SUV world with distinctive styling, a refined ride, a handsome cabin and remarkable off-road talent. There doesn't seem to be anything crossover shoppers are seeking that this Jeep lacks.

As there was an all-new generation for the 2014 model year, the Cherokee was still relatively fresh and able to offer technology like adaptive cruise control and parking assistance. Space for rear passengers is good -- the seats are comfortable, and they slide forward and back and recline by a few degrees. Crossover buyers really should take this one for a spin.

What's New for 2017?

Bi-xenon HID headlights become standard on all trims except the Sport, where they're optional.

What We Like

Daring design; comfortable and quiet ride; excellent Uconnect 8.4-inch 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?

$24,590 to $35,890

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, developing 271 hp and 239 lb-ft. Both engines are paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission.

With the combination of the 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) puts consumption at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg in combined driving. All-wheel drive moves the meter to 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/23 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/27 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 2017 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 ($24,590) 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, a 5-in touchscreen display and a 6-speaker audio system with an SD card reader, USB charging port and auxiliary input jack.

The Latitude ($26,540) has 17-in aluminum wheels, bi-xenon headlights, roof rails, a fold-flat front passenger seat with integrated seat-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 ($30,490) adds 18-in aluminum wheels, keyless entry with push-button start, 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 (optional in the Latitude, unavailable in the Sport).

The Trailhawk ($32,190) 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, unique 17-in alloy wheels, skid plates, an off-road suspension with a 1-in lift (raising ground clearance to a useful 8.7 inches), front and rear tow hooks, flared fenders and sporty cloth/vinyl/leather upholstery (leather is also optional).

The lavish Overland ($35,890) features body-colored fascias and side cladding, 18-in polished alloy wheels, power driver's 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, a power liftgate, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, 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-traffic alert, 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 a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors and heated side mirrors.

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

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). 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 monitors traffic ahead and can bring the vehicle to a complete stop should an impact be considered imminent.

The 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 (IIHS) gave the Cherokee its top rating of Good in most categories, except for the small-overlap front crash test, where it took a second-worst (out of four grades) score of Marginal.

Behind the Wheel

First impression: great cabin materials. 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, however, has a rather steep upward tilt, even at the lowest setting. Buyers should make sure they can find a comfortable driving position.

The standard 4-cylinder engine is adequate but runs out of energy at highway speeds and tends to drone 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 (still quite a novelty) rarely makes its presence felt. But if asking for full power in a passing situation, it sometimes hesitates before finding the right gear.

Jeep claims the Cherokee Trailhawk negotiated the famed and daunting Rubicon Trail, which we have no reason to doubt. This is a highly capable vehicle over the dirt. Realistically, though, the vast majority of Cherokees will keep to the tarmac, and 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

2017 Ford Escape -- No Jeep-like off-roading chops, but an excellent drive on the roads. Good equipment levels and revamped for 2017.

2017 Honda CR-V -- A best-seller. A new generation debuts for 2017, underlining all the compelling reasons to buy.

2017 Kia Sorento -- Matches the Cherokee's engine offerings (base 4-cylinder and optional V6). Plenty of tech available, along with a third-row seat.

2017 Toyota RAV4 -- This and the CR-V are the Big Two among compact crossovers. Again, not built for the wilderness, but exceptionally pleasant and competitively priced.

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

Autotrader's Advice

A Latitude version with a few packages seems to hit the sweet spot of Cherokee ownership. It offers the V6 engine and the Uconnect system/8.4-in display setup -- and both are worth having.

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2017 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review - Autotrader