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2019 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Russ Heaps March 2018

With the arrival of the refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee, we'll let Jeep slide, just as we did with Coke after it stepped in it with New Coke. "What were they thinking?" was our reaction to the current generation of Cherokee when it rolled into showrooms as a 2014. From the front, it looked like the love child of a Nissan Juke and a Pontiac Aztek. It was the kid you gave movie money to and hustled out the back door when company came to visit.

Well, that may be overstating it, but there was nothing about its looks that screamed, "Buy me!" Apparently, Jeep got the message. Everything from the A-pillars forward is new. Gone is the Clint Eastwood squint of the headlights and the rather radical angling of the grille. The new, upright face is more Jeep-like. While they were at it, Jeep stylists gave every Cherokee bi-LED headlights and LED taillights. A new rear liftgate offers available auto-open with a foot swipe. The biggest news, however, is it also gets Wrangler's all-new 2-liter turbocharged engine.

With the face lift and other enhancements, Jeep is pushing Cherokee closer to Grand Cherokee with the goal of increasing Cherokee's slice of the midsize-crossover sales pie. It's certainly the most off-road-capable vehicle in its class. Will that plus the 2019 improvements push any of today's crop of minivan-avoiding crossover buyers to Cherokee? Time will tell.

What's New for 2019?

Jeep refreshed Cherokee for 2019 with a new fascia, rear liftgate, 2-liter turbocharged-engine option and other assorted tweaks inside and out.

What We Like

New fuel-efficient 2-liter turbo; off-road capability; new front fascia; new available 8.4 Uconnect infotainment system

What We Don't

Nine-speed automatic transmission still in need of refinement; heavier than key competitors; lackluster base 4-cylinder engine

How Much?

$25,190-$37,470

Fuel Economy

A bit anemic for Cherokee's bulk, the base engine is the returning 180-horsepower 2.4-liter Tigershark 4-cylinder engine. It's standard on Latitude, Latitude Plus and Limited 4x2 models. Standard on Limited 4x4 models, Overland and Trailhawk is the carried-over 271-hp 3.2-liter V6. Optional on all grades except the entry-level Latitude is the all-new 270-hp 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine shared with the freshly redesigned Wrangler. All use the same 9-speed automatic transmission to turn the wheels.

Something to be reckoned with, the new 2L turbo not only knocks a couple of miles per gallon from each of the V6's government-estimated fuel-economy numbers, it can tow up to 4,000 lbs when appropriately equipped and sprint to 60 miles per hour from a standstill in a Jeep-measured seven seconds.

Jeep offers all grades, except the dedicated off-road 4x4 Trailhawk, in either front-wheel or 4-wheel drive. All 4x4s feature Jeep's Selec-Terrain traction-management system with five different modes for different surfaces. Three different 4x4 systems provide differing degrees of off-road capability. Adding 4WD is $1,500 across the board.

Recently released government mileage ratings are 22 miles per gallon city/31 mpg highway (FWD) and 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy (4WD) for the 2.4L. For the V6, they are 20 mpg city/29 mpg hwy (FWD) and 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy (4WD). And, for the new 2L turbo, they are 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy (FWD) and 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy (4WD).

Standard Features & Options

Latitude ($25,190) -- Comes standard with active grille shutters, push-push fuel door, LED headlamps/daytime running lights, auto-on headlights, fog lamps, power heated outboard mirrors, roof rails, 17-inch steel wheels, 3.5-in cluster display, air conditioning, full-length front console, fore/aft adjustable 60/40-split folding rear seat, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, media center with 12-volt power port and USB port, 6-speaker Uconnect 4 infotainment system with 7-in display, eight airbags, hill-start assist, keyless entry, power locks, power windows and a rearview camera. Included among the options and option packages are the 3.2L V6, power foldaway outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, wiper deicer, tinted rear windows, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated steering wheel, satellite radio capability, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and remote start.

Latitude Plus ($27,690) -- Beefs up Latitude content with 17-in aluminum wheels, upgraded cloth seats, 8-way power driver's seat with 4-way lumbar adjustment, satellite radio capability, rear-seat USB port, tinted rear windows and keyless enter and go. Options from the Latitude not standard are options on Latitude Plus, as well as the 2L turbo engine, power panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, 9-speaker Alpine audio upgrade and anti-theft alarm.

Limited ($31,570) -- Builds on Latitude Plus with power heated folding outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, 18-in aluminum wheels, 7-in cluster display, memory for seats, radio and mirrors, leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, power-adjusted front passenger seat, heated steering wheel, Uconnect with 8.4-in touchscreen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and anti-theft alarm. Among the options and packages are Latitude Plus options not included in standard features and hands-free power liftgate, auto high-beams, cargo cover, heated/ventilated leather seating, navigation system, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning with crash mitigation and lane-departure warning.

Trailhawk ($34,515) -- Includes much of Limited's standard gear, plus Active Drive II 4WD system with rear differential locker, 17-in aluminum wheels with all-terrain tires and cloth/vinyl seats. Among the options are a few Limited standard features like heated front seats, windshield wiper deicer, heated steering wheel, anti-theft alarm and remote start as well as 17-in black aluminum wheels.

Overland ($37,470) -- Adds back in the Limited features appearing as options on the Trailhawk, plus a hands-free power liftgate, 19-in aluminum wheels, cargo cover, heated/ventilated leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel with wood accents and a 9-speaker Alpine upgraded audio system and navigation system. Limited options not included in standard features are still options for Overland.

Safety

Neither the government nor IIHS has crash tested the 2019 Cherokee. Safety features include eight airbags, hill-start assist, rearview camera and trailer sway control. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on Limited, Overland and Trailhawk, and optional on Latitude and Latitude Plus. Forward-collision warning with crash mitigation and lane-departure warning are optional on Limited, Overland and Trailhawk.

Behind the Wheel

After driving the 2019 Jeep Cherokee on the pavement and over some impressively gnarly rock formations, we can offer a thumbs up on both. The 9-speed automatic transmission is still a little lazy about downshifting, but that's about our only real complaint. The V6 and new 2L turbo are both energetic, providing plenty of torque for accelerating in stop-and-go city traffic or crawling over rock-infested hills. Without question, the more aggressive and responsive of the engines is the turbo. The cabin is fairly quiet and the ride comfy enough. Over the highway, it certainly performs on par with the big dogs in its segment, and it's really at the head of its class off road.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Honda CR-V -- Scads of passenger and cargo space, as well as a peppy turbocharged engine are just a sampling of what makes this crossover a top seller year after year.

2018 Toyota RAV4 -- Although it's getting a bit long in the tooth, this roomy crossover delivers on the brand's bullet-proof reliability.

2018 Nissan Rogue -- Simply a very competent crossover, the Rogue focuses on utility and passenger comfort.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox -- Redesigned for 2018, this crossover offers plenty of space for cargo and passengers, and among its turbocharged-engine choices is an uber fuel-thrifty diesel.

Post Op

Jeep could have gotten away with doing less with the Cherokee freshening to capture our attention. If we haven't gone on enough about its new 2L turbo, we'll take one more swing at it: terrific! For a mid-cycle sprucing up, Jeep got it right. That is, it's noticeably improved.

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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.
2019 Jeep Cherokee: New Car Review - Autotrader