The Jeep brand is on a roll these days and the 2020 Jeep Cherokee is one of its most established offerings. Like much of the brand’s lineup, the Cherokee is available in three different road-oriented trims as well as an off-road capable Trailhawk model.
After a facelift for the 2019 model year that did away with the vehicle’s love-it-or-hate-it two-tiered headlight design while adding standard LED lighting, a new top-tier engine and a new infotainment setup, the Cherokee is poised to remain competitive in the segment for the next few years and, in Trailhawk guise, offers unmatched off-road capability in the compact crossover segment.
What’s New for 2020?
After receiving a mid-lifecycle update for 2019, the Cherokee carries over pretty much unchanged for 2020 save for some packaging tweaks. A new Advanced Safety Group consisting of lane departure warning-plus, forward collision warning-plus and rain-sensing windshield wipers is now available on Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited and Overland trims. The available 8.4-in UConnect system now offers Alexa Skill technology. Finally, a few new hues and wheel options are now available, including two new exterior colors, Sangria and Spitfire Orange. See the 2020 Jeep Cherokee models for sale near you
What We Like
- Fuel efficiency of 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
- Off-road capability from Trailhawk trim
- Redesigned front fascia
- 8.4-in Uconnect infotainment system
What We Don’t
- Nine-speed automatic transmission still in need of refinement
- Heavier than key competitors
- Naturally aspirated 4-cylinder engine on base models leaves much to be desired
- Interior is showing its age
The Cherokee’s base engine is a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter "Tigershark" 4-cylinder engine. It’s standard on Latitude, Latitude Plus and two-wheel drive Limited models. Standard on all-wheel drive Limited, Overland and Trailhawk models 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 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine offered in the freshly redesigned Wrangler. All use the same 9-speed automatic transmission.
The new 2.0-liter 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 pounds when appropriately equipped and sprint to 60 mph from a standstill in a Jeep-measured seven seconds.
Jeep offers all trims, except for the off-road-oriented Trailhawk model, with either front- or all-wheel drive. AWD models feature Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction-management system with five different modes for different surfaces. Three different AWD systems provide differing degrees of off-road capability. Adding AWD is $1,500 across the board.
With either of the 4-cylinder engines, the Cherokee returns 21 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving with four-wheel drive. Opt for front-wheel drive and the basic 2.4-liter four-cylinder is rated at 22 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined. The new turbo four comes in at 23 mpg city/31 mpg hwy/26 mpg in combined driving. Keep in mind that the turbo makes considerably more power than the entry-level 2.4-liter four. The V6 loses about 2 mpg across the board in all configurations.
Standard Features & Options
The Cherokee is offered in four main trim levels: Latitude, Limited, Trailhawk and Overland. Upland, Latitude Plus, Altitude, High Altitude and Trailhawk Elite options are offered as well that bundle additional packages in with the more mainstream trim levels.
The base Latitude ($27,235) comes standard with active grille shutters, LED headlamps/daytime running lights, auto-on headlights, fog lamps, power-heated outboard mirrors, roof rails, 17-in steel wheels, a 3.5-in gauge cluster display, air conditioning, a full-length front console, fore/aft adjustable 60/40 split folding rear seats, tilt-and-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 3.2-liter V6, power foldaway outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, a wiper de-icer, tinted rear windows, heated front seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio capability, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and remote start.
The Latitude Plus ($28,890) 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, a rear-seat USB port, tinted rear windows, and keyless enter and go. Some of the options available on the Latitude come standard on Latitude Plus as well as the 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, power panoramic sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, 9-speaker Alpine audio upgrade and anti-theft alarm.
The Limited ($32,845) builds on the Latitude Plus trim with power-heated folding outboard mirrors with integrated turn signals, 18-in aluminum wheels, a 7-in gauge cluster display, memory recall for seats, radio and mirrors, leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, a heated steering wheel, Uconnect with 8.4-in touchscreen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and an anti-theft alarm. Among the options and packages are all Latitude Plus options not already included among the Limited’s standard features plus a 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.
The Trailhawk ($36,000) includes much of Limited’s standard gear plus Active Drive II AWD system with a 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, a windshield wiper de-icer, a heated steering wheel, anti-theft alarm and remote start as well as 17-in black aluminum wheels.
The Overland ($39,000) 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.
In crash testing conducted by the third-party Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the current-generation Jeep Cherokee earns a Top Safety Pick+ designation thanks to its perfect scores in all of the Institute’s crashworthiness categories along with top marks for the performance of its front crash prevention system and its easy-to-use child seat anchors.
Mainstream safety features offered on the Cherokee include eight airbags, a (federally mandated) rearview camera and trailer sway control. Automatic emergency braking comes standard. The Advanced Safety Group, which consists of forward-collision warning-Plus, lane-departure warning-Plus and rain-sensing windshield wipers, is available on all trims. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on Limited, Overland and Trailhawk and optional on Latitude and Latitude Plus.
Behind the Wheel
After driving the updated Cherokee on both on the highway and on an off-road trail in Moab, Utah, we can verify that it’s capable on a wide variety of road surfaces. The 9-speed automatic transmission is still a little lazy about downshifting but beyond that, we have few complaints about this vehicle’s powertrain options. The V6 and new 2.0-liter turbo are both energetic, providing plenty of torque for accelerating in stop-and-go city traffic or crawling over rock-laden hills. Without question, the turbo is the more aggressive and more responsive of the engines. Off-road, the Trailhawk model shines thanks to its all-terrain tires, skid plates and bevy of off-road features including different traction modes and a locking rear differential, a feature exclusive to the Cherokee in this segment. While it’s far from the most modern design in its segment, the Cherokee’s cabin is fairly quiet and the ride comfy enough. Over the highway, it certainly performs on par with segment leaders and it’s really at the head of its class off-road.
Other Cars to Consider
2020 Toyota RAV4 — In redesigning the RAV4 for 2019, Toyota clearly wanted to make the vehicle appear more rugged and chiseled. While the Adventure trim introduced with the 2019 redesign looks the part, the TRD Off-Road model coming for 2020 ups the ante with an off-road suspension and all-terrain tires and will serve as the Cherokee Trailhawk’s closest competitor.
2020 Subaru Outback — The Outback is all-new for the 2020 model year and offers a rugged aesthetic with loads of room and clever features like roof rails that hide crossbars that can be deployed when needed.
2020 Honda CR-V — Segment-leading passenger and cargo space as well as a turbocharged engine are just a sampling of what makes this crossover a top seller year after year.
Used Jeep Grand Cherokee — If you’re cross-shopping it against a brand new Cherokee, a used Grand Cherokee from the 2014-2018 model years will likely have a similar cost but offer more space, more available features and a broader array of trim levels.
While the design may be a little clunky, the 2020 Jeep Cherokee has its merits. Thanks in large part to the updates it received for 2019, the Cherokee offers reasonable efficiency along with good cabin tech and a good array of safety features. As far as the compact SUV segment goes as a whole, the Cheorkee’s main competitive advantage comes with regard to off-road capability, mainly the availability of the adventure-ready Trailhawk trim. Buyers looking for a compact SUV capable of finding remote campsites on the weekend will find a lot to love about the Cherokee Trailhawk and for that reason, we find it to be the Cherokee’s strongest trim level. Beyond this, the Cherokee is starting to feel a little dated so if it isn’t the off-road trim you’re after, we recommend cross-shopping it heavily with the alternatives mentioned above before making any decisions to buy. Find a Jeep Cherokee for sale