First Drive: 2014 Jeep Cherokee
Posted on August 14, 2013
Despite the originally scheduled 2014 Jeep Cherokee media drive being delayed, media outlets have now had a chance to drive the new Cherokee. Initial reports are positive, finding that when properly optioned, the 2014 Cherokee offers an attractive interior and good driving dynamics. Moreover, although the new Cherokee is derived from the Dodge Dart’s platform (also shared with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta), it manages to hold its own off-road and even earns Jeep’s “Trail Rated” designation in Trailhawk trim.
With the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Jeep faced a challenge in that the demands of its hardcore fan base are at odds with those of mainstream crossover shoppers. Most crossover shoppers want a comfortable, fuel efficient and roomy vehicle. The choose crossovers because they offer four wheel drive to get them through bad weather and an elevated seating position to aid visibility. Meanwhile, traditional Jeep buyers want heavy duty suspensions and locking differentials. Such hardware often hurts fuel efficiency and on-road handling. Jeep addresses this incongruity by offering the 2014 Cherokee in Sport, Latitude and Limited trims that cater to city / suburban drivers and beefing up the mechanicals for off-roading aficionados in the Trailhawk trim.
The Trailhawk trim improves the new Cherokee’s off-road performance through a variety of unique add-ons. Most importantly, it includes an innovative low-range four wheel drive system (optional on other trims) and lifts the suspension by one inch (for a total of 8.7 inches of clearance). The Trailhawk package also includes, wheel flares, skid plates, tow hooks, increased engine and transmission cooling and unique front and rear fascias that offer improved approach and departure angles (30 and 32 degrees, respectively). In the extended off-road drives Jeep offered in the mountains near Moab, Utah, the 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk performed admirably off-road.
In all trim levels, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee uses an industry-first 9-speed automatic transmission. This transmission, designed by ZF of Germany, promises to help the 2014 Cherokee accelerate quickly and provide great fuel economy. However, it is rumored that calibration problems with this transmission are the source the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s delayed introduction. Car Match will stay abreast of any hiccups in the 9-speed automatic’s progress.
In a departure for the small SUV / crossover segment, the 2014 Cherokee offers not only a 4-cylinder engine, but also a 271-hp V6. This is a welcome option, as the base 2.4 liter 4-cylinder isn’t particularly quick or smooth. The V6 however accelerates the new Cherokee with authority and is buttery smooth throughout the rev range. EPA fuel economy ratings for the 4wd Cherokee are a combined 24 mpg for the 4-cylinder and 22 mpg for the V6. In our view, the fuel economy hit for going with the V6 is minimal, but it does increase MSRP by $1,495.
One area where the new Cherokee is at the top of its class is the interior. Whereas hard plastics and boring design are the order of the day in most small crossovers, the 2014 Cherokee uses upscale materials in an attractive cabin that mimics its big brother, the Grand Cherokee. The Cherokee offers Chrysler’s excellent 8.4-nch uConnect infotaiment system, which is in our opinion the best in the industry right now. There’s also ample passenger space front and rear, and the high-mounted rear bench seat has fore-and-aft adjustment and good thigh support. It is one of the best rear seats in the compact crossover class. Rear cargo room, however, is slightly below average.
Overall, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee appears to be one of the top compact crossovers. We look forward to getting a hold of one for an extended test and full-scale review.