For 2019, Jeep’s wildly successful Cherokee 4WD SUV comes with a revised headlamp assembly that more closely resembles the Jeep Compass and top line Jeep Grand Cherokee. Some in the automotive press criticized the earlier models’ three level headlight system wherein the running lights stood out and appeared to be the headlamps. But this auto writer liked the look. They were different, eye catching and recognizable. It was evident a Cherokee was oncoming from a mile away as their neon white running lights stood out from other vehicles. The 2019’s running lights are now integrated within the new LED headlamps giving them an eyebrow look over the headlights.
But that’s not the only upgrade Cherokee underwent. New as well is an upgraded 7-inch touchscreen or optional 8.4-inch version that now includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Three inches was added to the cargo area, there is more soft touch materials and a new 2.0-liter engine to name a few.
Cherokee is available in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and rugged Trail Rated Trailhawk trim levels that was tested.
Cherokee gets it grunt from one of three powertrains. Offered are a 2.4-liter, 171-hp inline 4-cylinder; 3.2-liter, 271-hp V6; and new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder producing 270-hp and 295 lb/ft of torque for EPA mileage estimates of 20 city, 26-highway mpg. And that power gets sent to the wheels via a smooth shifting 9-speed automatic transmission. It should be noted that the Trailhawk had the optional engine start/stop to help achieve good mileage numbers. This powertrain combination allows a tow rating of 4,000 pounds.
Our tested Trailhawk, and its 2.0L turbo had impressive power. But applying too heavy an accelerator pedal will engage the turbo that will readily move the fuel gauge toward “E,” especially since it has to move Cherokee’s 4,260-pound curb weight.
Cherokee’s are also offered with three 4WD systems: Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active Drive II with Active Drive Lock. The latter is standard on the Trailhawk and includes a mechanically locking rear differential that locks both rear wheels for added traction when going off-road, in deep snow, mucky mud or slippery sand. And with Jeep’s Select Train traction control system, it offers five modes of Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock.
For rugged off-road trails, the Trailhawk has acute approach and departure angles that allows traversing deep ravines, ruts and rocks. And it’s 8.7-inch ground clearance with undercarriage skid plates will get you to some backcountry hiking, fishing and hunting spots with ease.
Trailhawk’s have a fashionable interior with soft, supportive, and perforated leather seats. Its vertical stack is nicely contoured and encases the 8.4-inch touchscreen that provides a host of apps but surprisingly, didn’t have GPS nav. Instead, a smartphone app through Chrysler’s UConnect takes its place.
HVAC controls are large and easy to read and the 4WD selector is self explanatory. There’s also a large driver’s information display between the gauges. And to top it off, a 48x29-inch panoramic sunroof is optionally available.
Back in the rear seat, that has a 20-inch step-in, there’s ample leg room provided the fronts aren’t racked too well rearward. They also tilt backward a bit. Behind the seats, the cargo space was increased by three inches providing 27.6 cubic feet of room with the rear seats up, and 54.7 with them folded forward. This translates into a cargo area measuring 34 inches deep, 42 wide and 29 high with the seats upright. Flip them and depth extends to 64 inches. The underfloor, with full-size spare, offers some small item storage.
Ride wise on Firestone 17-inch tires that puts down a 9-inch footprint, is exceptionally stable and smooth. Engine noise during acceleration is a bit noisy, but dissipates at cruise speeds.
As for handling, Cherokee’s heft can be felt. Steering was a bit heavy and the overall effect was like driving a midsize Grand Cherokee. Off-road, it shines, taking lumps and bumps in stride and probably better than any of its competitors.
With a base price of $33,320, that included a very long list of standard safety and convenience features like rearview camera, skid plates, crawl mode, electronic roll mitigation, rear park assist. Satellite radio and more, the options list is equally as extensive. The Trailhawk Elite package ($2,995) adds heated front seats/steering wheel, premium leather seating, remote start, hands-free power liftgate and more. Then there’s the panoramic sunroof ($1,295), 2.0L turbo engine ($500), Technology Group ($995) that added adaptive cruise, advanced brake assist, full speed collision warning, lane departure warning, side distance warning, Parallel and Perpendicular park assist (yup, self parking) and many more. Oh yes, and a 9-amplified speaker and subwoofers adds another $695. With delivery, the Trailhawk bottom-lined at $41,245. A bit more than most of the competition, but the competition doesn’t’ offer the off-road prowess of the Trailhawk. If that’s what you want, there’s no need to look elsewhere.
Cherokee’s come with a 5 year, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.