SEATTLE, April 21, 2015 — Jeep fans are unabashedly loyal and because of that Jeep builds vehicles that not only placate to their loyal fan base but also needs to produce ones that capture new buyers as well. Its Cherokee seems to do both rather well. Outside of the fact that it’s a great-looking SUV, it’s chock full of great features, technology and that Jeep pedigreed off-road capability that make it perhaps best in class in that arena.
We love the front fascia of the Cherokee. It strikes a nearly perfect blend of a heritage Jeep and fresh, modernist lines. It looks a bit like a snub nose from the side. But the overall way the front end blends with the rest of the body here is great. This car has a good-looking, slightly aggressive stancethat strikes a balance of off-road-readiness with cues that hint this is the kind of vehicle that’s civilized enough for a night on the town.
The Limited comes standard with a 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine which has the power to propel this relatively heavy vehicle quite well. Its 290-horsepower / 260 lb.-ft. of torque mates nicely with the standard 8-speed automatic transmission operated with paddle shifters. It behaves very well on-road, providing brilliant shift-points that simply add to the overall driving experience.
While the EPA rates this Jeep at 22 mpg around town and 30 on the freeways, we find that driving it as a daily driver vehicle puts the mileage combo closer to 19/27. Then again, some of us have a lead foot.
Off-road, it’s very sure-footed and feels like a Jeep should, and that’s a good thing. There’s some nice low-end gearing for doing those slow crawls over rougher, off-road conditions, providing you with enough power to take on some of the toughest trails around.
Jeep gives the driver a control system for its all-wheel-drive system that has settings for “auto,” mud, rock, sand and snow. Each one will setup the wheel control differently to maximize traction and efficiency over the various conditions one may encounter on or off-road.
An area where Jeep has really stepped up its game is the inside of its spacious cabin. The use of leather and other top-notch materials gives the cabin a very upscale look and feel without overdoing things. You’d almost get the sense that it’s not a serious, off-road capable SUV. But it is.
This vehicle’s infotainment center employs the latest iteration of Uconnect, which has made some nice strides in improvements over previous generations. Overall responsiveness has also been greatly improved. The massive 8.4-inch touchscreen is a welcomed addition. However, it can be awfully bright at times, so we found we had to adjust its brightness to suit our own on-road conditions.
The system supports most audio formats, including mp3/wma and CDDA as well as includes device connections for USB, Bluetooth stream audio and an SD slot. It offers SiriusXM satellite radio with a 1-year trial account, 5 years for SiriusXM Traffic and 5 years for SiriusXM Travel Link. Included with this package as well is a 6-month trial access to Uconnect via your cell phone and web. Additionally, you can configure this system as an Internet hotspot.
Bluetooth telephony quality is quite good compared to many other cars we’ve tested. We never once had anyone complain about the audio quality on their end of the conversation, and the ability to hear one’s caller clearly speaks volumes for how well the Uconnect system works in daily use.
Front seat comfort is well above standard. Even on longer road trips, the seats were comfortable, soft-to-the-touch and yet appropriately supportive. Driver fatigue is further minimized by this car’s ultra-quiet cabin, giving the driver a sense of being mostly isolated from road imperfections while still feeling in touch with the paved terrain.
The instrument cluster is augmented by a digitized center display that can be configured to appear like a more traditional speedometer or a digital speedometer. It also displays other information such as real-time fuel usage.
There’s more than ample storage capacity in this Cherokee, especially when the rear seats folded down. This configuration creates 68.3 cubic-feet of usable cargo space. Another nice touch is the scratch pad that Jeep includes to help prevent folks from scratching up the bumper area.
Jeep did a formidable job of producing a world-class, highly off-road capable SUV that really is one of the few you should consider if you don’t merely want to drive another “pavement princess” (SUVs that really have no business off-road). This Cherokee has a good balance of power, refinement, technology and styling, all of which should help keep it at the forefront of mid-sized SUVs to consider.
Base price: $38,195
Price as tested: $41,480