2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive on Edmunds.com
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2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive

2014 Jeep Cherokee SUV

(2.4L 4-cyl. 4x4 9-speed Automatic)
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Finally, a Small Jeep You Can Take Seriously


Moab, Utah, is exactly the kind of place you imagine driving a 2014 Jeep Cherokee. There are gorgeous red rock arches, buttes and pinnacles that rise up out of the high desert landscape, and the best way to see it all is to catch a ride on one of the local tours. Then again, if you have a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, you could just see it all on your own.

The Trailhawk is the off-road-themed version of the all-new Jeep Cherokee, which goes on sale in September. Although Jeep's latest SUV uses front-wheel-drive architecture, the 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk has both the off-road hardware and the ground clearance to climb these trails without getting ripped apart by the first boulder that stands in its path. And isn't that the whole point of owning a sport-utility vehicle?

2014 Jeep Cherokee

An All-New Compact Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk summons a bit of its predecessor's toughness, but it's really not aimed at traditional Jeep buyers. Instead, it's Jeep's first earnest attempt to go after the much larger population of compact crossover SUV buyers.

Built on the same architecture as the 2013 Dodge Dart, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee represents a fresh start. It's almost 2 inches shorter from nose to tail than Dodge's sedan, and its wheelbase is basically the same (107 inches even on the Trailhawk, slightly less on other versions). Its track is significantly wider, though, and it's 10 inches taller overall. There are basic similarities in suspension design, but no components are shared, we're told.

Inside, there's noticeably more headroom and legroom than in the Dart. It's much easier to get comfortable in the Cherokee's driver seat (even though the steering wheel has a similarly limited range of height adjustment), and the high-mounted rear bench has fore-and-aft adjustment and supports our thighs without pushing our head into the rafters. This is one of the better backseats in the compact crossover class.

Comfort comes at the expense of cargo capacity, though. With its rear seats folded, the Jeep tops out at 54.9 cubic feet, which is 10-15 fewer cubic feet than most other compact crossovers. No doubt the full-size spare tire, packaged under the cargo floor in Trailhawks and all Cherokees with the Tow package, eats into some of the volume.

A Pleasing V6
So it won't haul as many packages of toilet paper, but the 2014 Jeep Cherokee has something most rivals don't: an optional V6.

This new, transversely mounted 3.2-liter engine is based on the likable 3.6-liter Pentastar engine but has slightly smaller cylinders. Compression is slightly higher, too, at 10.7:1 versus 10.2 on the 3.6-liter. It's rated for almost as much power as the larger-displacement V6, with 271 horsepower at 6,500 rpm. Torque drops off to 239 pound-feet at 4,400 rpm compared to 260 on most of the 3.6 applications.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Your other engine option on the 2014 Cherokee is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder, which features variable intake-valve timing and lift (Fiat's MultiAir technology) and is rated at 184 hp at 6,400 rpm and 171 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm. Choosing the four-cylinder will save you $1,495. But even with the Cherokee's standard nine-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels (or all four wheels as on our test vehicle), acceleration on the roads around Moab (which is situated at 4,000 feet) never feels more than adequate, and the power delivery isn't especially smooth.

The V6 Cherokee is another story, though, as it gives the 2014 Jeep Cherokee a relaxed, refined demeanor not found in any SUV with a four-cylinder engine. There's plenty of power here, and the new nine-speed automatic provides smooth upshifts. We find ourselves choosing Sport mode on the Cherokee's SelecTerrain dial to get downshifts at our preferred pace, but Jeep officials say they're still working on the final calibration for this transmission. A manual mode is also part of the deal. With the tow package, the V6 Cherokee gets a shorter final drive (3.52 versus 3.25 ordinarily) and a 4,500-pound tow rating.

Official EPA fuel economy ratings have only been released for a couple versions of the 2014 Cherokee. Four-cylinder models with the light-duty Active Drive four-wheel-drive system are rated at 24 mpg combined and 21 city/28 highway, while V6 Cherokees with this 4WD system are rated 22/19/27. Ratings are still to come for the front-drive versions, as well as Cherokees with the more deluxe Active Drive II 4WD system.

Steady Over the Boulders
And by more deluxe, we mean that it has low-range gearing, though the setup is a little different than usual. Jeep's engineers wanted the Cherokee to be as capable as a rear-drive-based SUV in off-road situations (with the rear wheels getting as much torque as the front wheels), but on pavement they wanted to cut off power to the rear to maximize fuel efficiency. To make that work, our 2014 Cherokee has a low-range planetary gearset in both its power takeoff unit and its rear differential. This 4WD system is standard on the Trailhawk and optional on most other Cherokees.

We're also able to lock the rear differential on our Cherokee Trailhawk, and for most of the day we have the SelecTerrain dial in Rock mode, which is also exclusive to the Trailhawk (other 4WD Cherokees have only Auto, Sport, Snow and Mud/Sand) and only active in 4WD Low. Along with hill descent control, its main function is to keep you crawling along slowly enough that your Jeep will be able to make the drive home.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Ours does, but we still can't see anyone with serious off-road plans choosing it over the Wrangler Unlimited leading our caravan. A stock four-door Wrangler has 10 inches of clearance (versus the Cherokee's 8.7), better approach and departure angles, more wheel articulation and infinitely more leeway for driver error.

Plus, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee feels too nice for this abuse. Even the Trailhawk, which has the tallest ride height and a more off-road-oriented spring and damper calibration (along with wider wheels and tires), rides comfortably when we're going faster than we should on these trails. Back on the pavement, it offers about as cushy a ride as you'll get in this class.

The downside is that the Jeep feels heavy and soft around turns. The electric-assist power steering is precise, but the Cherokee isn't sporty like the Escape or Mazda CX-5. Then again, it's far more enjoyable to drive than the original Cherokee.

Grand Interior
In past years, the gap in civility between the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee cabins was large, but for 2014, they're far more comparable. The materials in the 2014 Jeep Cherokees we're driving look and feel nicer than the stuff in the Dart, and honestly, we're hard-pressed to name another small crossover that beats it for style.

The equipment list is also beyond anything Jeep has ever offered in a compact SUV. There are Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk (4WD only) trim levels, and all but the Sport are available with an 8.4-inch touchscreen interface that governs audio and phone functions (a smaller 5-inch screen is standard on the Sport and Latitude). You can add factory navigation for an extra charge, while all Cherokees offer a rearview camera.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

There's also a Technology package that bundles forward collision, blind-spot, rear cross-traffic and lane departure warning systems, automatic high-beam control, all-speed adaptive cruise control and an automated parallel- and perpendicular parking system. Indeed, the Cherokee is the first Jeep that will park itself. Meanwhile, a Luxury package for the Limited adds premium leather (regular leather is already standard in the Limited and optional in the Trailhawk), ventilated seats, a power liftgate and HID headlights.

Pricier Than the Original
Of course, if you add a few of these items and the V6 engine, you'll find yourself well past $30,000. We're driving a leather-lined Cherokee Trailhawk that costs $37,860. Fully loaded Escapes and turbocharged Subaru Foresters land in similar territory, but this is still big money for what amounts to a small crossover SUV.

On the other hand, most buyers won't be adding all this off-road equipment to their Cherokees. It's a really long drive to Moab, so better to just fly here and beat up on somebody else's Jeep on the trails.

Instead, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is yet one more five-passenger crossover to consider for your daily commute. And when equipped with the 3.2-liter V6 (which Jeep expects 50 percent of customers to choose in 2014), it's more pleasant to drive than most of the four-cylinder SUVs in this price range.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

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Comments

  • screwball71 screwball71 Posts:

    Honda no longer builds the ugliest car in the United States. That title now belongs to Jeep.

  • different1 different1 Posts:

    Damn that's ugly, even ugly say that's ugly...who the stupid approve such design and what were they drinking when they designed that. But again its typical Chrysler cheaply build and interior is as ugly as exterior.

  • robs249_ robs249_ Posts:

    its not that bad up front... the back is lame though

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    No low range? Really? I guess that forces you to buy the tow package with the lower gears for off road use if you live above sea level.

  • The styling is subjective, but I give credit to Jeep for offering a vehicle in this segment with genuine off-road credentials. Many of the competing vehicles in this segment have little off-road capability and are more of a fashion statement. I am curious......if the 3.2 liter V-6 engine will fit in the new Cherokee which is based on the Dodge Dart, I am wondering if this same engine will fit in the Dart. If so, this might contribute to the making of a high performance version of the Dart (SRT-6?).

  • emajor emajor Posts:

    A civilized and refined commuter. An offroad-capable truck worthy of the Jeep name. They tried hard to make this vehicle both of those things but have understandably erred on the side of the former. Those who pine for the rugged old Cherokee had best visit their Nissan dealership and pick up an Xterra. It carries the Cherokee torch forward more effectively than this. From what I can tell on the Jeep website, by the time you have optioned this thing up to the point where it is any good offroad you are thousands of dollars over the price of an Xterra S, which is a raging bargain in my opinion.

  • banhugh banhugh Posts:

    This article sounds like a video from Motorweek. I can imagine John Davis walk around the car into the driver's seat, or rolling the window saying exactly what is written here. Generic info for the car and no real story about how good or bad it is. Only soft comments like "... acceleration ... never feels more than adequate".

  • bankerdanny bankerdanny Posts:

    Time to brush up on your reading skills Agent: " To make that work, our 2014 Cherokee has a low-range planetary gearset in both its power takeoff unit and its rear differential. This 4WD system is standard on the Trailhawk and optional on most other Cherokees. We're also able to lock the rear differential on our Cherokee Trailhawk..."

  • duck87 duck87 Posts:

    So it has the mechanics, and the interior. Every publication (and commenter on the internet) seems to want Chrysler to do something about the butterface, and I'm inclined to seriously agree. Do that and this car should be a good player in the CUV market.

  • quidycat quidycat Posts:

    was looking for an offroad suv. would have considered this one but it's just too damn ugly. beauty is subjective and skin deep, but it's hard to get pass this extreme ugliness. what were they thinking?

  • flnchm5 flnchm5 Posts:

    Wow!! Who would have thought Jeep would have tapped AMC and brought back the Eagle?! Just foul....

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    So, how was the offroad capability? Don't just assert, "[W]e still can't see anyone with serious off-road plans choosing it over the Wrangler Unlimited." Lots of us bought the XJ Cherokee years ago because we wanted a high degree of offroad capability with more onroad comfort and capability than the Wrangler at the time. I sold my old Cherokee a few years ago and bought a Nissan Xterra, the vehicle that seems like the closest spiritual successor. ...Or was your comparison to crossover utility vehicles your way of telling us that the new Cherokee is a soft-roader that's not in the same league as the Xterra or Toyota FJ?

  • ajac03 ajac03 Posts:

    When I first saw this released as a concept car, I thought it was absolutely hideous.. but for some reason it's growing on me.. And for the ugliest car, has everyone forgotten about the Mitsubishi Mi-EV?

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    @bankerdanny. I blame the meds for my broken hand. :-) I think they also had me fooled by not having an actual transfer case. I searched for that and came up empty. Hmm, this could work for me then.

  • eriches eriches Posts:

    @ banhugh: I regret wasting your time. @ darthbimmer: The Active Drive II 4WD system is effective, but the Cherokee has about an inch less ground clearance than a stock Xterra or FJ. If I was going to hit the trails even once a month, I'd have an Xterra

  • darthbimmer darthbimmer Posts:

    Erin, thanks for your comment about the Cherokee versus Xterra and FJ. That really helps me understand its niche in the market.

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    Erin, I echo the thoughts about comparing this with the Xterra and the FJ. For sure you are not getting 20mpg on a regular basis from an Xterra and its interior is rather utilitarian. It all comes down to how much ground clearance you need and how much truckiness you can tolerate in your SUV. Personally I like to have plenty of capability in hand for the places I go. Maybe I need more brave pills.

  • s4er s4er Posts:

    This could be the best sport ute ever built, but could never get by the looks....Way UUUUgly!!

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    I used to think it was ugly but it is starting to grow on me too. Props to Jeep for giving it a reasonable tow rating, even if that is only with the V6 and tow package. That's still better than the rest of the players in the US market who try to insist you need a full size heavy duty pickup to tow the smallest little trailer.

  • rsadler rsadler Posts:

    Looks great! What are you guys thinking? Admittedly not necessarily the one for mud and rock use only, but if you need to drive to the trail after work ... what could be better? A look to get up in the morning for.

  • jmt7 jmt7 Posts:

    I purchased a new 2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude mid-December 2013. Approximately two weeks later, I noticed that significant amounts of water had collected on the inside of both headlights. I returned the car to the Jeep dealership where they replaced both headlights citing a Service Bulletin which acknowledged the potential for condensation in the lights. A week later, on a 5 degree night , I found frost built-up on the inside of one of the new headlights; I brought the car back to Jeep. This time, however, the service department used the Service Bulletin (SB 08-086-13) to justify not replacing the lights. The Bulletin maintains that the condition is acceptable in that it "will usually clear as atmospheric conditions change (I kid you not) to allow the condensation to change back into a vapor. Turning the lights on will usually accelerate the process." In other words, the deficiencies in the headlights design, manufacturing process, and/ or installation are to be addressed by the actions of the customer (or apparently Mother Nature), not Jeep. In the numerous discussions with sales, service and corporate customer service, representatives agreed the Bulletin does not address the issue (from a customer standpoint) but insisted that there was nothing they could do. My corporate Case Manager has closed my file all while noting he had received multiple complaints related to the dullness of the lights . In addition to the headlight issue, the transmission tends to "stick" or "hang-up" during transitions between gears, especially at speeds under 25 mph. This condition is intermittent and varies in degree of severity but tends to be more pronounced when descending in speed. In the more extreme cases a "clunking" noise/vibration was felt which emanated from the bottom of the car. Jeep updated the transmission software program but this resulted in no noticeable improvement. Note - With Active Drive I, there is no mechanism to manually engage full-time 4 wheel drive. The Selec- Terrain dial which puts the car into Snow, Mud, etc. mode does not put the car into 4-wheel drive - it adjusts other systems. With Active Drive II there is a Rear Axle Lock which is available (i.e., the car is simply an AWD without it). I only mention this because the sales department was apparently trained otherwise; I needed to go to Jeep corporate to get clarification. One final thought - the customer will do most of the "homework" in trying to resolve these issues. Sales sent me to service, service commented that maybe corporate had a new light design in the works (i.e., the customer should call corporate), corporate asked me if I would ask the service department if they had a different light that could be installed, etc. All good questions that should have been tracked down and answered by someone who took ownership of the issue - FROM JEEP! Meanwhile I have a car the family is hesitant to drive because of headlights that could become significantly impaired.

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