2014 Jeep Cherokee: Outstanding MPG on the Road From Moab
June 29, 2015
I always enjoy my time in Moab, Utah, but I look forward the road trip to and from the place just as much. But I never like to retrace my steps if I don't have to, so I plotted out a return route that stayed north of the Colorado River.
It could have been 100 percent interstate, but that's rarely very scenic. Besides, I'd been that way before when Kurt and I passed through these parts during our 2013 Tesla Model S coast-to-coast road trip.
So I dipped off the freeway as soon as I could and put the 2014 Jeep Cherokee on a lurching path that zig-zagged south and west through tiny Utah towns such as Hanksville, Escalante and Tropic, before fueling up and regaining the interstate in Cedar City.
The rain began to fall almost immediately, but that didn't make the scenery any less stunning. My route passed by three national parks — Capitol Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion — and skirted along the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Cedar Breaks National Monument and Goblin Valley State Park were located along side roads I did not visit.
The weather nixed my plans for exploring these places, but I made note of where I wanted to return with a crew of other Jeeps to do some backcountry camping. It turned into a full-blown downpour with lightning and everything as I approached Escalante, the site of a particularly interesting dirt-road side trip I'd hoped to take.
The road to Hole-in-the-Rock is not advised for the lone traveler in the best of times. On this day, the usually parched landscape of dry gulches and slot canyons shed its permanent drought persona in favor of lightning strikes, flash floods and gooey red mud. There's no cell service out there, no one to pull you free if you get stuck in the rust-colored mud. It could literally be days before they find you.
I stopped at the town's Hole-in-the-Rock roadside museum instead.
As afternoon turned to evening, the narrower roads, mountain terrain and poor weather kept my speed in check. I eventually made it all the way to Cedar City on one tank of gas after 437.1 miles, a new best-range record for the Cherokee. Exactly 15.327 gallons later, my calculator revealed that the Jeep had produced another stellar tank of 28.5 mpg.
From here I planned to head home on Interstate 15, but I was dog-tired. The places I drove past had No Vacancy signs and I didn't feel like calling around to hunt for a room. So I headed south a dozen miles to an interstate rest area, folded down the 60-percent portion of the 60/40 split-folding rear seat, and dozed off in a sleeping bag amidst lightning flashes and heavy rain pelting down on the roof.
Morning dawned clear and bright, and I climbed into the driver's seat and got a very early start. In the name of fuel economy I resisted the temptation to roll along at Utah's 80-mph speed limit, unless there was a downgrade. Top gear in the Cherokee's 9-speed automatic is practically like coasting in neutral when there's a downslope.
That paid off big in the first hour or two because of the interstate's general descent through Utah. On the flat sections and from Arizona onwards, I kept it between 65 and 70 mph.
In the end, I saw some pretty crazy numbers on the dash when I finally rolled up to the pumps at the Shell station near my home in Santa Ana. The Cherokee and I had traveled 438.1 miles — another new best-range performance — but there was still a quarter-tank of fuel to play with. This surprising fact was confirmed by the range meter, which declared I was good to go for another 140 miles.
Astonishingly, the fuel economy meter read 38.4 mpg. But after adding 12.335 gallons the Cherokee's true fuel consumption came out to 35.5 mpg.
That's by far the best tank our 2014 Jeep Cherokee V6 4x4 has ever recorded, and it's a full 8.5 mpg (24 percent) better than its EPA highway rating. Sure, a general downhill trend was in play, but at 5,846 feet, Cedar City isn't nearly as high a starting point as my recent F-150 high sierra trip.
In all, my journey consisted of 1664.8 miles and 55.154 gallons of 87-octane unleaded. That's an average of 30.2 mpg, with a common start and end point that cancels out any elevation effects.
It turns out the Jeep Cherokee's 9-speed automatic is pretty sweet while navigating the interstate, wending its way up and down mountain roads or covering miles across undulating, wide-open spaces. Its broad selection of closely-spaced gears means there's an ideal one for every upgrade, every situation. Along the way it never hunts, never grunts, and there's no reason to doubt its ability to get with the program when the need arises.
This stands in stark contrast to observations made by staffers that live in the densely-populated communities that surround our office. In this environment, the Cherokee's transmission programming isn't nearly as agreeable to those spending the bulk of their time in the hurry-up world of competitive commuting.
Maybe it's this place. There's a lot to take in on the road to Moab even if you never climb out from behind the wheel. Out here there's no sense of urgency, no feeling that you're late for a meeting. On the stunning route to Moab and back, our 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4x4 turns out to be a pretty sweet ride.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 20,957 miles