The Jeep Cherokee is the Jeep for people who don’t like the way that Jeeps (generally) look, for people who might not otherwise consider a Jeep.
Who can forget the teased images that appeared before the actual 2014 model was shown at the 2013 New York Auto Show, the silhouette and the stunning lights high up on the front end?
Cherokee’s NYC reveal by Jeep chief Mike Manley
If there was anything that anyone who knows anything about Jeeps knew, what was being presented by Jeep was something that was far and away different from what had come before.
And when the vehicle was fully revealed, yes there are the seven slots signifying the grille and yes the wheel arches are trapezoidal, but does it look like a Jeep, even though the Grand Cherokee is certainly a much less T-square execution than back in the day and so the “Jeep” definition might be somewhat modified overall?
Mind you, this is not to be critical of the vehicle. Rather, it is to make the point that it is indisputable that the people in Auburn Hills (and possibly Turin) recognized that if Jeep was going to have a chance at really capturing the hearts and checkbooks of people who were moving to midsized SUVs they needed to change the game in a significant way.
Which is precisely what they did with this vehicle that is built on the “Compact U.S. Wide” platform that the people at Chrysler and Fiat (when there were a Chrysler and a Fiat) created, a platform that has also been the basis for the Dodge Dart, Alfa Romeo Giulietta, and the Chrysler 200. Of course, the platform has been engineered for each application, so it isn’t like there is a base and a top attached that looks like a four-door or a sports sedan or an SUV.
And the Cherokee is produced at the Toledo North Assembly Plant in Ohio, which is essentially synonymous with “Jeep.”
As for that aforementioned “chance” at getting a piece of the market: The people at Jeep played and won. For 2014, Jeep delivered 178,508 Cherokees. While that number might not be too meaningful, look at it this way: You can add the number of Chrysler 200s and Chrysler 300s delivered in 2014 and have a sum that is less than the Cherokee: 170,745.
Yeah, it’s that popular.
But it really seems to me that the most Jeep aspect of the Jeep Cherokee is this:
That’s right, the switch gear that allows you to put it in four-wheel-drive (all the way up to the Jeep Active Drive Lock with two-speed PTU, low range and locking rear differential, something that your run-of-the-mill crossover SUV shopper isn’t going to have the foggiest about) or deploy the Selec-Terrain traction control system (which is somewhat more intuitive as the choices are Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, Rock; here’s betting that Auto and Snow—at least for people in some parts of the country—will be the most selected choices, with Sand/Mud and Rock never even getting a try).
The thing is, the Cherokee is remarkably refined in the context of what might consider to be a Jeep—unless, of course, one is thinking of the Cherokee’s big brother, the Grand Cherokee, because that vehicle is on par with vehicles that cost considerably more and yet gives nothing away in terms of refinement, or capability.
As I drove the Cherokee—admittedly, it was all on freeways and city streets, but as those who live in Michigan (including the governor) know, this can be considered, in many places, as quasi-off-road—I had the sense that I wasn’t in something that had the aforementioned Rock capability, but a comfortable crossover. Most of those comfortable crossovers, of course, aren’t built like Jeeps, so presumably, assuming one is looking for that additional go-wherever capability, then the Cherokee is the just the thing.
Engine: 2.4-liter, I4 MultiAir2
Horsepower: 184 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 171 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Steering: Electrical power-assist rack-and-pinion
Wheelbase: 107 in.
Length: 182 in.
Width: 74.9 in.
Height: 66.2 in.
Curb weight: 3,953 lb.
Passenger volume: 49.47 cu. ft.
Cargo volume (rear seats up): 24.6 cu-ft.
EPA: mpg city/highway/combined: 21/28/24 mpg