How will it fare against its worthy competition?
Jeep made a bold styling move when it re-launched its iconic Cherokee in 2014. Its front fascia found little appeal; its squinty headlights found few friends. Nevertheless, the mid-size Cherokee was a solid performer on Jeep's sales charts, despite calibration issues with the then-new nine-speed automatic transmission sourced from ZF. Thankfully, Jeep has strategized over the last few years to get the Cherokee right the this time around, beginning with a much welcomed, new front-end design.
The refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee had its public debut at the 2018 Detroit Auto Show. Buyers who liked the pre-facelift model will appreciate this updated SUV even more. Underneath its new-found skin, the 2019 Cherokee rides on the same FCA Compact Wide platform as it did previously, but Jeep has gone to great lengths to give the Cherkoee off-road cred while still offering commute-worthy ride and handling characteristic. Under the hood, the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine remains, pumping out 180 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. The optional 3.2-liter V-6 with 271 hp and 239 lb-ft also returns. But Jeep didn't stop there: it's added a new 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged inline-4 with 270 hp and 295 lb-ft.
All engines are paired to the now-familiar nine-speed automatic. Buyers will have a choice of three flavors of its four-wheel-drive system. Active Drive I is fully automatic, Active Drive II features a two-speed power transfer unit with torque management and low range, and Active Drive Lock has all of the features of Drive II combined with an added locking rear differential for more difficult off-roading. Understandably, Active Drive Lock comes standard on the Cherokee Trailhawk off-road trim. Regardless of all-wheel-drive setup, every Cherokee features a terrain traction control system with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock modes to take on all on- and off-road conditions.
Jeep engineers have cooked up a suspension with a MacPherson strut arrangement up front and an independent multi-link setup in the rear to soak up bumps for on-road comfort. The suspension provides 6.7 inches of travel for the front and up to 7.8 inches out back. Despite the initial kinks Jeep had with its nine-speed automatic transmission four years ago, the company claims new software will ensure smoother shifts in the new Cherokee. Meanwhile, Jeep tells us this slushbox promises aggressive launches, smoother power delivery at highway speeds, and better fuel efficiency than a more traditional six-speed automatic.
Speaking of efficiency, fuel thirst will obviously depend on engine and drivetrain choice. Prior to the refresh, for example, the base engine returned 19/25 mpg city/highway and a combined 22 mpg, while the V-6 managed 21/28 mpg city/highway and a combined 23 mpg. We expect those figures to at least be the same if not slightly improved, but FCA is mum on details for now. Of particular interest will be how the new turbo four performs in upcoming EPA fuel economy tests, as it will also be offered in the new Jeep Wrangler. The 2019 Cherokee will arrive on dealer lots in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and Trailhawk trim levels.
It’s important to note the Trailhawk model is literally in a world of its own when compared to the Cherokee's other trims. Not only is it far more off-road capable, Trailhawk gives the Cherokee a drastically different look thanks to a slightly higher suspension, wider fender flares, unique wheel designs, and 17-inch wheels wrapped in off-road rubber. Red tow hooks up front and a forged tow/recovery hook out back complete the Cherokee Trailhawk's off-road ready apparel. All 2019 Cherokees get an aluminum hood, new LED headlamps with integrated daytime running lights, and a slightly revised taillight design. The front end has received most of Jeep's attention—and we’re glad for this.
From our brief time with the new Cherokee on the show floor in Detroit, we immediately noticed its much improved overall fit and finish with quality soft touch plastics throughout its interior cabin, including premium materials used for its door panels, armrests, and upper instrument panel. Jeep claims the Cherokee features a driver-oriented cockpit with easy-to-use, useful technology and thoughtful storage features. It’s also worthy to point out designers wanted to brighten things up and did so with lighter color tones on lower trim panels. New interior colors include Storm Blue, which was inspired by Iceland and its volcanoes, and Dark Sienna, which has clay-like earth tones and hues.
For the high-end Overland trim, there are high-gloss black piano and satin chrome tracer accents around the radio, air vent, and gear shifter bezels. Also included in the center console are connectivity features such as a USB port and a 115-volt outlet. Compared to the previous Cherokee, this media center hub has been relocated rearward to create additional space for the front storage pocket, which is an ideal spot for your smartphone. A few optional interior features, again depending on trim level, include a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel along with and heated and ventilated front seats. FCA's UConnect infotainment system is available in 7- and 8.4-inch formats, but only the latter can be optioned with navigation.
Other available features and services include SiriusXM satellite radio with Travel Link, Traffic and SiriusXM Guardian, which enables real-time information and several entertainment options, along with hands-free calling and texting. Jeep claims rear cargo capacity has been boosted over 3 inches in width and now holds up to 27 cubic feet of whatever you want. There’s also additional storage space specifically tailored to things like golf clubs and grocery bags. The second-row seats, once again, are available with a 60/40 split for even greater flexibility. Jeep claims the Cherokee also boasts more than 80 available safety and security features.
Speaking of which, safety is obviously a key priority for any new vehicle today, so it makes sense Jeep has equipped the Cherokee with eight standard airbags. Engineers have further enhanced the Cherokee's safety suite with both active and passive features, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. Other noteworthy items include electronic stability control, electronic roll mitigation, blind-spot monitoring, and a rear back-up camera. Given that the mid-size SUV crossover segment is one of the most popular in the US today, Jeep fully knew it had to keep its Cherokee competitive.
The Jeep's main competitors include the redesigned Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, and Mazda CX-5. Jeep knew where it was lagging behind previously and has, in a very precise manner, attempted to tackle as many issues as it could. With a more refined ride both on- and off-road, a new front-end design, and premium interior layout with top fit and finish, the facelifted 2019 Jeep Cherokee ought to remain competitive for the next several years. Pricing is not yet available, but we imagine it’ll be very similar to the outgoing model, which starts at $24,395 and can nearly reach $40,000. Jeep says official pricing will be announced closer to launch. Expect to see the 2019 Jeep Cherokee arrive in dealerships next fall.