2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Review

Capable, Comfortable, Costly

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Review

I almost fell out of my chair when pictures of the Jeep Cherokee leaked before its New York Auto Show debut. At the time, it seemed like the ugliest crossover I had seen since the Pontiac Aztek. Then I saw it in person and re-thought my volatile first impression.

FAST FACTS

Engine: 3.2L V6 makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Fuel Economy: 19 MPG city, 26 MPG highway, 21 MPG combined

Pricing: AWD V6 starts at $28,235 including delivery, our test model costs $39,815

It looks better in the flesh and a colleague assured me that “it would sell.” He was right about the sales and I began to think I might have been wrong for being so critical.

A little less than a year after I first saw the Cherokee, it was starting to look pretty good. The front-end styling seemed less offensive and more provocative in a segment that sorely needs excitement. Face it; compact crossovers are usually as exciting as turkey served with warm milk and Jeep is one of the few brands offering something in the segment that is exciting for both its looks and capability.

Options: What a Spread

2014 Jeep Cherokee 11

The Cherokee is offered with a wide range of options allowing it to compete with affordable four-cylinder rivals like the Honda CR-V or Mazda CX-5. But it also offers a V6, three levels of all-wheel drive upgrades, skid plates, tow hooks, sharper approach angles and several run-on sentences worth of other equipment.

The model I borrowed from Jeep and spent a week in came with upgraded “Active Drive II” all-wheel drive, which is available on the Sport, Latitude and Limited models. It adds an inch of ride height, a 47.8:1 crawl ratio (56:1 with the four-cylinder model), a 2.92:1 gear reduction that enhances off-road climbing capability, plus an two-speed power transfer unit that enhances traction while driving on dirt.

It also had the V6, which sends 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque to the powertrain through a nine-speed automatic transmission. Depending on the model you select, there are both all-wheel and front-wheel drive versions with either a four- or six-cylinder engine. Regardless of other choices, every Cherokee comes with the nine-speed auto.

The “Trailhawk” package adds items like the improved approach angles, tow hooks and skid plates mentioned above. It’s also “trail rated,” which means this is the model Jeep means for its customers to take off-roading thanks to a locking rear differential and a body that’s been raised an inch.

But it isn’t without faults and some of them are big enough that you should think twice before spending money to own one.

Nine-Speed Still Needs Some Work

2014 Jeep Cherokee 01

That gearbox was and is my primary point of concern about the Cherokee. You see, it was alarming enough that Jeep delayed launching the vehicle because of last-minute quality issues with the transmission, but it also isn’t fair to criticize Chrysler for waiting to be sure the thing was down pat. If anything, they deserve praise because it can’t have been a cheap choice.
 
2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review 3I hoped to write off the transmission’s early issues, but I can’t. At low speeds, the shifts are disappointingly rough. That alone isn’t really cause for concern, but what happened after starting the car on a cold morning might be. No more than 20 feet from the parking space I pulled out of, the car briefly seized up, leaning slightly onto the front suspension. After a “bang” and a shudder I felt through the pedals and steering wheel, the car continued forward normally. Troubling.

Aside from that, the nine-speed performed its most important task – saving fuel – admirably by helping the car come close to its advertised 21 MPG average. It was bang-on the 26 MPG highway rating, but I lost mileage in town while driving with a heavy foot through cold weather.

Squishy on Pavement

2014 Jeep Cherokee 06

The 3.2-liter V6 is new and offers plenty of power for such a small vehicle. If anything, it feels too eager to charge forward in low speed situations. Understeer is noticeable if you take corners quickly, but remember that this is supposed to be an off-road  capable product so a little bit of body roll is totally excusable.

Considering all that, the Cherokee is actually pretty pleasant to drive with comfortable bucket seats and an ergonomic cabin. Chrysler’s Uconnect system is responsive, straightforward and is one of the best systems sold in any new car because of those attributes.

There’s also an optional panoramic sunroof that makes the cabin feel much more spacious if you’re willing to pay the nearly $1,400 Jeep charges for it.

Overkill for a Compact Crossover?

2014 Jeep Cherokee 05

Even without the Trailhawk model’s intense off-road pretensions, Jeep lets its customers outfit the Cherokee with respectable off-road capability and that’s exactly what the model I drove had. Or so it would seem by looking at the equipment list.

To find out, we spent a few hours off-roading beside a diesel-powered Grand Cherokee also on loan from Jeep that week. Any complaints I had about the squishy ride and swaying body went straight out the window. Not only did the Cherokee keep up with its larger stable mate, but also it actually proved to be more adept than the Grand Cherokee at climbing up steep, slippery hills.

In fact, it performed so well that I was left wondering how worthwhile the Trailhawk upgrade really was until I got stuck in some deep snow. Then it became instantly clear how tow hooks and a locking rear differential are worth having.

2014 Jeep Cherokee 10The Cherokee’s impressive capability raises questions about which vehicles it competes against and why.

On the one hand, entry-level models stack up nicely against similarly-equipped small utility vehicles. The entry-level four-cylinder model starts at $23,240 to offer comparable power and fuel economy to a Mazda CX-5 for almost $2,000 less.

On the other hand, pricier range-topping models offer the power and capability to compete with much larger utility vehicles. The Cherokee I drove cost $39,815 and came with most of the available options. For a car in this class, that’s a lot to ask.

Available With All The Toys

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Review 1

At that level, it came equipped with adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping assistance system that prevents you from absent-mindedly drifting on the highway, plus blind spot monitoring and crash mitigation. There’s also heated and cooled seats wrapped in surprisingly soft leather upholstery, navigation and an upgrade stereo system.

It’s also possible to order a model with the enhanced all-wheel drive system and V6 for about $30,000. At that price you would still wind up with a vehicle able to deliver enough capability to tackle plenty of stick-and-mud excursions. But if it were my money and I really planned to spend any time doing wilderness driving, the Wrangler Unlimited would offer the same seating capacity in a much more robust package – though in a much less urban-friendly package.

The Verdict

2014 Jeep Cherokee 07

At 30 grand, you’re still paying an awful lot for a semi-serious machine and at the end of the day it’s probably a silly decision. The four-cylinder model makes for a sharp competitor to segment leaders but the brawnier V6 versions strike an awkward balance between being a serious off-roader and a suburban family vehicle.

If you’ve been pining for a comfortable daily driver that can still hang with the big boys in most places, the Cherokee is for you. Just get ready to pay dearly for having both of those privileges in one package.

« Back
SWEEPSTAKES – OFFICIAL RULES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.

1. NO PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND IS NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN THIS SWEEPSTAKES. AGE/RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS, VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked