Lusting after a Grand Cherokee, Wrangler or new Gladiator pickup but can’t quite afford the monthly payment on one of these iconic Jeeps? Well, the legendary off-road brand has plenty of other products in its portfolio that provide unmistakable style, ample capability and all the versatility you’d expect in a modern utility vehicle.

And one rung on the Jeep ladder is Cherokee, a midsize sport-utility vehicle that slots nicely between the smaller Renegade and Compass models and the big-boy Jeeps mentioned above.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Trailhawk and Jeep Cherokee Limited

When the current-generation of this off-roader launched around model-year 2014, it proved to be quite controversial. With its narrow, slit-like lamps and busy front end, the vehicle’s design likely turned as many drivers off as it did lovers of weirdness into paying customers.

Fortunately, the Cherokee was heavily refreshed for model-year 2019. This revamp gave it more tasteful exterior styling, interior enhancements, extra technology and a new powertrain option, among other tweaks.

Providing a refined on-road ride, the Cherokee is fitted with four-wheel independent suspension including MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Efficient electrically boosted power steering gives the vehicle reasonable nimbleness and a turning radius of as little as 37 feet for front-drive models; four-wheel-drive variants need 38 to accomplish the same feat.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

For unexpected off-road capability, three different four-wheel-drive systems are offered. Jeep Active Drive I offers four-corner traction at an attractive price. Stepping up from there, Active Drive II throws a two-speed transfer case into the mix for enhanced capability. Finally, Active Drive Lock builds on the capability of Active Drive II by including a locking rear differential for greatly improved traction in severe conditions.

Waving the flag, Jeep’s Cherokee is manufactured in the good, ol’ U.S. of A, specifically in Belvidere, Illinois. This facility has been home to many important Chrysler nameplates, products like the Neon and, more recently, the Dodge Dart compact car.

Jeep Cherokee Specs

Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder

Horsepower: 180

Torque: 171 pound-feet

 

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder

Horsepower: 270

Torque: 295 pound-feet

 

Engine: 3.2-liter V6

Horsepower: 271

Torque: 239 pound-feet

 

Drivetrain: Standard front-wheel drive, available Jeep Active Drive I, Jeep Active Drive II, Jeep Active Drive Lock four-wheel-drive systems

Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

Seating Capacity: Up to 5

Cargo Capacity: Up to 27.6 cubic feet behind second-row seats, maximum of 54.7 cubic feet with rear backrests folded

Maximum Towing Capacity: 4,500 pounds (3.2-liter engine with optional Trailer Tow Package)

Read More 2019 Jeep Compass Review

Jeep Cherokee Fuel Economy

The Jeep Cherokee offers class-competitive fuel economy. The most efficient version, a front-drive model equipped with the turbocharged engine, stickers at 23 miles per gallon in city driving, 31 on the highway and 26 mpg combined. A similar version with the 2.4-liter powerplant is rated at 22, 31 and 25, respectively. With a V6 engine and front drive, the Cherokee should return 20 mpg city, 29 highway and 23 combined.

The range-topping Trailhawk model is, naturally less economical than the abovementioned base models. With the Jeep Active Drive Lock four-wheel-drive system and the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, expect 20 miles per gallon around town, 26 on highway drives and 22 mpg combined. Grab the smooth-running V6 and you should see 18, 24 and 21, respectively.

Read More Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk Review

Jeep Cherokee Safety

Despite being a few years old, the Jeep Cherokee is still an exceptionally safe vehicle. In rigorous Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) testing, the crossover earned a “Good” score in nearly every major crash test, the highest rating handed out. This includes the small overlap front driver-side and small overlap front passenger-side, the moderate-overlap front, side, and roof strength, plus the head restraints and seats category.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

 

Beyond all that, when fitted with optional equipment the Cherokee offers superior front-crash prevention technology. Its LATCH ease of use was also rated “Good.” The only area where it didn’t perform well was in the headlights category. Depending on equipment, the vehicle is rated either “Marginal,” the second-lowest score, or “Poor,” IIHS’s worst rating.

Read More 10 Interesting Facts from the History of the Jeep Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee Features

The latest generation Cherokee is fresh off a midcycle update. This rework graces it with a new, and much more tastefully designed front fascia as well as a redesigned hood that’s now made of lightweight aluminum. Bi-LED projector-beam headlamps are also offered now, a convenient cap-less fuel filler is standard.

For drivers that want to let fresh air in, a dual-pane sunroof with motorized shade to reduce glare is available. A whopping 12 exterior colors are offered, giving customers plenty of choice, from olive green to a pearlescent white, bright red to baby blue.

For greater capability, an optional ($795) Trailer-Tow Group is available. It adds both a four- and seven-pin connector, a class-three receiver hitch and an upgraded wiring harness.

The Technology Group is available on some models. It adds a surfeit of useful features, things like automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go capability, lane-departure warning, rain-sensing windshield wipers and more. This options package is a steal at just $1,095.

The Cherokee’s base engine is a 2.4-liter single overhead-camshaft four-cylinder that delivers a respectable 180 horsepower with 171 pound-feet of torque.

Stepping up from there, you can also get a smooth-running V6. At 3.2-liters, this engine is essentially a downsized version of Chrysler’s award-winning Pentastar engine. In this application it cranks out 271 horses and 239 pound-feet of twist.

The top engine offering in this Jeep is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with direct fuel injection. Smooth and responsive, this powerplant is used in a wide array of FCA vehicles. In this application it’s rated at 270 horses with 295 pound-feet of tire-squealing torque.

A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard in every version of the Cherokee, whether fitted with the base engine and front-drive or the top-shelf turbo-four in Trailhawk trim. While efficient, this gearbox has never been known for its refinement or responsiveness. In short, it usually feels pretty clunky and is quite reluctant to downshift when extra performance is needed.

As their name implies, Trailhawk models are the most aggressive in the Cherokee lineup and far and away the most off-road focused. Facilitating this mudslinging capability is a number of special upgrades. Aside from improved approach and departure angles, these vehicles feature steel skid plates to protect delicate underbody components, they’re fitted with aggressive 17-inch off-road tires and an anti-glare hood decal. Bright red tow hooks are also standard, should you push your Cherokee Trailhawk a little too hard and get mired.

Inside, the Cherokee is fitted with a mildly updated cabin featuring new trim options and a few other tweaks. For instance, the center console has also been reworked so it has more storage space. A heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel is available, as is heated and ventilated front seats. This vehicle’s interior has plenty of soft materials, both on the dashboard and door panels, a nice touch, though it’s still not the richest cabin in its segment.

Improving versatility, engineers increased the cargo area’s width by more than three inches. This improves capaciousness appreciably, to around 27 cubic feet with the second-row backrests up. Fold ‘em down and that figure grows to more than 54.

The Cherokee is available with three different Uconnect infotainment systems. The base offering comes with a 7-inch screen. From there you can step up to one with an 8.4-inch display. Finally, you can get that larger screen with integrated navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are baked into each of these systems for maximum convenience.

Read More 2020 Jeep Gladiator Review

Jeep Cherokee Pricing

How much does a Jeep Cherokee cost? Well, how much have you got to spend? Depending on how one counts, this utility vehicle is offered in five basic trim levels: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and Trailhawk.

A front-wheel-drive Latitude model with no bells or whistles can be yours for just about $26,540. A well-equipped, midrange Limited model with a Uconnect infotainment system including an 8.4-inch screen and navigation, four-wheel drive, the trailer-tow package, technology and luxury groups and the V6 engine goes for more than $38,000.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

As for the range-topping Trailhawk model, if you snag every single option, you should have no problem pushing one past the $42,000 mark, a healthy chunk of change for a midsize crossover vehicle. Please note, all prices listed in these paragraphs include $1,495 in destination charges.

Read More Why the Four-Cylinder Hybrid is the Best Powertrain in the Jeep Wrangler – VIDEO

Jeep Cherokee Competitors

Despite its focus on off-roading, the Jeep Cherokee still competes with plenty of mainstream crossover vehicles. Its primary rivals include models like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, Volkswagen Tiguan and Nissan Rogue. But truth be told, one of the best rivals for this Jeep is probably the Subaru Crosstrek. They’re very similarly sized and both Jeep and Subaru focus on outdoorsy activities more than other automotive brands.

Read More 2019 Jeep Cherokee Pros and Cons

Jeep Cherokee Future Plans

Given that the Cherokee was just updated a model year or two ago, it’s unlikely this vehicle will receive any significant improvements in the near-term. This could spell trouble for FCA and its dealers. A brand-new Ford Escape is set to launch shortly, plus the Toyota RAV4 was just overhauled and the Honda CR-V is as competitive as ever. These vehicles could steal the Cherokee’s thunder, though, unfortunately for competitors, none of them quite have the same brand recognition or panache as Jeep.

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Limited

Our Final Verdict

The Jeep Compass is stylish and capable. It’s sure to appeal to Jeep enthusiasts around the world, though despite recent upgrades it’s far from the best offering in its crowded segment.

2.5