Welcome to the most luxurious Jeep Cherokee of all time.
Dubbed the Overland as this new-for-2016 trim, the Cherokee now packs its feature lists to overflowing proportions.
You name the luxury feature, and this truck has it.
Along the way, the Cherokee Overland 4x4 V6 has almost grown out of its Ford Escape and Honda CR-V competitive set. In power, safety and premium elements, this Cherokee Overland competes much more closely against the BMW X1 and Audi Q3.
The problem with those much-tougher rivals is easy to imagine: they are great little trucks that handle well, have speedy turbo powertrains and econo-car efficiency to match their premium badges.
Will the body-color fascias and supremely well-equipped Cherokee Overland be enough to justify pricing in the low $40k range?
We were eager to find out how the truck rises to this new luxury mission statement, and found out over a week of rapid city/highway.
The results were mixed, to be frank.
Let's dive in here with an HD drive review video along with section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance and Pricing.
HD Drive Review Video
The Overland trimlevel of the Cherokee looks very upscale and premium outside thanks to its fresh new bumpers with silver accents and full matching body-color paintwork. This is quite a different look from the plastic-clad Cherokees that have been the truck's main style to date. We definitely have warmed to this design over time: its slices of LED DRLs in the edges of the hood are a strong look. The classic Jeep seven-slot grille lives within the single-piece hood with no seams to interrupt its style statement.
Dark tinted lenses for the bi-xenon HID main headlights disappear visually into the look effectively. We also fancy its lower intake accent in satin silver.
Polished 18-inch alloys are a nice touch too, if slightly bright for our latest taste preferences. (Luckily, Jeep has some dark Titanium designs replacing chrome as an option these days.)
The proportions of the truck are clean and sleek all around. Fairly shallow glass and a low roof help emphasize the sporty, on-road focus of the model -- and are especially helpful on this lux model and its full-color bodywork.
The painted bumper out back is almost even more striking visually than the nose. This is really a Euro-style design now, with dual exhaust pipes and full LED taillamps making slim cuts into the upper bodywork.
Our main style and design concern with the Cherokee Overland is a surprising side-effect of the plentiful brightwork and painted fascias, however.
The Cherokee now looks somewhat uncomfortable from some angles. With this Overland pack and road-focused 225/60R18 tires, the machine can look a bit like a microvan from certain angles. Not thrilled to report this fact, but the impression of a luxury minivan is pretty strong with the Cherokee Overland as it stands.
Even with the signature angles in the Cherokee's wheel arches and that low, sexy roof... this is not a gorgeous machine.
We'd really like more rubber sidewall and more ride height, a la the Trailhawk trim, to reinforce this sporty crossover as a trucklike machine. A true Jeep, in other words.
So it is a few steps forward in the Overland's design, but at least one step back with its low and carlike rubber looking undersized.
Get ready to be astounded by the luxury of the Cherokee Overland inside. Leather-wrapped dashboard, shifter and leather/wood heated steering wheel are convincingly premium right on first sitting. We also really like its brown leathers, dark headliner and classy materials contrasted with the pearl leather seats all around. Heated and venting for the front seats, power cadjustments and even four-way power lumbar for both front seats are very good as well.
The drive position is not an instant hit. We felt notably too-tall in the seat for the first few drives, even if it did become normal after a bit of adjustment. Berber carpets down below are classy, as is the premium cabin insulation upgrade that comes standard on the Overland trim pack.
UConnect 8.4 for the central touchscreen is amazingly good. This is one of the best units on the market, and is paired with a giant seven-inch midcluster TFT panel between the main gauges. A year of XM satellite radio and six months of UConnect Access mobile wifi are great, too, as is keyless access and pushbutton start.
The two main option packs on our test truck kick things even further upmarket: a $1600 panoramic glass moonroof is heavenly, while the $1500 tech pack brings a deep suite of active safety upgrades. Active cruise with full-speed stop/go capability works well, as does the LaneKeep assist and automatic highbeams. These are all cutting-edge in their capabilities, if a bit confusing the activate and use right away. (Hint: the on/off controls for these are in dedicated switched below the touchscreen. Very obvious once found:)
Full-speed front collision warning with active emergency braking were not tested, thankfully, nor was the included perpendicular or parallel self-parking.
Nine-speaker audio with subwoofer also sounds deep and rich -- helped by the ultra-quiet ride and lack of wind noise even at highway speeds.
The cabin is clearly one of the best features of the Overland upgrade, and is convincingly premium with this giant featureset. It would take $20k in options to have a BMW X1 and Audi Q3 match the Cherokee Overland's luxury.
The Cherokee Overland comes in front-drive of 4x4 trims, with this 3.2-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic coming standard with the 4x4 model. 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque are easily the most versus mainstream rivals. The resulting sprint performance is very impressive, not least versus the CVT automatics that sap the fun from even a Toyota RAV4 SE.
The Cherokee is easily the quickest, then, to 60-mph with a sprint time of about 6.5-seconds. The huge range of gears in this automatic means the Cherokee V6 can really pop off the line like a sports-car.
Drive modes are available in the terrain select, with our drives mostly switching between Normal and attempts at smooth drives in Sport mode.
The Sport programming for the transmission is not quite perfect. It definitely helps with snappier kickdown on passing, but also hangs on to gears too long for normal driving scenarios (at least in our hands). We found no real harshness or wrong-gear situations that other testers have described -- at least in Normal mode. In Sport, there were a few times when the transmission made some surprisingly jerky shift moves.
So, normal mode it is, then!
The Cherokee Overland V6 can definitely fly up onramps and straightawys -- with a great engine growl and very impressive composure in general. Check out the video to see/hear it for yourself!
There is a "But" coming, isn't there?
Yes, there is. The Cherokee Overland is fast in a straight line but not as good around corners. The under-tired look outside really plays out behind the wheel. Around corners, the Cherokee Overland's steering is heavy but almost entirely absent of road feel. Grip is also an issue -- the machine just does not have the handling balance or enthusiasm of its best mainstream rivals, to say nothing of the Audi and BMWs it aspires to.
Pricing is where this model gets pretty polarizing. A base price for the Overland 4x4 of $39k with delivery jumps to $42,775 with the optional moonroof and tech package.
As feature-packed as the Overland is, we'd have a hard time justifying that spend versus its vastly-better Grand Cherokee big brother.
Granted, to have this luxury on the GC, you'll need to find at least another $10k. The rewards around corners will be pretty real, though, when moving the the Grand Cherokee.
A final note in the pricing section is more like a cost-to-own concern. Despite standard stop/start (that must be disabled on every startup), and despite its advanced 9-cog automatic.. the Cherokee V6 gets pretty poor gas mileage. Official numbers are 19-city/26-highway for a 22-mpg average. On paper, this is not much better than much larger SUVs like the Ford Explorer and even the bigger Grand Cherokee itself.
In our hands and with enthusiastic driving, the numbers plummet further. The Active Drive II 4x4 system does full disengage the back axle for added highway economy... but the featureset of stop/start, modern automatic and road-biased 4x4 just don't deliver good enough results on the road.
Initially, we thought the Cherokee Overland's $42k price would be a problem because the brand is not premium or European. But after time in the Jeep, the brand is actually classy enough to support this window sticker.
Nor was the cabin a betrayal of the Cherokee's humble origins. Jeep has seriously classed up the model inside -- enough to definitely best any mainstream model you care to mention.
Where we really felt a disconnect with the car was in speedy driving and around fast corners. The Cherokee just doesn't have the confident handling or playful, light-feeling nature that is so admirable in the BMW X1 or Audi Q3.
It does deliver big rewards for buyers who want the premium Jeep style paired with tight city agility and absolutely every modern luxury feature that you could want. On the flipside, the Cherokee Overland is easily the quietest, smoothest and calmest Jeep we've ever driven. And also seriously premium outside as well as in. We just wish a bit the Cherokee's handling were a bit better and its style a bit more macho to really leapfrog the Ford Escape of Honda CR-V.
Despite these subjective concerns, though, you have to admire how well Jeep has brought luxury-level tech and cabin comfort to such an easy-to-drive crossover size.