It’s amazing what legendary heritage can do for your ride.
We had some rain this last week – actual, pouring rain in SoCal! – that created floods, mudslides, and nasty driving conditions.
But we weren’t worried in the least.
We were driving a 2019 Jeep Cherokee.
Yes, there are probably lots of capable foul-weather,crappy-condition vehicles, but when the going gets tough, it’s reassuring to be behind the brand that’s always meant “I’ll get you there”. And when you advertise that you’re “The Most Capable SUV” in your segment, you should have the goods to back it up.
A Grander Cherokee
The first thing about the 2019 model is a pretty serious facelift, bringing the Cherokee into line with the more upscale Grand Cherokee model, and giving it a more commanding presence. It also addresses some criticism of the previous design as being too polarizing.
An all-new front end includes a new fascia, lightweight hood, LED headlamps and daytime running lamps. While it’s all-new, it’s instantly recognizable as a Jeep, with a signature waterfall hood and seven slot grille –the designers know where to make bank.
Around the side, there’s notables like new wheel designs,and less visible items, like a push-push fuel filler door and capless fuel refilling. At the back, there’s also a redesign that looks crisper, a lighter-weight tailgate, and a new hands-free gate opener.
It also looks tall, with the Jeep sitting high on its suspension – giving extra ground clearance, as well as aggressive approach and departure angles to help you tackle the most serious terrain.
Perched on muscular 18”, 5-spoke rims, our Velvet Red tester looked the perfect combo of tough, sporty, and lux. (Hey, aren’t they a law firm?) We couldn’t find a bog to throw some mud on it, but at least we had some water spots from the recent rain.
While the Cherokee may be the equivalent of work boots to many, the interior makes sure they’re the kind of footwear that’s comfortable day in, day out. Plush even.
First impressions…well, they impress. There’s a handsome black/ski grey two-tone color scheme that looks Land Roverish. Like some other SUV’s we’ve tested, while we love the light color leather, we be tempted to go for something darker that hides dirt, foot prints, paw prints and the like.
New for ’19 high-gloss piano black accents and satin chrome tracer accents add to the luxurious look.The leather seats are supportive and comfy – ours had the optional heated and ventilated feature for 4-season comfort. Rear seat passengers aren’t left out,with available fore and aft adjustments.
Even with this added space, the Cherokee’s interior feels a little smaller than some competitors. Wethink part of it may be that making the chassis so rugged for heavy-duty off-road antics requires more structure and less glass. It doesn’t feel confined – just a little more car-like than pure big box.
If you are going to the big box store, you’ll be happy to know that Jeep has increased the size of the cargo area for ’19, to give you more space. And our testers hands-free opening tailgate is great after a successful holiday shopping venture.
While you’re driving home that new flat-screen (hey, it is the holidays…), you can enjoy enhancements to the Cherokee’s info-tainment system. For the connected life,there’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, teamed up with an available 8.4-inch display and Jeeps excellent UConnect system.
They even sweated the little details, like redesigning the center console to create additional space for smart phones and other devices next to the integral USB port.
Off the Road Again..
Handsome and luxurious, the real reason that Jeep pulls in buyers is the rugged reputation and the off-road capability.
That feeling of confidence starts under the hood, with an all-new 2.0-liter, direct-injection turbo four-cylinder. It’s smooth and powerful, with an impressive 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. Hooked up to a nine-speed automatic transmission, it feels more Audi than Jeep – it’s strong off the line, with a smooth little burble and feels refined all the way through the rpm range.
We averaged 20 mpg –reasonable considering it’s a large 4WD vehicle, and we constantly enjoying the benefits of being in the Turbo Zone.
Traditionalists might want to roll with the Pentastar 3.2-liter V6 which gives you an extra horse –up to 271 – but loses a bit in the torque dept. – 239 lb. ft. It’s the betterengine if you plan to tow –with 4500 lbs. max capacity (vs. 4,000 for the turbo4), giving it best-in-class V6 towing.
Those who want to maximize efficiency can opt for models with the 2.4-liter, Tigershark 4-cylinder. Like the turbo, both normally-aspirated engines feature the 9-speed automatic.
We like turbo power.It works well with the new Cherokee – it just feels so confident from the get-go.It rides high, firm, yet supple – with that long-legged smoothness that’s the hallmark of a well-designed off-road suspension. Those dips and divots that you slow down for in other SUV’s do little to phase the Jeep. You hear the tires do their work, but nothing intrudes in on the ride.
You’d also expect excellent grip, andJeep gives you three choices of 4WD systems. Ours had ADI which automatically switches between 2 and 4WD, and has been redesigned to be lighter and more efficient. Even through slogging through rain and much it was flawless.
Our Limited model was a cushy rockcrusher, designed to handle a wide variety of conditions. In the day to day commute, it was impressively quiet and refined, with a nice steering feel that is precise with just the right amount of heft to it.
Going to the Rubicon? We’d point you towards the Trailhawk model, with a more-dedicated off-road suspension, one-inch lift, and locking rear diff. It proudly wears the Jeep Trail Rated badge –something that has to be earned with awesome capability.
Jeep, not cheap.
Heritage, capability, and refinement have their price, and depending on how you like it, you can have avery affordable Jeep, or opt for a very premium experience.
Your entry-level Jeep Cherokee Latitude FWD starts at $25,240. Add $1,500 for 4WD. You then ratchet through 7 other models;Latitude Plus ($26,895), Altitude ($27,890), Limited, High Altitude ($34,490),Trailhawk (with standard 4WD $33,695), Overland ($36,495) and new Trailhawk Elite trim ($36,690).
Our Limited 4×4 started with a base price of $33,770. Along for the ride was the Technology Package ($995) – highly recommended with a suite of safety equipment including Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop and Go, Advanced Brake Assist, Lane Departure Warning, Parallel and Perpendicular Park System with Stop System, and more. We also had the Luxury Group ($1,195) which included ventilated front seats, reclining rear seats, foot-activated power rear hatch and more.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine is a bargain $500 upgrade, the Panoramic sunroof was $2,295. Also included, 9 amplified speakers with subwoofer $695, UConnect 8.4” screen with Navi and info-tainment upgrade $795, and a $1,495 destination charge.
Grand Total – $40,740.
Competition-wise, we looked at capability as a guide. A loaded Subaru Forester comes in just over$34,000. A loaded Land Rover Discovery Sport…well over $60,000. So, we think the Jeep Cherokee is a strong value – perhaps a little more expensive than some competitors, but few can match its capability or heritage.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee has been refined into an awesome SUV. Stylish, Capable, Modern, and yet fully-loaded with a famous heritage, and a feeling of unmatched capability.
Rain, Sleet, Snow, Mud, Mountains, or Desert.
No Worries – We’re in a Jeep Cherokee!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.