2019 Jeep Cherokee

MALIBU, Calif. — With 9 million sales worldwide and 2 million in the U.S. alone, the compact crossover utility vehicle is “the largest SUV segment in the world,” says Scott Tallon, director of Jeep Brand. Up against segment leader Nissan Rogue and big sellers like Honda CRV, RAV4 and Ford Escape, the Jeep Cherokee makes up just 9.5 to 10 percent market share in the segment.

While the front-runners enjoyed a 15 percent sales increase last year, Cherokee watched their sales slip by almost 15 percent. We believe most of it had to do with attractive new redesigns by competitors and the aging Cherokee with its weird looking front-end styling.

While it’s far from all-new, the 2019 Cherokee it does get a “new from the windshield forward” front-end fascia. It replaces the original’s bent seven-slot grille and triple light treatment: slit-like running lights on top, clandestine headlights in the middle and fog lights at the bottom. The new look mimics much of the premium Grand Cherokee with new standard bi-LED headlamps, a higher, more upright aluminum hood, and smoother, more formal seven-slot grille.

Around back, there’s a new composite liftgate with hands-free power that operates with a swipe of your foot under the bumper. The license plate moves from below the bumper to the liftgate, which has been bowed out to add three extra feet of space in the cargo area. Capless fuel filling, new LED taillamps, five new wheel designs and chrome front tow hooks on Overland models complete the look. Consumers have a choice of 12 different exterior colors.

For 2019, the Jeep Cherokee is available in five different trim configurations:  Latitude ($23,995), Latitude Plus ($26,495), Limited ($30,375) Overland ($36,275), and Trailhawk ($33,320). The Trailhawk is 4x4 only; on all other trim levels 4x4 is a $1,500 up charge. Jeep says that 65 percent of consumers choose to equip their Cherokee with 4x4 capability. There’s also an $1,195 shipping charge added to all the above model prices.

Inside, the cabin is mostly a carryover from the previous Cherokee. But, new premium materials and accent pieces to the door trim, and a larger center console with space for a smartphone add to the improvements.

The Cherokee features the new, fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system, offered with a 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreen with multi-touch gestures, including pinch, tap and swipe capability. The larger screen is available with navigation.

All versions include Apple CarPlay, which enables iPhone users to access Apple Maps, messages, phone and Apple Music through Siri voice control or the touchscreens. Android Auto enables easy access to Google Voice search, Google Maps and Google Play Music via the Uconnect system.

Two new interior color themes are available on Cherokee Latitude and Latitude Plus models. Storm Blue is said to be inspired by Iceland with its dark volcanoes, black ash and blue skies reflected in the black seats with blue stitching.

On the Overland model, a new Dark Sienna interior theme offers earth tones inspired by the earth’s clay and outdoor freedom, according to Brian Neelander from the Jeep design studio.

Standard power comes the carryover 2.4-liter 180-horsepower four-cylinder engine (down from 184 horsepower last year), or the optional 271-horsepower 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. The big news here is the all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged 270-horsepower inline four-cylinder engine with 295 lb.-ft of torque, which includes engine stop-start technology to optimize fuel economy.

The new 2.0-liter is optional on all trim levels except the base Latitude. The Pentastar V-6 is standard on the Limited 4x4, Trailhawk and Overland, and optional on the Latitude, Latitude Plus and Limited. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder is standard on Latitude, Latitude Plus, and Limited front-wheel drive, and a $500 option above the V-6. The nine-speed automatic transmission is standard on all trim levels. Jeep does not offer a hybrid version of the new Cherokee.

Jeep says the new Cherokee has shed 150 pounds thanks to the aluminum hood, composite tailgate and other weight-saving chassis engineering. We didn’t notice a difference driving the vehicle on the twisty roads and hills of Malibu, California, but the suspension and ride was smooth, handling sharp, and it drove more like a sedan — better than most crossover utility vehicles available today.

We drove two versions of the new Cherokee, both powered by the new 2.0-liter Turbo I-4: a Latitude Plus 4x4 with the single-speed Active Drive I that sends power to the rear wheels when needed, and a top of the line Overland 4x4 with the two-speed Active Drive II that offers two-speed power takeoff unit and low-range gear reduction. On top of those choices you can get Selec-Terrain traction control, which adjusts the amount of slip based on one of five system settings. Choose between Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock driving modes. There’s also hill-descent control to help you crawl down severely steep trails by automatically controlling individual disc brakes, and Selec-speed control to choose the speed at which you want to creep down.

We drove a previous Jeep Cherokee powered by the Pentastar V-6, and while Jeep claims that the new 2.0-liter performs better, we actually preferred the performance of the V-6. Still, there was more than enough power for almost all of your driving needs. Actual fuel economy numbers were not available as of this writing, however, Jeep claims a slight improvement over the V-6 and about a half second quicker zero to 60 mph times.

But what sets the Cherokee apart from all other vehicles in its competitive class is its remarkable off-road capability. I spent an afternoon driving an incredibly challenging off-road course in the Santa Monica Mountains. For this challenge, Jeep used the V-6 powered Trailhawk model that sits an inch higher that other Cherokee models, and has all-terrain tires, an Active Drive Lock system and locking rear differential. The Trailhawk easily negotiated steeply inclined, boulder strewn, and deeply rutted trails that at times lifted two wheels completely off the ground at the same time. No other vehicle in its class could have even come close to the off-road capabilities of the Cherokee, which handled the course with imperturbable poise and assurance.

While most buyers will more than appreciate the 4x4 capabilities of the Jeep Cherokee, we expect that few owners will attempt to test the extreme limits of its capabilities. Rather, most would be content to easily negotiate snowy roads, getting the kids to school on time, or much easier trails to camping sites and fishing holes.

With intense competition from strong players in this popular segment, Jeep is hoping the extensive styling changes and off-road appeal will lure more shoppers to Jeep showrooms, making it easier for consumers to choose the Cherokee.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $25,190 - $37,440
Price as Tested: Latitude Plus 4X4: $33,720 – Overland 4X4: $41,760
Powertrain: 2.0-Liter 270-hp turbocharged I-4 with nine-speed automatic transmission
Fuel Economy: N/A
Seating: 5

Crash Test Results: The Cherokee has not been crash tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as of this writing.

Competes With
Chevrolet Equinox
Ford Escape
Honda CR-V
Hyundai Tucson
Kia Sportage
Mazda CX-5
Nissan Rogue
Subaru Forester
Toyota RAV4
Volkswagen Tiguan

Fab Features
Remarkable off-road capability
Excellent Uconnect infotainment system
Only V6 engine option in its class

— Jim Prueter