The 2014 Jeep Cherokee has more off-road capability than anyone expects from a crossover, but the bigger story is that it's civilized and comfortable enough to drive to work every day. It's worth a look if you're shopping for a small SUV.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is an all-new model.Read more
Smooth and refined V6 engine; pleasant ride; spacious passenger quarters; availability of high-end tech features; Trailhawk offers unique off-road capability for the segment.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee marks the return of a classic Jeep nameplate. Previous Jeep Cherokees were no-frills off-road vehicles that provided little more than basic transportation when you got them on the pavement. The 2014 Cherokee is wholly different. It's a small crossover SUV. And while it still has a fair amount of all-terrain ability, this new Jeep is more remarkable for its spacious and attractively furnished cabin, pleasant ride and smooth V6 engine.
Although the 2014 Cherokee has about the same footprint as the Dodge Dart sedan (with which it shares its basic platform architecture), it feels far roomier on the inside and has one of the most accommodating rear seats of any compact crossover in this price range. The downside is that prioritizing passenger space has resulted in a lower maximum cargo volume: With its rear seats folded, the Jeep has 10-15 fewer cubic feet than most competitors.
So it won't haul as many packages of toilet paper, but the Edmunds "B"-rated Jeep Cherokee has something most rival SUVs don't: an optional V6 engine. Based on the powerful Pentastar six-cylinder used in the Grand Cherokee, this 3.2-liter V6 engine makes an impressive 271 horsepower and delivers that power in a smooth, refined manner via an all-new nine-speed automatic transmission. The nine-speed automatic is also included with the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. On paper, the four-cylinder makes competitive power for this class, but the Cherokee is heavier than most rivals, so real-world acceleration is sluggish.
Both engines are available with front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive configurations. Jeep is actually offers two 4WD systems. Active Drive I is your basic light-duty 4WD system (basically what most shoppers think of as all-wheel drive), and it's just fine if you merely need a little extra traction in winter snowstorms. Next up is Active Drive II, which adds low-range gearing and is aimed at Cherokee buyers expecting to venture farther off the beaten path.
It's nice to have that go-almost-anywhere capability when you need it, but the 2014 Jeep Cherokee also comes with some new tech features that you'll probably make use of a lot more often. An 8.4-inch touchscreen interface is available in most models, and there's also an option package that bundles forward collision, lane departure and blind-spot warning systems with automatic high-beam control, adaptive cruise control and an automated parallel and perpendicular parking system. Indeed, the Cherokee is the first Jeep that will park itself, and it's an unusual feature to see in this class.
However, the small crossover SUV class is loaded with excellent choices. You'll definitely want to look at top sellers like the 2014 Ford Escape and 2014 Honda CR-V, as well as the Mazda CX-5, as all of these crossovers match up well with the Jeep and offer better performance with their four-cylinder engines. If a V6 is a must for you, the similarly sized 2014 Kia Sorento has more cargo room and an available third-row seat. Finally, if you're really interested in going off-road, you'll find that more utilitarian vehicles like Jeep's own Wrangler and the Toyota FJ Cruiser offer more capability on rough terrain. Unquestionably, though, the 2014 Cherokee is the most complete small Jeep we've driven in years, and it's worth a look if you're shopping for a small SUV.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is a small, five-passenger crossover SUV offered in four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited.
Standard equipment on the Sport includes 17-inch steel wheels and all-season tires; air-conditioning; power accessories; keyless remote entry; a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; a 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seat; Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity; and a six-speaker audio system with a 5-inch touchscreen interface, USB/iPod integration, an auxiliary audio input and an SD card reader. Options include a Cold Weather Group package with a wiper de-icer and heating for the front seats, steering wheel and mirrors. You can get alloy wheels, a rearview camera, satellite radio and a CD player as stand-alone options.
The Latitude adds alloy wheels, roof rails, foglights, body-color door handles and mirrors, privacy-tinted glass, LED interior lighting, a folding front passenger seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, vinyl trim on the door panels and a 115-volt outlet. In addition, Jeep Cherokee Latitudes come with a wider range of options, including a V6 engine, dual sunroofs (the front roof opens; the rear glass is fixed), an upgraded nine-speaker audio system and an 8.4-inch touchscreen interface with smartphone app integration. The Comfort/Convenience package bundles a power liftgate, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a rearview camera, satellite radio, remote start and a cargo cover and net.
The off-road-themed Trailhawk is 4WD only and comes with slightly wider 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires; unique suspension tuning (aimed at making the Jeep more capable in the dirt); a rear locking differential; functional skid plates and tow hooks; unique fascia trim and side moldings; upgraded instrumentation; the 8.4-inch touchscreen and satellite radio. The upgraded audio system and Comfort/Convenience package are also optional on the Trailhawk, but now you have access to a panoramic sunroof (that opens over the rear seat if desired), leather upholstery and a navigation system. You can also get the Technology package, which includes automatic high-beam control; adaptive cruise control; forward collision and lane departure warning and mitigation systems; blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems; and an automated parallel and perpendicular parking system.
The Limited sheds the Trailhawk's off-road hardware but includes all the same interior electronics. It also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires; automatic headlights; keyless ignition/entry; dual-zone automatic climate control; a power driver seat; heated front seats and steering wheel; leather upholstery; a rearview camera and a cargo cover. Options are the same as on the Trailhawk, except that the Luxury Group takes the place of the Comfort/Convenience package. In addition to a power liftgate, this option group includes xenon headlights, premium leather upholstery and ventilated front seats.
Powertrains and Performance
Standard on all 2014 Jeep Cherokees is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 184 hp and 171 pound-feet of torque. Optional on all but the base Sport is a 3.2-liter V6 that makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.
You have your choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with either engine, but Trailhawk models are 4WD only. Jeep offers two different 4WD systems. Standard on four-wheel-drive Sport, Latitude and Limited models is the light-duty Active Drive I 4WD system; it requires no input from the driver and is suitable for driving in wintry conditions. Standard on the Trailhawk and optional on other 4WD Jeep Cherokees is the more deluxe Active Drive II system, which features low-range gearing to give the vehicle extra capability in off-road situations. The Trailhawk also has a locking rear differential to aid progress on rough terrain.
In addition, four-wheel-drive Cherokees feature a Selec-Terrain dial with selectable Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud modes to optimize traction; the Trailhawk features an additional Rock mode. Hill start assist is standard on all Cherokees, but only the Trailhawk has hill descent control. A tow package is available on all 2014 Jeep Cherokees, and with it included, V6 models have a 4,500-pound towing capacity.
Since there are several possible combinations of engines and drivetrains on the Cherokee, there are several different mileage ratings from the EPA. Equipped with front-wheel drive and the four-cylinder engine, the Cherokee is rated at 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city/31 mpg highway). With the V6 and front-wheel drive, the estimate is 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city/28 mpg highway).
EPA-estimated fuel economy for Cherokees with the Active Drive I 4WD system and four-cylinder engines is 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city/28 mpg highway), which is slightly below average for this class, while V6 Cherokees with this 4WD system are rated at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city/27 mpg highway). With the Active Drive II system, estimates stand at 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city/27 mpg highway) with the four-cylinder and 21 mpg combined (19 mpg city/26 mpg highway) with the V6. With its all-terrain tires, the Trailhawk gets an EPA estimated 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city/25 mpg highway) with the four-cylinder and 20 mpg combined (18 mpg city/25 mpg highway) with the V6.
In Edmunds testing, a four-wheel-drive Cherokee Limited with the Active Drive I system and a V6 went from zero to 60 in 7.4 seconds, a good time for the class. A Cherokee Trailhawk (also with the V6) did the sprint in 8.0 seconds.
Standard safety equipment on all 2014 Cherokees includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is either standard or optional on all models.
Trailhawk and Limited models are available with a large option package that includes a forward collision warning system (with automatic brake intervention in potential collision situations), a lane departure warning system that will give the steering wheel a nudge if you veer out of your lane on the highway, and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Cherokee Trailhawk with its all-terrain tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet, one of the longest distances we've ever recorded in the segment. A Cherokee Limited with more common all-season tires and 4WD came to a stop in 122 feet, which is slightly better than average.
In government crash tests, the Cherokee received an overall rating of four out of five possible stars, with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Cherokee a best-possible rating of "Good" in moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-crash and roof-strength crash tests. The Cherokee's seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
Interior Design and Special Features
In past years, the gap in civility between the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee cabins was large, but for 2014, they're far more comparable. The materials in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee have a high-quality look and feel, and we're hard-pressed to name another small crossover that beats it for style.
Passenger quarters are spacious in the new Jeep Cherokee. It's easy to get comfortable in the available power driver seat, which offers ample adjustability (although the steering wheel has an oddly limited range of height adjustment). The rear seat has recline and fore-and-aft adjustment, and the high-mounted bench supports adults' thighs without pushing their heads into the rafters. This is one of the better backseats in the compact crossover class. Occupants' comfort comes at the expense of cargo capacity, though. With its rear seats folded, the Jeep tops out at 54.9 cubic feet, which is 10-15 fewer cubic feet than in most other compact crossover SUVs.
The 8.4-inch touchscreen entertainment and navigation interface available in all Cherokees except the base Sport is elegant in its simplicity. It features easy-to-navigate menus, big touch buttons and an accompanying knob that makes whipping through iPod menus a breeze.
Although the four-cylinder engine has as much horsepower as most rivals' base engines, the Cherokee is heavy for a small crossover SUV, which makes the engine feel sluggish when accelerating up to highway speeds. This engine also has a more raucous sound than other four-cylinders in this class.
We really like the new V6 engine, though, as it gives the 2014 Jeep Cherokee a relaxed, refined demeanor not found in any SUV with a four-cylinder engine. There's plenty of power here, and the new nine-speed automatic provides smooth upshifts. But once you're cruising in top gear, the Cherokee can be a bit reluctant to downshift in response to gas pedal inputs
On the drive to work, the Cherokee offers about as cushy a ride as you'll get in this class. The downside is that the Jeep feels heavy and soft when going around turns. Its steering is precise, but the new Cherokee isn't sporty like the Escape or CX-5.
Of course, neither of those rivals can match the 2014 Cherokee's off-road ability. If you have the inclination, the Trailhawk can take on some pretty serious trails, thanks to its advanced 4WD system and rear locking differential. That said, regular off-roaders will be better off with an even more capable and focused vehicle like Jeep's Wrangler. For more driving impressions, be sure to check out our long-term test of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee as well.