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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4 Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4

Combining Good Looks with Comfort and Ability


   • SEE ALSO: Jeep Buyers Guide

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4

The name is familiar. The face? Nothing at all like the second-generation Cherokee that presaged the SUV boom when it made its debut thirty years ago, and even less like the original from a decade before that. Yes, there are the seven vertical slots in the grille, but the utilitarian boxiness of the icon of the Eighties and Nineties is nowhere to be seen. Looking at Jeep's 2014 Cherokee, you'd think it was another "cute ute", a pretty crossover meant for nothing more rugged than a trip through a mall parking lot.

You'd be wrong there.

Yes, the newest Cherokee uses unibody construction. So did the second generation version, making it revolutionary for its day. (Parenthetical note -- the first use of the Cherokee name was on a two-door variation of the body-on-frame Wagoneer in 1974. There are far fewer of those than the 1984-2001 version.) The Eighties Cherokee used unibody construction for strength and rigidity with less weight. It used solid axles front and rear for ruggedness far from pavement. It was a truck, not a car, with its engine mounted lengthwise and driving the rear wheels, or all four via a two-speed transfer case. If it was sometimes a little rough on pavement, it was eminently capable when the pavement ended. I have fond memories of crawling over stumps and rocks on a Jeep Jamboree in one in the early 90s, in what was luxurious comfort compared to what the people in the lifted Wranglers and CJs were experiencing.

The new Cherokee is built on the "Compact US Wide" (CUS-wide) platform that is also the basis of the new Dodge Dart. And, with other modifications, the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta for the European market. Don't look for solid axles, suspension is fully independent with struts in front and a multilink setup in back. The engine is placed transversely in front, and "2WD" means front-wheel drive. Car platform, front-wheel drive, sure sounds like a crossover even though ground clearance is a healthy 8.7 inches…

Watch the Jeep Cherokee VNR from the NY Auto Show

What's that second lever in the console? It's for 4-low with the Active Drive II 4WD system. What were you expecting? This is a Jeep, after all. And the Selec-Terrain system has multiple selectable modes controlling the engine, transmission, stability control, and brake systems for every condition from a sunny summer day to snow, sand, mud, or even rock crawling. Now are you going to call it a crossover?

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4

Trim levels are well-equipped entry level Sport, mid-level Latitude, expected to be the volume seller, luxury-spec Limited, and offroad-ready Trailhawk. The Trailhawk is 4x4 only; others are offered in FWD or 4x4 form. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder Tigershark MultiAir engine is standard in all, with the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 optional in all but the Sport. The Active Drive I single-range 4x4 system is standard for 4x4 versions of the Sport, Latitude, and Limited, with the dual-range Active Drive II optional in the Latitude and Limited, and standard in the 4x4 Trailhawk.

Which was my test vehicle for the past week. And no, I had no opportunity to play in the dirt or mud -- we're well into drought conditions here. Most people who buy a new Cherokee will buy it for its versatility and usefulness and Jeepness and use 4x4 mode when the weather is bad or on skiing or camping trips. And the people who do hardcore off-roading will not likely drop cash on a new anything, preferring to keep happily bashing their old CJs, Wranglers, and Cherokees. Equipped with the four, my test Trailhawk had no trouble with traffic or steep grades, on backroads or the highway. It was as comfortable as a car, with no old-days truck thumpiness. If fuel economy, at 17 to 19 mpg around town and 22 to 24 on the highway, was under the rated, that was on real roads with little level ground and at real highway speeds. And competitive with anything else in the mid-size SUV or crossover class, with more potential when the road gets to be only a vague suggestion. The 2014 Cherokee is a Jeep…

APPEARANCE: Seven-slot grille? Check. Trapezoidal wheel arches? Check. Box it came in? Nope… This is a 21st Century Jeep, and looks the part. Attention to aerodynamics helps fuel economy, even on an SUV. All 2014 Cherokees share sleek, sculpted lines, with a highly-swept windshield and interesting headlights. What look like thin, low lights are the LED running lights and turn signals. The headlights are lower, just above the front bumper.Which, on the Trailhawk, is dark plastic and blends into the cladding surrounding the lower perimeter. A matching matte-black appliqué in the center of the hood reinforces the rugged outdoors look. Other models have a slightly more formal look, with greater similarity to the current Grand Cherokee. There is some family resemblance in the roof line and the shape of the side windows and D-pillars. The rear is cleanly sculpted. And while the front apron is plastic, real steel skid plates are found protecting all the important bits.

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4X4

COMFORT: As equipped -- with options galore including the Comfort/Convenience, Leather Interior, and audio and electronics upgrade packages -- this particular Cherokee is just far too nice to take deep into the backwoods. The exterior styling makes it seem smaller than it really is, so there is no shortage of space inside. At premium Trailhawk level starting is pushbutton, and nearly everything that might be power-operated except the steering wheel and front passenger seat wheel is power-operated. That steering wheel manually adjusts for tilt and reach, and has audio and other system controls. It, and the front seats, are also heated (Leather Package), just the thing for a cold morning anywhere. Front seat comfort is very good, with the SUV upright, high-eyepoint seating position. Accessibility should present no difficulties for anyone of any height. There's storage in the front passenger seat cushion, and that seat also folds flat forward to handle long cargo items. Instrumentation is easy to read and all controls are simple to operate, even the nav and information systems. A rearview camera helps when backing. Outboard rear seat positions should fit all but NBA first-round draft picks, and even the center is useful thanks to a reasonably low central floor tunnel. 60/40 seatback folding means cargo versatility, especially with that folding front seat. The cargo area has some useful organization features, and here a real full-size spare lurks under the load floor. You don't want a temp donut or a can of "sealant" out on the trail… or closer to home!

SAFETY: Counting both standard and optional, there are over 70 safety features possible in a new Cherokee. They start with a large amount of high-strength steel used in construction of the unibody structure, with a central safety cage and front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel ventilated antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, electronic roll mitigation, air bags including driver and front passenger knee, and continue with available adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, and 911 assist call systems and more -- including ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist which can automatically park the vehicle in both parallel parking and back-in situations.

RIDE AND HANDLING: Even though the Cherokee is capable when the pavement ends, it's built like a car and feels like a car. And a good one at that, with good response to driver inputs, quick steering, and good brakes. In Trailhawk form, its MacPherson strut / multilink suspension is optimized for off-road ability, but is not too soft for highway stability. Poor pavement and potholes? Yawn, won't bother this one a bit.

PERFORMANCE: My test Cherokee had the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. If towing and/or serious off-road use are in your plans, you might want the stronger (but thirstier) V6 as it ups towing capacity from 2,000 to 4,500 pounds. The "Tigershark" four is a contemporary alloy unit that uses Multiair technology to control intake valve action to optimize efficiency for reduced emissions and fuel consumption with increased horsepower output. Maximum horsepower is 184, at 6400 rpm, with torque peaking at 171 lb-ft at 4600 rpm. Yes, it likes to rev -- but the ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic has an extremely wide spread of gear ratios, so low- and mid-speed acceleration is good, important in city and traffic driving, and as little fuel as possible is used at highway cruising speeds. It's optimized for fuel efficiency, so occasionally may be caught out when quickest acceleration is needed. No problem, just shift manually. EPA estimates in 4x4 trim are 21 mpg city, 27 highway. In the real world I got between 17 and 19 around town and 22 to 24 on the highway. At highway speeds, which are a bit faster than the EPA test simulation.

Watch the Jeep Cherokee durability testing VNR

CONCLUSIONS: The all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee combines good looks with comfort and ability.


2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4x4

Base Price $ 29,495

Price As Tested $ 34,625

Engine Type SOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder

Engine Size 2.4 liters / 144 cu. in.

Horsepower 184 @ 6400 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 171 @ 4600 rpm

Transmission 9-speed automatic

Wheelbase / Length 107.0 in. / 182 in.

Curb Weight est 4000 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 21.7

Fuel Capacity 15.9 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires P245/65R17 105T m+s Firestone Destination A/T

Brakes, front/rear vented disc all around, ABS, ESC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multi-link

Ground Clearance 8.7 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, multi-mode dual-range 4-wheel drive


EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 21 / 27 / 21

0 to 60 mph est 9 sec


Customer Preferred Package 25E -- includes:

Comfort / Convenience Group -- includes: ParkView™ rear backup camera, power liftgate, remote start system, passive entry / KeylessGo™, dual-zone air conditioning with automatic temperature control, auto-dimming rearview mirror with microphone, power 8-way driver's seat, power 4-way driver's lumbar adjustment, automatic headlamps, security alarm, universal garage door opener, tonneau cover $ 1,895

Leather Interior Group -- includes: leather-trimmed bucket seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel $ 1,295

Black Hood Decal $ 150

Uconnect 8.4AN -- includes: premium navigation, HD radio, Sirius/XM Travel Link™ and Traffic™ with one-year subscription $ 795

Destination Charge $ 995