An Italian Indian
First, a step back in time. Until 2014, the Jeep Cherokee was an up-and-coming American car with American styling, American engines aimed at the American market. When Fiat and Chrysler became one company, sister brands Alfa Romeo and Jeep also joined that partnership. And that in turn provided opportunities to develop a Jeep aimed at the global market rather than just the US market.
Still the Americans provided the styling and basic design, but the Italians provided a European level of finish and European handling. The 2014 Cherokee test report therefore concluded, "no better or worse than other SUVs, but a more interesting experience thanks to the Jeep label". A good start, but Jeep wanted more. That's why the Cherokee has been improved for the 2019 model year.
And that starts with the looks. In every Jeep, the basic 1943 archetype is still recognisable, but for the latest Cherokee, Jeep had been very "creative" with the interpretation. For many, the step was too big and therefore Jeep opted for a slightly tamer look for the 2019 model year. As far as Autozine is concerned, this is progress, as the new look has a better balance between past and present. The recessed, sharp headlights make the Cherokee look modern. On the contrary, the grille with large slats and the angular wheel arches are unmistakable hints to the past. The rear has also been completely redesigned, giving the Cherokee a more upmarket ("premium") look.
Space and equipment
To actually make the Cherokee better, the equipment has become richer and more modern. For example, the Cherokee offers more active safety features. For example, the Cherokee warns of danger in front, behind and in the blind spot. These warnings consist of audible and visual signals, brief braking interventions and eventually the preparing of the brakes to make emergency braking easier. Moreover, the Cherokee itself can maintain a safe distance from the car in front, even in traffic jams. The infotainment system received a larger screen (now 8.4 inches) and supports Apple Carplay and Android Auto.
When it comes to ergonomics, Jeep often does things differently from other brands. Sometimes this is because this is a true off-roader (think application of easily washable materials and extra handles), sometimes as a hint to the models of the past. In doing so, the Cherokee counts no less than six "surprises": hints to the archetypal model are hidden in various places in the form of images, design and whatnot. These may be small things, but at a brand where image plays a big role, this really makes a difference. It gives the car a personality, a past and a "family feel".
What has also remained is the generous interior space. The Cherokee looks big, has a high entry and the driver looks out over a large bonnet. Those who like the feeling of driving a big and mighty machine need look no further: when it comes to experience, the Cherokee is number one in its segment.
When it comes to handling too, the Cherokee offers more experience than other SUVs. The steering is indirect and many steering turns are needed to make a turn, making the Cherokee feel even bigger and more powerful than it actually is.
The chassis not only had to offer comfort in the city and stability on the highway, but also had to be off-road worthy. For the 2019 model year, the chassis has been modified to offer an even better compromise between all these requirements. The result is ample comfort in the city and off-road. However, due to the use of additional electronics, the steering gives a lack of confidence, sometimes resulting in driving slower or more cautiously than strictly necessary. The brakes, on the other hand, are extremely capable and manage to bring this heavy SUV (2,290 kg!) to a halt with wondrous ease and great precision exactly at the desired spot.
How off-road worthy the Cherokee is depends on the powertrain chosen. The Cherokee comes with two-wheel drive, basic four-wheel drive (rear wheels assist when the front wheels lose grip), advanced four-wheel drive (electronics make off-roading easier) and heavy-duty four-wheel drive (mechanicals plus electronics). The test car had basic four-wheel drive including mud, sand and snow modes ("Selec-Terrain") for extra grip off-road. With this, the Jeep managed fine in light and medium terrain. During the test, it was the tyres and not the drivetrain that ended up limiting it.
Performance and consumption
For the 2019 model year, the Cherokee has been fitted with new engines and transmissions. This is partly to provide more comfort and partly to meet the new emissions standards ("Euro6d-TEMP"). Completely new is the 2.0-litre petrol engine with 272 hp / 400 Nm. For this test, the equally new 2.2-litre diesel engine, sourced from Fiat, was driven. This produces 195 hp / 450 Nm, which is 25 hp and 100 Nm (!) more than the previous diesel engine. However, its co2 emissions are about 20 grams per kilometre higher than equally strong engines from other brands.
Power is transmitted to the front and rear wheels via a 9-speed automatic transmission. Although the automatic always shifts at the right times, it seems as if the engine is systematically kept too high in the revs. A glance at the rev counter shows that the revs are then only 2,000 rpm, but it sounds like the engine is working much harder. A comfort or eco mode would then offer a solution, but instead the Cherokee offers only a normal and a sport mode (in which the revs are even higher). Together with some wind noise from the A-pillar, the Cherokee therefore does not offer the comfort on the highway that should be expected from a car in this price range.
In doing so, the diesel takes some time to build up power. When pedal to the metal, it takes a while before the promised power is available and acceleration kicks in. Off-road, the performance of that same diesel engine is actually excellent. While an intermediate sprint on the paved road takes effort, the Cherokee climbs steep hills as if they were speed bumps. After all, this is a Jeep and not your average SUV.
When Jeep introduced the first Italian-American Cherokee in 2014, the verdict was "no better than other SUVs, more fun". After the facelift for the 2019 model year, that verdict has not changed. Still, there are few rational reasons to prefer the Cherokee over the competition. The only reason could be the wide variety of engines and powertrains. The Cherokee's strongest point is also its weakest: because of its off-road capability, the Cherokee is more expensive to buy (co2!) and use than fashionable SUVs that only look tough but do nothing off-road.
Thanks to all the modifications, the Cherokee does manage to maintain its position in the market, both in America and abroad. Starting with the 2019 model year, the Cherokee offers more active safety features and all the connectivity that can be expected from a modern car. The big appeal remains the image: the Jeep Cherokee offers more personality, more emotion and more experience. And that is only possible when the Americans and the Italians work together.
- Spacious and practical
- Also proficient off-road
- High seat, mighty feeling
- High co2 emissions
- 2.2-litre diesel engine too loud