2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Introduction
America might be the land of the free and the home of the brave, but Liberty is dead.
The Jeep Liberty that is.
For model year 2014, Jeep is dusting off a nameplate the brand laid to rest in back in 2001 and is applying it to the all-new mid-size 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Actually, this statement is a bit less than accurate. Truth be told, the Cherokee name has been in continual use. But, it has run with the modifier “Grand”—as in Jeep Grand Cherokee. Back in the early days of the Grand Cherokee, it was actually more like a trim level of the Cherokee lineup. Eventually the Grand Cherokee became a model unto itself and the plain-old basic Cherokee fell by the wayside.
Then in 2002, the Jeep Liberty was introduced as the mid-size Jeep offering, essentially replacing the Cherokee in the United States. However, the model continued to be known as the Cherokee in European markets—so in bringing back the Jeep Cherokee moniker for the 2014 model year—more so than a new introduction for Jeep—it is actually a return of the nameplate to its “native” roots.
And yet, there’s more to that European reference than first meets the eye. As many of you know, Chrysler is now a subsidiary of the Fiat Group of Italy. The first Chrysler product to benefit from this was the Dodge Dart—which shares its platform with an Alfa Romeo model (Alfa is also a member of the Fiat Group). And yes, we now have the first Jeep model to be based on a European platform, as those same basic underpinnings are employed for the 2014 Jeep Cherokee too.
This is fitting in many different ways. Road manners have become just as important in this segment of the SUV marketplace as off road capability. A nice dose of European roadability, blended with Jeep’s trail ready philosophy…
Hey, it might be a good thing—let’s find out.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Lineup and Prices
For the 2014 model year, Jeep is offering the Cherokee in four states of trim; Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, and of course—Limited.
Base price for the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Sport is $22,995. Standard features include the new 2.4-liter MultiAir engine, a nine-speed automatic transmission, LED daytime running lamps and tail lamps, Chrysler’s Uconnect telematics system with Bluetooth and a five-inch touchscreen display. It also comes with keyless entry, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a split folding and reclining rear seat, and a full compliment of power accessories.
Moving up to the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude adds; alloy wheels, rails for a roof mounted cargo system, foglights, privacy glass, LED ambient interior lighting, a front passenger seat with fold-flat capability, and a leather wrapped steering wheel.
The harder core, dirt monster in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee lineup is the $29,495 Trailhawk. Befitting its role, the Trailhawk goes with a wider set of wheels shod in all-terrain tires. The suspension system is recalibrated to deal more adroitly with rugged conditions and a rear-locking differential is fitted. The Trailhawk also gets skid plates, tow hooks, an 8.4-inch touchscreen monitor, and satellite radio,
For 2014, the $27,995 Jeep Cherokee Limited gets the full compliment of gear listed above (sans the off road kit). Further, automatic headlights, keyless entry and start, dual zone automatic climate control, a power-actuated driver’s seat, plus heat for the front seats and steering wheel are also included in the price. The Limited package includes a rearview camera and a cover for the cargo compartment.
Key optional features include a power liftgate, xenon headlights, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, and a panoramic sunroof. All models, save the Trailhawk, can be had in either front-drive or four-wheel drive. Jeep adds $2000 to all of the prices quoted above for four-wheel drive. Destination and delivery charges add another $995.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Styling and Interior
The softly rounded features of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee look thoroughly modern in much the same way the old Jeep Liberty looked traditional. The “waterfall” treatment applied to the time-honored seven-slot Jeep grille does a nice job of modernizing the face of the Cherokee and still paying homage to the model’s legacy. Further, the design, while dripping with sophistication, speaks confidently of the little Jeep’s off road heritage. The aggressive approach and departure angles telegraph the intent of the design, while the sleek design also promises fuel savings—thanks to greatly improved aerodynamics.
Interestingly, while the 2014 Jeep’s look is robust and rugged, it retains just enough cuteness to appeal to the primary purchaser of vehicles in the category—young women. Think RAV4, CR-V, and etc. It all boils down to how you kit the exterior of the Jeep Cherokee out. In Trailhawk guise, it looks ready to take on whatever may come—which it pretty much will do. In the more mainstream modes of dress, there’s a certain gentility about the appearance of the new Jeep which is quite becoming.
Similarly, the interior is at once businesslike, and yet retains an air of sumptuousness. With the current generation of the Grand Cherokee, Jeep has shown its intention to deliver a higher quality look and feel to the interior of its vehicles. This is supported by the design of the passenger compartment of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. The primary control and information areas are ringed with brushed aluminum trim to readily call your attention to them, while adding visual interest to the cockpit.
The dials are few, but large, and readily marked for easy identification. The driver and front passenger’s zones are divided into individual compartments by the center console. This adds an air of sportiness and purpose to the look of it all. The fat rimmed steering wheel with its buttons for secondary functions is both handsome and telegraphs the capability of this, the newest Jeep product.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Comfort and Cargo
Despite the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s mid-size positioning in the lineup, passenger space is quite abundant. The multi-adjustable power driver’s seat makes finding a comfortable driving position quite easy to accomplish. Rear seat passengers benefit from a reclining seatback, as well as fore and aft adjustability.
We can’t over emphasize how much nicer the interior treatment is. Soft touch surfaces abound pretty much everywhere the driver, or the passengers would come into contact with the new Cherokee. Further, the seats (according to Jeep’s product planning team) are ergonomically designed to specifically support the contours of the human body. The front seats can be ordered with heating and ventilation capability. The steering wheel can be heated as well. A nice option is the wireless charging pad for mobile electronic devices.
The rear hatch can be ordered with a power opening and closing feature, with a cargo cover. While the interior is on the more spacious side, there’s a bit of a trade off. Cargo capacity lags a bit behind other products in the category. With the rear seats folded, the Jeep Cherokee can handle some 54.9 cubic feet of stuff, while the cargo capacity with the rear seat deployed is 29.7 cubic feet.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is designed to seat five.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Safety and Technology
Naturally, the usual complement of safety kit is included; ABS, stability control, traction control, and airbags—including rear seat side airbags and front knee airbags. Optional choices include a rear view camera.
The more upmarket (read pricey) Trailhawk and Limited models can be had with forward collision warning—informing automatic brake intervention, and lane departure warning—informing a lane keeping system. The 2014 Cherokee can also be fitted with blind spot and rear cross traffic monitoring systems.
The new Jeep Cherokee is also the first Chrysler vehicle to offer self-parking—both parallel and perpendicular. Adaptive cruise control and electronic roll mitigation are two other features offered with the new Jeep.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Engines and Transmissions
All 2014 Jeep Cherokee models can be ordered with all-wheel drive. Cherokee Sport, Latitude, and Limited can also be had with front-wheel drive powertrains. Trailhawk is a four-wheel drive proposition only.
The base engine is a 184-horsepower, 16-valve inline four. In front-drive configurations the engine is said to return 22 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway, and 25 combined. Torque output is 171 ft-lbs. Highway range is quoted at just under 500 miles.
The larger engine displaces 3.2-liters and employs a V6 configuration. Output for this one is 271 horsepower and 239 ft-lbs of torque. Towing capacity is rated at 4,500 pounds when properly equipped. Estimated fuel economy numbers are 19 in the city, 28 on the highway, and 22 combined—when configured with the front-drive powertrain.
The V6 can be ordered with every trim package except Cherokee Sport. Meanwhile, the nine-speed automatic transmission is fitted to each trim package—regardless of engine choice.
Two different four-wheel drive systems are offered; Active Drive I (for Cherokee Sport, Latitude, and Limited), and Active Drive II (which standard for the Trailhawk—optional for the others). The chief difference between the two is low-range gearing for Active Drive II. As the Active Drive II system is anticipated to be the most likely one to engage in serious off road activity it also features a locking rear differential.
Jeep’s SelecTerrain system is also included, featuring preselected modes for Snow, Sand, and Mud. Trailhawk also gets a Rock mode. While hill start assist is a function of all the powertrains, the Trailhawk gets hill descent control too.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Driving Impressions
On the road the Cherokee offers considerable agility, as well as ease of handling. A very comfortable SUV to drive, the Cherokee lives up to the promise of its exterior styling in every way. Now don’t get confused, we’re talking competent handling—not set your hair on fire, multi- g-load cornering. In other words, in 97 percent of the situations 97 percent of the motoring public will subject the 2014 Jeep Cherokee to, the mid-size Jeep model will more than excel.
We didn’t have an opportunity to do any off-road testing during our brief first drive. However, given the way the Trailhawk models are configured, and given Jeep’s penchant for building its vehicles to take you there and bring you back—wherever “there” happens to be, we’ve every confidence in the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk’s off road chops.
The driving position is nice, controls are within easy reach, and figuring out the pairing of the Bluetooth system is child’s play. In fact, operation of the infotainment interface with the 8.4-inch touchscreen was quite intuitive. Fast to respond, you never really have to think to use it—it simply goes along with you.
Acceleration with the V6 was quite satisfying while the four felt a bit on the leisurely side. These are relatively heavy vehicles, so a bit of that is to be expected. While it’s possible to do otherwise, we recommend going with the V6 if you’re looking to get into a four-wheel drive Cherokee. Yeah, you’ll burn more fuel, but you’ll feel a lot better about the performance too.
2014 Jeep Cherokee First Drive: Final Thoughts
All in all, Jeep has delivered quite the solid piece in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
Yes, there was much skepticism when it was announced the Alfa Romeo platform would underpin the new Cherokee. But it has actually enhanced the nature of the vehicle—while endowing it with good feel on the road and s considerable capability off road too (we’re told).
Plus, the infusion of welcome new technologies makes the Cherokee an even more compelling proposition. Features like self parking, lane departure correction, and collision mitigation fold in newfound safety to the package, while the traditional rugged demeanor expected of a Jeep product carries on—albeit in a more sophisticated fashion. All in all, this Chrysler/Fiat marriage seems to be delivering a nice new generation of models for the Auburn Hills, Mich. based auto manufacturer.