Jeep resurrects an iconic nameplate for its new Liberty replacement, the 2014 Cherokee. A midsize SUV built on a FIAT Group platform and assembled in Ohio using engines made in Michigan, the new 2014 Cherokee will be sold in approximately 150 countries around the world.
Though it’s a crossover SUV at heart, Jeep designed and engineered the 2014 Cherokee to be the most capable off-roader in the midsize SUV class, and claims it performs better than the old Liberty both on, and off, the pavement. When it goes on sale later this year, it will compete against a large number of models ranging in size and scope from the Chevrolet Equinox to the Toyota 4Runner.
Perhaps it is appropriate that the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee debuts about a decade after the start of the Iraq war. Shock and awe certainly describes the reaction to this SUV’s countenance, with its bold, “snapped” 7-slot Jeep grille and three distinct lighting elements. Rest assured, however, that once you get past the upper LED running lights, the new Cherokee is conservatively styled, and appealing.
Inside, the Jeep Cherokee is said to have a quiet cabin constructed of premium materials. Soft-touch materials are used for owner touch points such as the armrests, upper door panels, and dashboard. Premium cloth seats are standard, with leather upholstery available as an option, and every 2014 Cherokee is equipped with a 5-inch center touchscreen display to control various vehicle functions.
According to Jeep, the Cherokee holds 24.8 cu.-ft. of cargo behind its rear seat, which slides forward on tracks to expand cargo room if necessary. Fold the back seat down, and the Cherokee accommodates 54.9 cu.-ft. of cargo. The front passenger’s seat also folds in half so that longer items can be carried with the rear liftgate closed.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is equipped with a choice between a 184-horsepower, 2.4-liter “Tigershark” 4-cylinder engine and a 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter “Pentastar” V-6 engine. The V-6 is new, based on the award-winning 3.6-liter V-6 installed in most Chrysler products today. A new 9-speed automatic transmission is the only way power gets delivered to the front wheels, or all four wheels if one of the three optional 4-wheel-drive systems is specified.
Jeep Active Drive I is an automatic 4WD system that transfers power to the rear wheels only when the front wheels slip, and it includes yaw correction technology to help reduce oversteer or understeer as well as a rear-axle disconnect to improve fuel economy. Jeep Active Drive II includes a 2-speed power transfer unit with low-range gearing and an additional inch of ride height to improve approach, departure, and breakover angles and to supply 8.7 inches of ground clearance. Jeep Active Drive Lock adds a locking rear differential, and is the most capable of the 4WD systems offered for the 2014 Cherokee.
Every Cherokee equipped with 4WD also has a Selec-Terrain traction control system providing Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud, and Rock driving settings. The Cherokee Trailhawk models are further equipped with skid plates, tow hooks, all-terrain tires, and revised front and rear styling that gives this “Trail-Rated” model the best approach, departure, and breakover angles of any Cherokee model.
Additionally, Jeep says the new Cherokee is equipped with Hill Ascent Control, Hill Descent Control, and offers up to 6.7 inches of front wheel articulation and 7.8-inches of rear wheel articulation from its MacPherson strut front and 4-link rear suspension.
With four different trim levels designed to meet widely variable customer budgets and intended uses, it comes as no surprise that the 2014 Cherokee is available with a wide range of extra-cost items. Highlights include upgraded wheel choices, a retractable canvas sunroof, a power panoramic glass sunroof, leather seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a color reconfigurable gauge cluster, and a Jeep Cargo Management System.
The new Cherokee is also offered with Uconnect Access via Mobile technology, which includes an 8.4-inch color touchscreen mounted in the center of the dashboard, with voice-control technology and redundant hard controls for the stereo and climate systems. The system includes navigation and stereo systems, and provides voice-to-text messaging capability, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio, access to mobile applications, and the ability to transform the Cherokee into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.
Additionally, the Cherokee debuts two new technologies previously unavailable on any Chrysler product. The ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist system steers the Cherokee into a parallel or perpendicular parking space while the driver operates the transmission and pedals. Thanks to a front-mounted radar unit and a camera system, the new Adaptive Cruise Control Plus system can bring the Cherokee to a complete stop, and then resume speed if the driver pushes a button on the dashboard or depresses the accelerator pedal.
Jeep is offering a long list of safety-related upgrades for the 2014 Cherokee, too. Ten airbags come standard. Upgrades include a reversing camera, 9-1-1 Assist service, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross-Path Detection. New technologies previously unavailable on Chrysler products include Lane Departure Warning Plus, a camera-based system that alerts the driver and nudges the Cherokee back into its lane when the SUV is unintentionally drifting out of its lane. Forward Collision Warning Plus uses the same radar and camera system as the Adaptive Cruise Control Plus system, sounding increasingly urgent warnings and even applying the Cherokee’s brakes when the system determines unsafe closing rates with objects ahead.
Jeep is pitching the new 2014 Cherokee as a midsize SUV, and is very careful not to describe its new sport-ute as a crossover despite its front-drive architecture. With a curb weight approaching two tons, the Cherokee certainly carries the heft to be counted as a member of that vehicle class. Cargo space, however, can’t match many compact SUVs.
Beyond matters of size, there is the issue of style. The Cherokee’s face is polarizing, likely limiting the SUV’s appeal more than it expands the number of people drawn to showrooms. Give the Cherokee a chance, though. It looks better in person. Especially when viewed from the rear.
More than anything, though, the Cherokee’s success could hinge upon whether loyalists will accept it as a “real” Jeep. The Liberty, in all of its clunky and chunky glory, was accepted as a “real” Jeep, even if many of them had rear-wheel drive and ended up in rental car fleets. Jeep claims that the 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk is a more capable vehicle than the Liberty was, but we suspect the iconic purveyor of machines that can go anywhere at anytime is going to be exercising plenty of marketing muscle at Jeep Jamborees, Easter Jeep Safaris, and other owner events, convincing the faithful.