One of the neat things about reviewing vehicles at the Texas Truck Rodeo is that there is a challenging off-road course setup to test the capabilities of many new vehicles. The Cherokee from Jeep is all new for 2014 and comes to the CUV / SUV marketplace looking for a fight. After spending some time with this vehicle on Knibbe Ranch, I can tell you confidentially that the 2014 Cherokee is no “Cute-Ute,” but a fully capable off-road vehicle.
The front-end of the new Toledo, Ohio-built Cherokee is the most polarizing portion of the new vehicle. LED running lights are at the top of the fascia, angrily angled giving it quite a “pissed off” look. Headlights are a bit lower, similar to the Nissan Juke, and then the lower area has fog lights. On the Trailhawk edition there are two red tow hooks up front as well. In person, the vehicle looks like it’s looking for a fight. Performance-wise, though, it backs up those looks with incredible off-road performance.
The Cherokee features a 9-speed automatic transmission. I sampled a pre-production version of the shifting architecture, but I did not notice any hunting for gears that often plagues transmissions with a lot of gears. The production version should be impressive.
Another impressive feature of the Trailhawk edition is the drivetrain. The engine is transversely mounted (like many front-wheel drive cars and CUVs), but features a locking rear-differential. It also has a low-range gear-box, hill descent control, and even hill-ascent control. Ground clearance is sufficient and approach and departure angles are higher than the standard Cherokee.
Jeep’s award-winning Uconnect system is present, with a 7″ TFT display in the instrument cluster. The display is crisp, easy-to-read, and completely customizable.
I look forward to the opportunity to further explore this vehicle. However, based on this short drive I believe the Cherokee is going to be a serious competitor in this segment. If you are looking to purchase a sport utility vehicle or crossover, you are missing out if you do not drive the new Cherokee.
Note: Vehicle provided by Jeep for review.