First Drive: 2019 Jeep Cherokee

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THOUSAND OAKS, California—I haven’t seen roads this bad since I made a wrong turn riding on a Suzuki Quad somewhere outside of Samara, Costa Rica.
This time we’re off-roading in a brand new 2019 Jeep Cherokee in the Santa Monica Mountains testing its rock crawling abilities. I’m staring at a pile of jagged rocks, loose dirt, and a steep green valley below us.

The sky above is blue and I put the Cherokee in “Rock” mode—no, it doesn’t make death metal crank out of the fourth-gen U-Connect infotainment system—and engage the Jeep’s Active Drive Lock, which adds a locking rear differential for low-speed traction, before silently making peace with my maker.

After shifting into low gear, the midsize SUV mechanically pulls itself over the stony obstruction with ease.

Four-wheel fun is available in two other levels: Active Drive I for rear axle disconnect and Active Drive II, which offers a better crawl ratio and increases ride height by an inch.

There are four other traction control modes to choose from, too: Auto, Snow, Sport, and Sand/Mud. Auto and Sport aren’t nearly as impressive out on paved roads as Sand/Mud and Rock is on the trail. Snow was a no go since we were only 20 minutes away from the sunny shores of Malibu.

We spent the rest of the day climbing, crawling, and riding up and down the mountain trails with ease. The refreshed for 2019 Jeep Cherokee is not just a mall crawler, but also a capable mountain tamer too. Try the same trails in a RAV4 or Ford Escape and you’ll probably have to call winch-equipped Wrangler for a rescue.

“A stunning, more premium design, and the addition of our new fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbo engine make the new 2019 Jeep Cherokee even more desirable in the mid-size SUV segment,” gushes Mike Manley, Jeep head.

The 2019 Cherokee was revealed at the 2018 Detroit auto show earlier this month. There we learned that a new 2.0-liter turbo inline-four has been added to the Cherokee’s engine lineup and is rated at 270 hp and 295 pound-feet or torque. The new engine is peppy and can even haul up to 4,000 pounds if you order one with the tow package.

The Cherokee is available in five trims— Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk. Its base 2.4-liter I-4 engine produces 180 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque. The 3.2-liter V-6 offers 271 hp, 239 lb-ft of torque can tow up to 4,500 pounds.

All the engines are mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. Having tested all three, the new engine is our favorite, but the V-6 is no slouch either.

EPA numbers are not official, so we will have to get back to you on that. Prices start at $25,190 for a Latitude 4×2 model and go up to $38,970 for a top of the line Overland 4×4.

Hardcore crawlers will seek out the trail worthy Trailhawk that sells for $34,515. You can tell the mall stars from Trail Rated beasts by its tow hooks—chrome hooks versus red ones for the real deal climbers. There are also skid plates underneath and a fancy red badge around back.

A front independent suspension with MacPherson struts and a rear independent multi-link suspension provides 6.7 inches of travel, while the rear suspension provides up to 7.8 inches of travel says Jeep.

The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk boasts an approach angle of 29.9 degrees, a departure angle of 32.2 degrees, and break over angle of 22.9 degrees. Running ground clearance is 8.7 inches.

Looks wise, the Cherokee looks closely related to the previous model without the funny fascia. Instead it gets a blunt, and more toned down grille that’s integrated with its new aluminum hood. There are five cool new wheel design options including the first 19-inch ones for the Cherokee.

Inside, Latitude and Latitude Plus models get interiors inspired by Iceland and top of the line Overland ones are inspired by Marrakesh, Morocco, according to Jeep Cherokee designer Brian Nielander. It all looks pretty neat, easy to manage, and functional to us.

Cargo space has increased about 3.35-inches and the Cherokee has shed nearly 150 pounds according to Paul Smith, Jeep Cherokee chief engineer.

There’s plenty of tech goodies offered depending on the trim and the infotainment system comes with either a 7.0- or 8.4-inch touchscreen. Both are thankfully Android Auto and Apple CarPlay friendly. There’s even an aux plug-in jack, if you still like to roll old school style.

The 2019 Cherokee will arrive in dealerships in the first quarter of 2018.

2018 Jeep Cherokee Specifications
ON SALE Spring 2018
PRICE $25,190-$38,970
ENGINE 2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4/180 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 171 lb-ft @ 6,400 rpm; 2.0 turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4/270 hp @ 5,250 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm; 3.2L DOHC 24-valve V-6 271 hp @ 6,500 rpm, 239 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine, RWD/4WD SUV
L x W x H 182 x 73.2 x 66.2 in
WHEELBASE 107.1 in
WEIGHT 3,655-4,108 lb
0-60 MPH 7.5 (est)
TOP SPEED 115 mph (est)


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