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Thu, Nov 27, 2014

AUTO CONNECT: Jeep brings back the new, refined Cherokee

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The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Photo courtesy of Jeep

Jeep is leading Chrysler’s comeback as the best-selling company brand and right out of the gate, the all-new Jeep Cherokee is running neck and neck with the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler for the top-selling Jeep position. Company reps have told us they are having trouble keeping the 2014 Jeep Cherokee in stock at the dealerships because they are selling so fast.

The buying public loves the new Cherokee, but media reviews have been mixed. Put us down in the group who loves the new Cherokee.

The original Cherokee was rough and tough, the new Cherokee is more refined, and the “Trail Rated” model is just as capable off-road as the original. And that’s one of the neat things about this new Cherokee; it can be what the buyer wants it to be.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee body is sleek, but with a well-toned muscular look. The large tires, lower protective trims and aggressive approach and departure angles add to the Cherokee’s best-in-class off-road capabilities. The Cherokee Trailhawk has the equipment and design that qualifies as a “Trail Rated” model. That means it meets Jeep’s five key consumer-oriented performance categories: traction, ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation and water fording capabilities.

Building from a global architecture developed by Fiat, the underpinnings 2014 Jeep Cherokee body is built of about 65 percent high-strength steel to create a strong, yet lightweight structure.

Purists seem to think, if it’s a Jeep, it should have round headlights, a flat seven-slot grille and body on frame platform.

We like the new expressive interpretation of the Cherokee design and the solid unibody platform. The front end is the most interesting design element with its bulged hood, high-mounted LED daytime running lights (DRL) and modified seven-slot grille. The DRLs look like headlights, but instead the headlights are mounted just above the bumper on either side of the grille. The rear end is distinctive with taillights mounted just below the rear window and there are marker lights mounted lower in the bumper area.

The interior is an attractive new design with quality-looking materials and good fit and finish, but we thought the dash was a bit busy looking with an overabundance of metallic-looking trims. The organization of controls on the dash and steering wheel seemed logically placed and user-friendly. All the upper areas are covered in nice looking soft touch materials.

The ergonomically designed seats are comfortable. Lower level model seats are covered with an attractive premium cloth while Nappa leather with heated front seats is standard on the Limited models, plus ventilated seats are an available option on the Limited models.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is available in four trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk. All models, except for the Trailhawk, are available in front-or four-wheel drive, the off-road oriented Trailhawk is four-wheel drive only.

The standard drivetrain is the Chrysler group’s 184-hp, 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir four-cylinder engine with an all-new nine-speed automatic transmission. The nine speeds help make a significant improvement in fuel economy. The EPA rates the front-wheel drive Cherokee at 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined. We averaged 23.3 mpg during a week driving the four-cylinder Trailhawk model.

An improved version of the Chrysler Pentastar 3.6-liter V-6 engine is an available option on all but the Sport model. The engine was named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for three years running. The new version is rated at 271 horsepower and has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19/26/22 mpg.

The Jeep four-wheel system comes in three styles. The Jeep Active Drive I is an automatic system, like all-wheel drive, and requires no driver intervention.  Jeep Active Drive II has a two-speed system giving the driver the ability to shift into a low range with locks on the front and rear drive shafts for tough hills, or crawling over obstacles. Jeep Active Drive Lock has all the features of Drive II and adds a rear locking differential for extra off-road traction. The Active Lock system is only available on the Trailhawk models.

All four-wheel drive systems have Selec-Terrain traction control, which allows the driver to choose the best setting for optimum performance, on- or off-road. The five available settings include Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock.

Through the use of algorithms that enable unsurpassed control and capability. Selec-Terrain electronically coordinates and optimizes up to 12 systems on any terrain providing enhanced vehicle control including: drivetrain control module, electronic brake controller, electronic stability control, transmission controller, powertrain controller and Selec-Speed Control (Hill-ascent and Hill-descent Control).

Among the available features are a Chrysler first, Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist System, which helps the driver find a parking spot and then steers into the spot assisting the driver through the steps to use the new park assist screen.

We think the Jeep UConnect system is one of the best in the business controlling navigation, communications, climate and entertainment functions. It uses a large 8.4-inch screen which has large easy to identify icons and it reacts instantly to your touch. Many commands can also be made via voice commands or on redundant control buttons. The system includes SiriusXM Radio, apps (like Pandora, Aha and iHeart Radio), voice-to-text messaging and streaming audio capability.

Other new technologies include Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Warning, automatic high beam headlight control, rain sensor wipers, backup camera, Rear Cross Path Detection and Forward Collision Warning-Plus.
For those wanting to bring in more of the outdoors, the Cherokee is available with a new CommandView panoramic sunroof or the Sky Slider full-length open canvas roof which will be available later in the model year. 

The two-wheel drive, Sport model, with four-cylinder engine, has a starting price of $23,990, including the destination charge and prices range up to $30,490 for the Trailhawk 4x4. Four-wheel drive adds $2,000 and the Pentastar V-6 adds $1,495. With all the equipment boxes checked, a 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited can go as high as $41,235.

We think people looking for a versatile compact SUV, should get in line. A few weeks ago an organization we belong to, the Northwest Automotive Press Association, awarded the Jeep Cherokee the title Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year and it was also named Compact Utility Vehicle of the Year in the same competition.

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auto connect, auto digest, cherokee, jeep, schaffer
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