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First Drive: 2014 Jeep Cherokee

Bryce Womeldurf September 20, 2013 Featured, First Impressions, Jeep Reviews, Reviews 66 Comments

2014 Jeep Cherokee

At first glance, the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee seems like it won’t likely win any beauty prizes. The new design is as polarizing as it is purposeful. Not in the traditional boxy, no frills sense of purposeful, but as far as efficiency, it is a very slick body shape. I’ll be honest… the first time I saw a photo of it, I did not like it at all. It has since then slowly started to grow on me, and in person, it’s far more appealing.

I had a chance to sample the all-new machine. I didn’t drive one of them though, I drove three of them.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Some big news lies with this new Jeep’s powertrain. It has a new nine-speed transmission that gives the Cherokee a claimed 45 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the outgoing Liberty. The Cherokee comes equipped with the 184-horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir I-4 engine. That’s exactly the engine found on the Latitude model I initially sampled.

For those seeking a more powerful option, the Pentastar V6 offers up 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque, and it’s available with all trims minus the Sport model. The Tigershark 2.4 seemed to have adequate power for starting from a stop, merging, and passing. With the smaller motor, however, I found that the nine-speed seemed to hunt for the right gear when going up steeper hills. It was as if the unit had gone down a gear too low a few times before returning to a higher gear. Going downhill it was completely smooth and unnoticeable just like any other automatic transmission.

 2014 Jeep Cherokee

The first model that I drove on the street was the Latitude trim, which is a moderately equipped, middle-of-the-road variety. It will likely prove to be the most popular. In a way, that’s sort of a shame, because the more off-road in trim and location that it gets, the better the Cherokee looks.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Out on the street, I started by taking the new Cherokee through the tight and twisting blind switchbacks of the Santa Monica Mountains at speeds of around 30-45mph, slowing to 15mph when required. The cornering was flat and car-like, but I found myself braking into some of the sharper turns, partially due to my unfamiliarity with the wonderful yet stomach-twisting blind corners, and partially due to some light understeer.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

One place the new Cherokee really shines is in the interior. There are 5 environment-inspired interior color themes catering to different tastes but all having a premium appearance and feel. The seats were comfortable on two-hour stints and did a great job of holding me in place. Where this really came in handy was when I climbed into a Pentastar-equipped Trailhawk edition and tried out the off-road course.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Before diving into some off-road fun, however, I wanted to take a deeper look at the interior. In the past, my experience with digital speedometers and newer digital gauges in general has been fairly negative. With cars like the Civic, I’ve had trouble seeing the readout on bright sunny days. This did not seem to be the case with the TFT (thin film transistor) instrument cluster in the Cherokee. The stereo seemed to work well, offering a lot of satellite radio stations. I never really had to think about it, there was always a good station available. It was just set it and go.

One thing that did often get in my way was the phone controls on the steering wheel. In their efforts to make everything within easy reach, Jeep may have gone a little too far putting technology in the way of driving. It didn’t stop me from piloting or enjoying the vehicle but it was a little confusing at first when the Cherokee kept telling me that there was no mobile phone connected, and I didn’t know that I’d asked for one.

The Uconnect navigation system worked well at telling me exactly where I was at on the street, but finding upcoming cross streets was a little bit of a challenge. For some reason, the system seemed to bring up the names of parallel streets before it would show perpendicular ones, which isn’t really helpful when you’re trying to find the next turn. This mostly showed up in the more grid-like areas and was only a problem when I was looking for the streets on the screen myself, without being guided by the navigation program.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

I really like the way the inside of the passenger seat has the in-seat container that was previously seen in the Dodge Dart. Smart use of space.

2014 Jeep Cherokee
The Cherokee has a few ways that you can it media through the center console, as well as charge your phone. Here you can also see the Jeep Active Drive mode selector, in this case set to Sand/Mud just behind the shift selector handle.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Enough about the gauges and navigation though, because it was time to get this Jeep dirty. The tool for this task is that aforementioned TrailHawk. This Cherokee has much more aggressive approach and departure angles (30 deg. approach and departure, 23 deg. breakover), and comes equipped with the Lock version of their Jeep Active Drive four wheel drive system to enhance its traction and climbing abilities. The ride height is also two inches higher thanks to an additional inch in off-road tire and an additional inch in suspension travel.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

2014 Jeep Cherokee
As Doctor Emmett Brown once said in Back to the Future “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

2014 Jeep Cherokee

I took two runs on the dirt trail, once as a co-driver and once on my own. In both instances I was thankful for the side bolsters holding me in place. With the mixture of experienced and inexperienced off-roaders, such as myself, the course was set up at an intermediate level. There were times when a tire would be off the ground due to the deep offset holes in the trail but the Cherokee just kept on trucking along. The place I was most impressed was when we went down a short steep hill that was finished with what looked like a straight one-foot drop at the bottom.

2014 Jeep Cherokee
Notice how the Cherokee that’s visible out of the side window is on a completely different plane. While easing down the drop, we were hanging from the seat belts!

The Cherokee eased down the slope, differentials clicking away, and when we got to the drop, the angle was so severe that we were hanging by the seat belts! We used the Selec-Speed Control set on Hill-descent Control throughout the course, which allowed me to choose between six different speed ratios. They’re not exactly gears, but they allow six levels of low speed crawling for going up and down the steep hills and sharp turns. You just select a speed and steer because the low speed ratios crawl the Cherokee along slowly enough that you don’t really need to use the gas or the brakes.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

I came away with the feeling that this isn’t a Jeep intended for traditional Jeep-buyers. It doesn’t look anything like a traditional Jeep on first impressions. There are traditional design touches throughout, such as the trapezoidal wheel wells and seven slot grill, but you really have to look for them. This seems more for those with an active lifestyle, possibly bicyclists or hikers, people who you would normally see driving a Subaru. That’s not to say that they’ve made a mistake, as Subaru is selling better than even Subaru expected this year.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Available Trim Levels
• 2014 Jeep Cherokee Sport starting at $22,995 ($24,495 with 4×4)
• 2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude starting at $24,495 ($26,495 with 4×4)
• 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited starting at $27,995 ($29,495 with 4×4)
• 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk starting at $29,995 (4×4 included)
• Pentastar 271hp and 239lb.-ft V6 available on all trims except Sport, for an additional $1,495

Full Flickr slideshow 

[Disclosure: Chrysler flew me down to beautiful Westlake Village, California to drive the new 2014 Cherokee. This was my first press trip, and while there I got to drive through the hills around Thousand Oaks and Malibu every day until I was sick to my stomach (a first for me to do that to myself). Though I will say that I didn’t let that slow me down much. It was a total blast! These were the roads that dreams are made of. I met a lot of nice people, drove off road for the first time, stayed in a very nice hotel, and got to eat lots of delicious food.]

 Photos Copyright 2013 Redusernab/Bryce Womeldurf

  • Garland137

    Whoever designed this should be fired, along with anyone responsible for letting this design go into production. The squinting headlights are atrocious.

    • ryan

      They are actually the running lights not the headlights but…..yes they do look off putting for sure!

    • Omg3drs

      DRLs, not main lights.

      In person this actually looks pretty good, much better than press photos have let us believe.

    • pavel

      Agreed, this is Vehicross reborn.

      • Maymar

        You say that like it's a bad thing.

  • Normally, I am quite a fan of funky designs (Juke, Panamera) but the new Cherokee has yet to grow on me. It looks like an Axiom… in a bad way.

    • That's a fair assessment. Wait until you see one in person to really judge it. They do look better in person. But it still took a little time for the look to really grow on me.

  • Jason

    I give Jeep credit for re-imagining the Cherokee and like the design. Not only is there no good cause for a new vehicle to appear like anachronistic fridge on wheels, my guess is this Cherokee likely performs better than the last in almost all respects save for towing. I would compare this more to Subaru, as mentioned in the article, or even stretching it a bit, the Evoque.

    At the same time, if a buyer wants what the Cherokee offered in the past, just buy one used for less money, they are everywhere, or get a Wrangler.

    • pj134

      Outperforms in a lot of things, definitely not articulation though. For the people who bought the last cherokee, that was something that really mattered.

      <img src="; width=500>

      • Ol' Shel'

        Rednecks don't buy $40K+ SUVs. And only a fraction of a % bought the above Cherokee, new, for off-roading.

        It's great to be an entusiast, but these companies need to make money to keep the doors open.

      • M0L0TOV

        But thats not a stock Cherokee. Show a stock Cherokee with that articulation. And for some people the last Cherokee was your Liberty.

        • BobWellington

          A stock Cherokee from the previous era will articulate far more than a new one. You just can't get near the articulation with independent suspension in a road going vehicle.

          • M0L0TOV

            I totally agree with you, I just thought it wasn't an apples to apples comparison when we're looking at a non stock Cherokee.

            • BobWellington

              No, you're right…I just thought you were implying a stock one wouldn't have better articulation. No worries. ;D

    • Joe Btfsplk

      They should have named it the "Jeep Cherokee Princess" It'll look real good in the special Mary Kay Edition, (pink & more pink).

    • FuzzyPlushroom

      "Not only is there no good cause for a new vehicle to appear like anachronistic fridge on wheels…"

      …save for space utilisation and visibility, of course, but who needs those nowadays?

      (He says, having owned a few Volvos.)

  • ThirdPedalGirl

    Lots to like here. Very pleased to hear it's so capable. And I really love the rear glass.

    Butternose. Oy, vey. ::wince::

    • mkep819

      I look at the nose & see this…

      <img src=http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4984486762514490&w=244&h=170&c=7&rs=1&pid=1.7">

      • ThirdPedalGirl

        Yes. Except the Vehicross crossed the Ugly Great Divide and worked visually *because* it was so hideous. The Cherokee is somehow worse because it's still trying to be a "normal" vehicle.

        • Scandinavian Flick ★

          You pretty much nailed it. The Jeep is too ridiculous to be cartoonishly appealing, but too cartoonish to be aesthetically pleasing on a realistic plane of existence.

        • mkep819

          I agree. The Vehicross was a statement vehicle, and was designed for a different demographic market than the current Jeep. I was simply pointing out the similarities of the "squashed" nose/headlights, as well as the blacked out hood treatment.

        • Exactly. The VehiCross was not a vehicle, it was a 64:1 Hot Wheels toy.

  • Yak

    Love the look of it, although the rear end is a bit anonymous. I predict you will soon see thousands of these on the roads. Whomever designed the 07-10 Compass should be fired. And the Patriot? That thing was an ugly beige shoebox, design straight from the 70's.

  • So what's the ratio of time spent shifting to time not spent shifting in that 9 speed auto?

    10:1?

    • wunno sev

      yeah i read nine speeds i was all like "hold up hold up hold up is that some kind of typographical error because that is a lot of speeds"

      really nine?

  • JayP2112

    Looks like a scene out of Starship Troopers.
    <img src="http://redusernab.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/DSC4942.jpg&quot; width="450">

  • BobWellington

    They really messed up on the styling. If this car doesn't sell well…well, I think we'll know why. It would've been bad enough releasing this under a new name, but to name it a Cherokee…that ain't right. Should do okay with the blind crowd, though.

    • ThirdPedalGirl

      It will sell like hotcakes despite the fact that it looks like plastic surgery on a baleen whale gone terribly, terribly wrong and corrected with a headlong hit into a wrought iron fence.

      • pj134

        I hope so. Maybe they'll make enough enough money to offer a two box design with solid axles at an affordable price if it does… and I just made myself sad.

      • BobWellington

        They probably will. People these days seem to like ugly things. Though, I don't see too many Jukes.

        • FuzzyPlushroom

          I see quite a few… or maybe I just notice them more.

          I'd definitely own a dark-coloured Juke with its silly eyebrows tinted, though. The bug eyes don't bother me, and small crossover good handling manual gearbox is a nice combination, even if Nissan made the same mistake Mazda did in not offering a real gearbox with AWD.

    • Scandinavian Flick ★

      It really bothers me when car manufacturers try something bold mechanically at the same time that they incorporate very polarizing visuals. Then, when it doesn't sell well, they blame the whole package.

      I fear such a fate might befall the current CTS-V…

      • BobWellington

        Indeed. But I find the CTS-V to be awesome looking, and it gets very little hate on the internet. I think it's just in a very niche market. What I would do to have a CTS-V wagon with a manual…

      • That could be true, we'll have to see how it goes, but if they package something mechanically bold in a bland body, who would buy it? The people who loved the old Cherokee most likely aren't buying a new one. I think it's a good thing to see someone not leaning on their past designs so much. Jeep already does that with the Wrangler, and it works for the Wrangler, but what about selling something to all of those other people who weren't lucky enough to grow up with Jeeps in the family? Also, I'd say it's less polarizing in person, but we'll have to see how that goes as well.

  • lost_and_found

    I really like this new Cherokee. The reviews I've read so far have been positive and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it has a 4500 lbs tow rating. I'm giving some real consideration to replacing both my 97 C36 AMG and 96 Disco with a V6 Trailhawk.

  • Omg3drs

    I like it, it looks interesting in person and I certainly wouldn't actively hate it. It'll do its job pretty well, hard to complain.

  • Kogashiwa

    A nine speed automatic? I assume the repair procedure is "melt it down and recycle into a new one"?

  • Chris

    I wish they would just resume stamping out the Cherokee Classics. This thing looks even worse than the toilet known as the Compass.

    • Devin

      Well if you go to China you're in for a treat.

      <img src="; width="500">

      BAW never stopped stamping out Cherokees, though I don't think their facelift was successful.

      • R Henry

        The Chinese are shameless in their willingness to rip off Western designs. Western companies have been unwilling to do what it takes to stop the madness.

        I give credit to the Korean manufacturers. The first Hyundai, Kia, Daiwoo designs were awful. Did they rip off Western designs? No. They hired high quality design talent.

        • Devin

          Actually this is legitimate licensing, not ripping off. BAW used to produce Jeeps in a joint venture with Chrysler. When Chrysler pulled out of the Chinese market, they bought the tooling and rebranded it under their own name.

          • Here is a book I have always wanted to read.

        • Maymar

          Err, some of the earliest Korean cars were a mix of foreign cars (such as the Mazda Familia and Ford Cortina) built under license. Just like (like Devin said) this Cherokee.

          • M0L0TOV

            Don't forget the Opel Kadett sold as the Le Mans.

            • fodder650

              If you mean the Pontiac LeMans it was a Daewoo actually not an Opel. I'm guessing GM, being GM, had yet another badged version over in Europe.

              • Maymar

                No, it started life as the Opel Kadett, Daewoo stared building it under license, and then GM threw Pontiac badges on the license-built copy, and gave us the underwhelming Pontiac LeMans (and later an underwhelming Asuna).

                • M0L0TOV

                  Thanks for clearing things up Maymar, you knew what I meant. 😀

              • FuzzyPlushroom

                It was both – designed as the Opel Kadett E, then lent to their sort-of partner-at-the-time in Korea, which then sold completed cars back to GM as Pontiac LeMons (and Asünas, for equally gullible Canadians). Built in Korea for North American consumption, but designed in Germany several years prior.

                • fodder650

                  That's had more names than a stripper. Holy cow.

                • Devin

                  The Asüna brand died pretty quickly, so I'm going to boldly claim that we're marginally less gullible.

  • BlackIce_GTS

    I don't actually like it, but I don't think it's bad either. Except the tailgate, which has too much empty space. I thought of a bunch of features that could dress it up (stamping 'Jeep' into it like an old pickup tailgate), but they all seem to agricultural/industrial/rugged for the rest of the design. That sounds like a problem, maybe it's not a bad design, but it's a bad Jeep design? This looks like it should only go on pasteurized future dirt in artificial nature museums on a spaceship.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    The greenhouse and rear three quarter view look suspiciously like a Subaru Outback, perhaps hinting at the intended market. FWIW the ugly squinty stuff is invisible from the driver's seat.

  • Great first First Drive write-up. Sounds likes you had a nice time!

    Did you get to drive any other trucks?

    • I did. I drove some Rams but I've got more to write about with those, so I don't want to give too much away yet. Had a great time! I'd like to live in California. Beautiful scenery, tons of cars to shoot, laid back people, low humidity, and I can actually breathe out there.

  • Maymar

    I'm clearly in the minority, but I sort of dig the way this looks. It's actively weird and different compared to most of the mall cruising competition. And at least it sounds plenty capable offroad. I doubt I'd ever buy one, but I respect what they're trying to get at.

    As a bonus, this allows them to consolidate the Compass, Patriot, and Liberty into one lineup (and the five people who might want something truckier like the Liberty was, should be pretty easily steered towards the Wrangler Unlimited).

    • I think we'll all get used to it eventually, like the 7-Series BMW.

    • I'd say you nailed what I was getting at. It's not really something I would buy either. Not what you'd normally think of when you think "Jeep." But neither of those is really a bad thing. It's great to see something so non-retro from them. I could see how the Patriot and the Liberty looked like Jeeps, but they were aesthetically pretty boring. People who want a Jeep that looks like a Jeep buy a Wrangler. This is for a different type all together.

  • Ol' Shel'

    If y'all ran the styling studios, we'd have nothing but new cars that look like your favorite existing cars. It's not easy to come up with new designs, notwthat aerodynamics are of such importance. This Cherokee looks pretty good in that off-road pic. Yeah, it's different, and how often are people immediately comfortable with something so different? I give them props for making such a bold choice, whether it's perfect or not.

    No, I don't work for Chrysler (;

    • Ol' Shel'

      now that, not 'notwthat'.

    • BobWellington

      This is the same argument people make with music. It's not that I don't want a band to try new things, but I want them to make good new things, not bad new things. I'd rather have a good looking, but traditional styled car than an ugly, experimental styled car. Now if you can make a good looking, original design, that's when you hit the jackpot.

  • CherokeeOwner

    As someone who's owned two XJ Cherokees, the only things I can say about the new rig is this:

    -It's not based a Caliber.
    -No CVT.
    -Two Low Range options. (One better than the Caliber twins.)
    -Great mileage for a Jeep (31 MPG for the I4, 28 for the V6) that still has some off-road ability.
    -4500 lbs. towing capacity for a small five seat 4×4 is pretty respectable. (The Equinox/Terrain siblings max out at 3500 lbs.)
    -Doesn't blatantly copy the XJ's boxy styling. That was my big issue with the last Liberty and the Patriot; mediocre mechanicals wrapped in a nostalgia-inducing body in the hopes to make up for the mediocre mechanicals.
    -The Trailhawk is cheaper than the base Grand Cherokee, so if you want a respectable closed-top 4×4 that could do some of the rough stuff and still do the Daily Drive, the Trailhawk is a decent choice.
    -It's not based on a Caliber.

    My only issue with this is the fact that you cannot get a low range setup on the base model, and I'll admit it does possess a face only a mother could love. I will also admit, the Subaru comparison is rather accurate. When the current generation Outback came out, I parked my XJ next to one and realized the dimensions, give or take, were darn near identical. This KL is only a natural progression, and is still a better car than the Liberty.

    And I will say, I can not wait to see what the aftermarket is going to do to the new Cherokee. (Solid-axle conversion, anyone?)

    • I like how you listed not Caliber based twice. Also, I think you're the first Cherokee owner I've run into that doesn't hate this. But I knew it was going to be that way from the beginning.

  • ptschett

    I still need to see one of these in-person before I make a conclusion about the looks of it.
    As far as what it does… occasionally I ask myself "if I had to drive 1 vehicle for the next x years, what would I drive?"
    It seems to me that this would be a good answer. Especially with the V6 engine and some AWD/4×4 powertrain.

  • tonyola

    Remember when Jaguar came out with its new styling a couple of years back and everyone was polarized? People were fussing about how the new XJ and XF "didn't look like Jaguars". Yet the old 1968-vintage retro appearence wasn't selling anymore. Now I see new-style Jags all over the place in Miami. It seems like Jeep is tryng to do the same thing – come up with a bold, new look. Although it doesn't look like a traditional Jeep, I don't hate the new styling so far. We'll see how it is in the metal.

  • Wendy Verink-Terhune

    Great article !

  • When I see that front end, all I can think of that it looks like it should belong to a three-box sedan. Why? I have no explanation.

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