Mixing mainstream appeal and genuine off-road capability, the refreshed 2019 Cherokee is an interesting compact crossover.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Pricing: 2019 Jeep Cherokee
Base price (North 4×4 trim): $36,245
Options: $100 Velvet Red Pearl paint; $895 Preferred package; $995 Cold Weather group; $1,295 Comfort & Convenience group; $2,590 2.0L turbo engine
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $44,115
The general shape remains very similar, and if you know the most recent generation of Cherokee, there won’t be anything here that surprises you. It’s friendly, yet has some hints of ruggedness and aggression and overall, it strikes a handsome balance in my opinion.
One of the most controversial Cherokee styling bits – the squinty lights at the top edge of the hood – have been done away with, and replaced with more conventional (and much nicer) headlight pods. Those headlights, by the way, are very bright and effective.
I liked the blacked out trim on my review vehicle – this comes as part of that “preferred package” in the options and it’s called the Altitude package. It blacks out the exterior badging, the grille surround, exterior accents and mouldings and the roof rack. The 18-inch 5-spoke rims are black as well for good measure.
The first thing I noticed when getting into the Cherokee is that, while the interior is more stylish, it’s all black, all the time. It is a very dark cabin, and the couple of plastic trim pieces that aren’t black and the lighter fabric above the beltline somehow aren’t nearly enough to brighten things up. The materials are OK. There are some stitched pieces on the dash, but it feels mid-grade at best. There are plenty of hard plastics on the lower part of the dash and console.
The heated seats – the fabric felt a bit surprising at nearly $45K – are comfortable. I liked the heated steering wheel and the 7-inch Uconnect touchscreen system. I appreciate that Jeep put in knobs and hard buttons for volume, tuning and the dual-zone automatic climate control. The Cherokee’s sound system was decent.
The two outboard seats in the back are reasonably comfortable and passengers here are afforded excellent leg and head room. Unfortunately the centre console comes back further than necessary and it really intrudes in the space for the rear middle seat. Add that to the floor tunnel, and that middle position isn’t a fun place to be.
Rear passengers can fold the middle seatback down to get an armrest with a couple of cupholders. They also get two USB ports, a 110V household plug and adjustable air vents.
You will find a rubberized bin with a pop-up lid in the middle of the dash. Opening the armrest lid reveals an excellent dual-level bin with a tray and a deep bin with 12V and USB plugs. There are further 12V, USB and auxiliary input plugs at the front of the console.
You can use the power liftgate to reveal a relatively small 697L trunk with a nice low load floor. Interestingly, the power liftgate button inside is on the side of the trunk rather than high up on the edge of the liftgate – that allows pretty much anyone to reach it. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split, and are level with the highest position of the adjustable, multi-level trunk floor – this increases cargo size to 1,555L.
There’s a removable, retractable tonneau cover and a 12V plug back there.
Under the Hood
Here is some more news – my vehicle was equipped with the newly-available top-of-the-heap 2L turbo 4-cylinder with 270 HP and 295 lb.ft of torque. It’s powerful and relatively efficient, and paired with a 9-speed automatic and an all-wheel drive system.
This combination is rated at 11.2/8.0/9.8 (city/hwy/combined) L/100 km. We hit Jeep’s exact mark on this, averaging 9.8 L/100 km over the course of our week in the Cherokee. This is very decent fuel economy for a vehicle like this.
This new engine is wonderful, providing oodles of power off the line – stepping on it provides surprisingly powerful and smooth acceleration. Unfortunately what often hobbles the engine’s abilities is the transmission. It will generally seek the highest gear possible to save on fuel, and when you need to access the engine’s power, the transmission is extraordinarily reluctant to shift down to the right gear. That means it can take 1-2 seconds to downshift for passing maneuvers. That isn’t just frustrating, it becomes almost frightening when you were counting on a burst of power at highway speeds only to have to wait for it.
We found the Cherokee’s ride to be outstanding – it is firm but always smooth, easily soaking up the biggest hits and potholes. The handling is also quite good, with decent control during cornering and a distinct competency on the highway.
The Selec-Terrain dial that allows you to choose between Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud modes – these impact the vehicle’s responsiveness and traction programming. In Sport mode, the Cherokee surprised me with how quickly it took off.
We found the Cherokee to be nicely insulated in terms of road, engine and wind noise – even at high speeds, it did well. There is a bit of a snarl from the engine under heavier throttle – it wasn’t one of my favourite engine notes. There’s good visibility out of the vehicle in all directions except for the massive A-pillar, which blocks your vision when going around some corners.
This is a Jeep, so if you intend to take your crossover off the beaten path, know that you can actually do so. There is enough baked-in soft-roading capability to have fun with, and its suspension, terrain management software and protective bits underneath amount to more than most any other competitor in this class. Obviously if you’re just the outdoorsy type and are heading down a few rutted gravel roads to get to your camping spot, you don’t need a Cherokee – any compact SUV will handle that these days.
If you need to tow things, stick with the V6 – it allows you to tow up to 2,041 kg (4,500 lb) when properly equipped – that’s very good for this class.
WAF (Wife Approval Factor) was OK. She didn’t mind the styling, although she disliked the colour. She said the interior felt cheap but said it was nice and easy to drive.
While it’s not hyper-expensive, the Cherokee North is certainly not priced at the entry-level. And at over $44,000, it surprised me with some of the things that are missing. No sunroof, no leather seating (even the fake stuff), and just a general feeling of lesser refinement in the cabin all add up to the Cherokee not feeling like a great value to me.
There’s nothing wrong with it, and it does its job well, but at well on its way to $50,000, you’ve got some pretty stacked competitors to deal with. Toyota’s outstanding RAV4 and Honda’s CR-V immediately come to mind, both of which are more refined and offer significantly more utility for daily living.
But there are people who simply want a Jeep, and this is still one of the cheaper ways to get into one that can transport a family and their stuff in comfort and relative style.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Jeep Canada.
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