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2014 Jeep Cherokee Overview
The classic 7-slot grille marks the 2014 Cherokee as a Jeep, and there are some rugged off-road options for this newly launched SUV that Jeep and rock-crawling enthusiasts will appreciate. But the new Cherokee is a serious departure from the old Cherokee (last produced 12 years ago), and the Liberty that it's replacing in the Jeep lineup.
The boxy exterior lines of the old Cherokee and the Liberty are gone, replaced by rounded edges and a profile that's more in line with the rest of the compact crossover/SUV market. Even the trademark grille has been curved, as those 7 slots bend and blend into the hood. The stacked lamp clusters in front—slim running lights and turn signals on top, sleek headlights in the middle and foglights on the bottom—is also a new look for any Jeep and has led many to compare the newly styled Cherokee to the Nissan Juke. The rear fascia is less distinguishable, with a swooping tailgate and spoiler that could be confused for the rear on any number of SUVs.
All four Cherokee trim levels—Sport, Latitude, Limited and the trail-rated Trailhawk—will share the same basic exterior styling and are all built on the Fiat and Chrysler platform that also underpins the Dodge Dart. With this platform, it's clear that Cherokee is now leaning more toward a car-based crossover than the truck-based beast of its namesake. However, it offers three 4x4 systems that should satisfy the inclement weather or off-road capabilities for most consumers. The Active Drive I is a single-speed, fully automatic system that provides all-weather capability; the Active Drive II has a low-range speed suitable for rock crawling and a neutral mode for flat towing behind an RV; and the Active Drive III (standard on the Trailhawk) adds a locking rear differential. All three of these systems are controlled by Jeep's Selec-Terrain traction-control system, which can switch between Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock modes with the twist of a knob.
Chrysler will also introduce its first 9-speed automatic transmission with the new Cherokee. This is the only available gearbox and is built by the same company that produces the 8-speed transmissions for the Dodge Charger, Dodge Ram 1500 and Chrysler 300. When the new 9-speed is paired with the standard 2.4-liter, MultiAir2 Tigershark I4 engine, the Cherokee gets an impressive 31 mpg on the highway, a significant increase over the Liberty's 22 mpg highway. The Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk can also be upgraded to a 3.2-liter, 271-hp Pentastar V6 that produces 239 lb-ft of torque (the I4 gets 184 hp and makes 171 lb-ft of torque).
The interior styling and materials for the Cherokee mark a real step forward from the Liberty, which was awkwardly designed with low quality plastics. The Cherokee has fluid lines, soft-touch materials and technologies like controls on the steering wheel, keyless ignition, a wireless charging pad and an 8.4-inch touchscreen navigation system. The rear seats split 60/40 and adjust backward and forward, but even with these considerations, there isn't a ton of room for rear passengers or loads of cargo in the rear storage area.
Like many of the other new features Chrysler has brought to the Cherokee, the safety and security additions are aimed at consumers who might be more comfortable driving through suburban streets than on unmarked and muddy trails. There's a new ParkSense Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist that steers the vehicle into place while the driver uses the accelerator and brake. There's also a new adaptive cruise control, a warning system for lane departure and a blind-spot monitoring system. And everyone will appreciate 10 airbags, including standard, full-length side curtain and side thorax bags.
While the new Cherokee may be polarizing for its exterior looks and the recycling of a classic name, it's hard to blame Jeep for creating a vehicle that can compete in the crucial midsize SUV marketplace. Expected to launch in May, the Cherokee was pushed back a month and should be available by mid-June.
by Tim O'Sullivan
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