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2018 Jeep Cherokee Overview
When Jeep brought back the Cherokee nameplate in 2014, many were surprised by what appeared. Instead of the boxy SUV that made the Cherokee a hallmark for close to two decades, what appeared was something akin to the current crop of crossovers, with flowing lines and some polarizing design touches. But that wasn’t the biggest shock. That was provided by what was under the new Cherokee’s skin: The new model would use the underpinnings of a sedan and not a body-on-frame setup from a truck. This caused some to think that the new Cherokee wouldn’t have the off-road capability of its predecessor, but Jeep made sure that the new model was just as capable as the old one. The end result is a crossover that's not afraid to go anywhere. For 2018, Jeep makes a number of minor changes to make the Cherokee more appealing to a wider audience.
Most of the changes for 2018 are a result of Jeep streamlining the Cherokee’s trims. The base Sport has been dropped for 2018. Taking its place will be the Latitude, which brings a number of premium features at a low price. They include 17-inch aluminum wheels, HID headlights, a reversing camera, and body-color door handles and mirror caps. A new Latitude Plus trim will slot between the Latitude and Limited. This trim adds a number of popular options as standard equipment, such as the 8.4-inch Uconnect system, keyless entry, push-button start, a power driver's seat, and cloth seats with leather inserts.
The Cherokee’s design is a love-it-or-hate-it affair. This is due to some of the design choices made by designers, such as a split-headlight setup, a rounded version of Jeep’s iconic seven-slot grille, and a sculpted rear tailgate. Various trims bring their own touches to the Cherokee. For example, the off-road-oriented Trailhawk comes with front tow hooks finished in red, a black finish for the grille, and 17-inch off-road wheels that can come in a semi-gloss black finish.
There is a lot of influence from the Grand Cherokee in the Cherokee’s interior, such as an uncluttered dash, and the Cherokee also inherits its big brother’s excellent build and material quality. Front-seat passengers will appreciate the supportive seats with a number of adjustments on offer. Those sitting in the back will find plenty of head- and legroom and get the ability to recline and slide the seat to provide extra legroom or cargo space. The latter is important if you’re planning to carry a lot of cargo, as the Cherokee falls behind competitors in terms of cargo space. Behind the rear seats, the Cherokee offers only 24.6 cubic feet. Fold them and space increases to 54.9 cubic feet. The Honda CR-V handily beats the Cherokee with figures of 39.2 and 75.8 cubic feet, respectively.
The Cherokee comes with FCA’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system, with either a 5- or 8.4-inch screen. No matter which version you end up with, Uconnect provides one of the easiest-to-understand interfaces in the class. It doesn’t hurt that Jeep provides redundant physical controls for the audio and climate-control systems. Optional is a wireless charging pad that can provide juice for compatible smartphones.
A 2.4-liter 4-cylinder is the Cherokee’s base engine and offers up 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Optional for most versions and standard on the Trailhawk is a 3.2-liter V6 with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet. Both engines come paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission, but the Compass can be equipped with front-wheel drive (FWD) or 4-wheel drive (4WD). The Latitude, Latitude Plus, and Limited 4WD models come with Jeep’s Active Drive I system. Most of the time, the system drives only the front wheels to help boost fuel economy. But if the system detects a loss of grip, it will automatically hook up the rear axle to provide 4WD traction. Active Drive I also features the Selec-Terrain system, which alters various powertrain settings for different conditions such as snow or sand. Overland models feature the Active Drive II system, which uses a 2-speed transfer case and low-range gearing for improved off-road ability. The Trailhawk comes with the Active Drive Lock, which has a locking rear differential and a special Rock mode that allows it to take on some serious off-road trails.
Reviewers note the 2.4 feels overwhelmed due to the Cherokee’s curb weight, and it also makes quite a racket when accelerating. The V6 is preferred, as it offers plenty of oomph and is noticeably quieter. The 9-speed automatic is prompt and quick on the up- and downshifts, a far cry from when the transmission first appeared in the Cherokee and was slow with gear changes.
Fuel-economy figures for the 2018 Jeep Cherokee range from 18 mpg city, 24 highway, 21 combined for the Trailhawk to 21/30/25 for a FWD version with the 4-cylinder.
All Cherokees get antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, a full suite of airbags, and a backup camera. Models featuring the 8.4-inch Uconnect system come with the Uconnect Access telematics system, which includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, a stolen-vehicle locator, and remote door unlocking. Blind-spot monitoring, cross-path monitoring, and rear backup warning become standard on the Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk for 2018. Adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning and mitigation, and lane-departure warning are available as part of an option package. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Cherokee a 4-star overall crash rating, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the model its best score of Good in most of its tests. The only test in which the Cherokee faltered was the small-overlap frontal offset test, where it earned the second-lowest rating of Marginal.
Ask William Maley how he started as an automotive writer and he would say he just fell into it. Based in Michigan, William has driven vehicles of all sizes and shapes. His work has appeared on Autobytel, CARFAX, Cheers & Gears, and U.S. News Best Cars.
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