The starting price is the best on the market, the technology is second to none, and the ride is smoother and quieter than the competition and the interior class above…
2014 Jeep Cherokee
The Chrysler group is on a tear these days, with month after month of consecutive growth and awards to back it up.
Who would have thought a few short years ago that Chrysler – of the Detroit Three – would be in second place in Canada, just slightly behind Ford and well ahead of General Motors.
This has been achieved by filling a few holes in their full-line offensive. For example, until a year ago, Chrysler didn’t have a compact car, now they do with the Dodge Dart.
Most surprising is that the strong sales have established without have a vehicle to compete in the fastest growing segment, the compact SUV. Now, with the introduction of this all-new Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler has something to take on establish players like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The new Cherokee has only been for sale for about a month now but sales for the Jeep brand are up more than 34 per cent over last year. In addition, the new Jeep Cherokee just won its category (best new SUV under $35,000) as adjudged by the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada (AJAC).
Some might not remember the old boxy Cherokee that was sold in the 1990s; it was a very simple design that appealed to diehard Jeep enthusiasts.
This new Cherokee is trying to win over new buyers, not just the Jeep faithful. It might look a bit odd at first but when you are in its presence, the design actually grows on you to a pint that it has a futuristic, very modern twist on an iconic nameplate.
What you don’t see is the Italian Alfa Romeo platform that this Cherokee shares with the Dodge Dart. This provides a solid basis that produces a wonderful on-road experience and ruggedness for off-road duty.
There is a special Trailhawk version of this Cherokee that has been designed specifically for off-road, with higher front and rear bumpers to help it traverse ditches and climb mountains. The more practical base front wheel drive (FWD) model starts at $23,495 and is the lowest priced vehicle in the compact SUV class. The All wheel drive (AWD) model is also a value leader and starts at $25,695.
There are several things that set this Cherokee apart from the competition and a big difference is the level of interior fit and finish. Many of the vehicles that compete in this class are rather basic inside and come covered in hard plastic and feature simple designs.
The Cherokee is covered in soft-touch materials, comfortable seats and a large touch screen in the centre of the dash for connectivity. The base screen is 5-inches but a larger 8.4-inch screen is available on the $29,995 Limited model. In addition, all models get a second 3.5-inch screen imbedded in the instrument cluster that is fully programmable and provides custom readouts.
The back seat isn’t huge but the seats again are contoured nicely and provide good comfort. They also slide forward to elongate the cargo area if larger objects need to be carried. The rest of the dash has a stylish design that is a good combination of the bigger Grand Cherokee and the functional Dodge Journey.
Sweeping lines and attention to detail make this a class leader in terms of style and design.
Not content to use existing engines and transmission in this new Cherokee, Chrysler is showcasing brand new technology in this compact SUV, providing good fuel economy and value. All trim levels come standard with a 9-speed automatic transmission. That’s right, nine gears, the very first vehicle on the planet to come with this many cogs. Having a chance to drive it with the base 184hp 2.4L 4-cylinder through the canyons outside of Malibu California, I can report that the transmission is so smooth and refined that the driver forgets there is so much at work. The upside is the Cherokee is capable of 9.6.L/100km in the city and 6.4L on the highway.
The platform is a gem. There is very little road or wind noise, the suspension is very well dampened and the steering feel is better than many in this class.
The 4-cylinder engine is a great choice for commuters and the handling is crisp and sure-footed, more like a sedan than an SUV. The optional V6 engine is the first application of the 3.2L V6 Pentastar engine. The bigger 3.6L is used across the Chrysler family but this newly developed, smaller version is wonderful value as it is only $1,300 more to equip it on any Cherokee, from the least expensive FWD model to the most expensive AWD trim.
For $1,300, you get 271hp and a lot more grunt for passing and highway runs. This would be the choice if you do a lot of highway driving to the cabin or skiing. The downside is the added weight of the V6 makes it less nimble compared to the 4-cylinder but both are excellent choices.
In addition to carving though the mountains, I had a chance to drive over them in the Trailhawk off-road model. This really is the enthusiast version; it had no problem scampering up anything it came across from big boulders, to sand and mud.
A lot of fun, but the reality is that most buyers will opt for the less extreme AWD models that have the ability to change their characteristics depending on which setting the driver chooses from snow, sport, mud/sand and low settings.
The starting price is the best on the market, the technology is second to none, and the ride is smoother and quieter than the competition and the interior class above. The styling does take a while to get used to but it does look better in person.
Most people will equip the Cherokee with AWD and the middle North Edition that includes alloy wheels and added interior features for a reasonable $28,695. With the optional V6 engine, the price is $29,995. This is a lot of Jeep for the money and one that is a treat to drive. Now that Chrysler has a competent small SUV in their lineup, their position as the number two seller of vehicles looks strong for a while to come.
Contact: zack [dot] spencer [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca
Power: 2.4L 4-cylinder with 184hp or 3.2L V6 with 271hp
Fill-up: 9.6L/6.4L/100km (city/highway)
Sticker price: $23,495-$$32,195