The 2019 Jeep Cheerokee Loves Off-Roading

Photograph courtesy of Jeep We put the new Jeep Cherokee through its paces in a tough off-road course. It tackled a variety of terrain we wo...

Photograph courtesy of Jeep

We put the new Jeep Cherokee through its paces in a tough off-road course. It tackled a variety of terrain we would have never otherwise attempted

Reintroducing an icon is no easy task. Back in 2014, that’s what Jeep did when they launched the brand new Cherokee after a 13-year absence. While it sold reasonably well, its looks were somewhat questionable. Squinty-eyed headlamps were anything but Jeep-like and, unlike past models, that was more of a grocery getter than a full-fledged off-roader. For 2019, Jeep has corrected some of its past decisions and delivered a revised Cherokee with a less polarizing look, a new engine option and fantastic on-road handling only outdone by even better off-road prowess.

Among the more handsome design choices, daytime running lights along with the Bi-LED headlamps are now enclosed in a sculpted sealed beam housing with external driving lights in the lower front fascia. A new 7-slot grill sits upright in an aluminum hood and presents itself in a more mature manner, while out back a restyled composite lift gate features a license plate recess along with an updated bumper and lower treatment for new dual exhaust ports. There are also five new wheel options and 12 different exterior colors to choose from. All of these visual enhancements have helped the 2019 Cherokee evolve from a mild-mannered crossover into a handsome mid-size SUV with a burly demeanor.

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Climb into the cabin and you’ll notice a host of interior updates. New materials and colors along with a redesigned center console give the Cherokee an upscale feel and—when properly equipped—it can be quite luxurious. Certain models can be outfitted with options such as leather clad heated and ventilated front seats along with a heated steering wheel.

Then there’s the inclusion of Jeeps fourth-generation UConnect touchscreen infotainment and navigation system, which comes with a 7.0 or 8.4-inch screen with enhanced functionality. It’s one of the most intuitive systems on the market offering occupants’ access to media channels, climate controls, apps, phone and vehicle settings and drive modes. A standard backup camera is also integrated here. Engineers also saw fit to increase rear cargo space by over three inches in width for a total of 54.9 cubic-feet of storage with the rear seats folded down. Charging mobile devices is a snap thanks to multiple USB charge ports and a 115-volt outlet.

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Once underway, the cabin was extremely quiet at speed. During our Los Angeles press drive, routes consisted of highways, canyons and an off-road experience and, regardless of the environment, there wasn't a hint of a rattle or squeak.

We're also introduced to Jeep’s new 2.0-liter turbo inline-4 engine with start-stop technology. It pumps out 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque through a revamped 9-speed automatic transmission and will act as the top-of-the-line mill for the Cherokee. Other engine options include the base 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 that makes 180 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 with 271 hp and 239 lb-ft. Having driven all three variants, it's safe to say the base 2.4-liter could fall by the wayside. It simply doesn’t have the grunt to properly motivate a vehicle with a minimum curb weight of 3,655-pounds. The Pentastar V-6 or I-4 turbo, however, are both great options.

The 2019 Cherokee can be purchased with three different 4x4 systems: Jeep Active Drive I, II or Jeep Active Drive Lock. Active Drive I is fully automatic and provides seamless integration of the 4x4 system to the driver. Active Drive II utilizes a two-speed power transfer unit with torque management and low range capabilities, while Active Drive Lock has all the features of Active Drive II but also includes a locking rear differential. (All 4x4-equipped Cherokees come with five different drive modes: Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock). While you can get the new Cherokee with front-wheel drive, please don’t. This is a Jeep after all, and Jeeps are supposed to be four-wheel drive, so spend the money and spec it properly.

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When we finally got a chance to tackle the off-road course, I was blown away by just how capable the Cherokee was. With a short billy goat like wheelbase, the Trailhawk tackled a variety of terrain that I would have never attempted. Rocks, sand, steep inclines and descents were overcome with ease. You need to trust the technology that’s integrated into the Cherokee and let it do its thing. For instance, when we can upon a rock obstacle we were told to select “Rock” mode, take our foot off the brake, and let the Jeep do the work. Inch-by-inch, the Cherokee climbed up and over, transferring power and torque to each wheel until we were out of harm's way. The same can be said for every other type of terrain we encountered along the course. There is no other mid-size SUV or crossover in this segment that comes close to the off-road abilities of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee.

Available in five different configurations—Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and Trailhawkthe 2019 Jeep Cherokee offers customers a range of trim levels to satisfy their lifestyle. Combine that with three different engine choices, a host of interior and exterior options and 4x4 capabilities that set the standard for the segment and you’ll soon realize that this new Jeep is definitely worthy of the “Cherokee” nameplate.

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Prices start at $23,995.00 for a front-wheel drive Latitude and climb to $37,775.00 for a loaded 4x4 equipped Overland.

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