The Crossover That Actually Drives Like an SUV
The modern Cherokee is something of a controversial vehicle among the Jeep faithful. Aside from the like-nothing-else looks, the classic Cherokee was a venerated nameplate, and many question whether the modern interpretation is worthy. Truth be told, the doubters won’t likely change their minds, but the days of solid axles and old inline-sixes are over. In the here and now, this Cherokee is pretty Jeepy in a world of cars masquerading as SUVs.
Our tester here is a fairly stripped Latitude model equipped with Jeep’s Active Drive II all-wheel-drive system. It’s also been upfitted with the optional 3.2-liter V-6 engine and Fiat Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system. Otherwise, it’s pretty basic. No active safety systems, no dual-zone climate control, no keyless entry, or any of that stuff. And yet, somehow, it still weighs 4,112 pounds.
On the road, all that weight is manageable. The Jeep feels quick enough getting around, and it makes a decent growl, which is somewhat loud in the cabin. On the track, though, it’s less impressive. It hit 60 mph in 6.8 seconds, which can be matched by a turbocharged four-cylinder crossover. The quarter mile takes 15.3 seconds at 89.9 mph (145 km/h). At least the brakes are strong, stopping it from 60 mph in a reasonable 122 feet. The good news here is that Jeep continues to refine this troubled nine-speed automatic transmission, and it finally seems to be behaving itself. We got a rough shift or two, and you have to demand a downshift rather than request one, but on the whole, it’s a marked improvement. On a skidpad, in case you’re interested, it’ll pull 0.78 g average, and around our figure eight, it’ll do a lap in 27.4 seconds at 0.63 average g.
Back in the real world, those last few numbers translate to typically SUV handling. The steering is linear, but the tires aren’t up for the kind of maneuvers the chassis could pull off. Push hard, and the fronts will gladly give up. In the process, the whole thing will feel a bit top-heavy and tippy. In other words, it drives more like a real SUV than anything else in its class.
Really, there’s something very endearing about that. In an age when brands seem to be watering down their mantras in the name of sales targets, it’s always refreshing to see a brand be true to its roots. That’s not to say Jeep hasn’t strayed from its Willys beginnings or that the Cherokee is a mini-Wrangler, but when compared against the competition, there’s an undeniable Jeepness to the Cherokee. You just want to drive it over something, just because you can.
Of course, there are compromises. The taller stance, all-wheel-drive hardware, and real spare tire combine forces and push the cargo load floor up to waist height, considerably higher than the competition. If you have to load something heavy, make sure you bend with your knees.
The tall posture also means it’s a bit of a climb in, especially in the back, where the rear seat is surprisingly high. My totally average 5-foot-9-inch frame had to climb up while simultaneously ducking the low roof. Once you’re in, there’s good headroom and legroom, though shoulder room is bit tight. The rear seats recline and slide, so there’s a good chance you can make yourself comfortable.
Up front, the Cherokee impresses with one of the most interestingly styled dashboards in the segment. Our tester featured bronze metallic trim, and like all new FCA products, there’s a clear attention to detail in the styling. Unfortunately, the build quality isn’t quite as detailed, and we noticed several small squeaks and rattles on rougher pavement.
Whether it’s the unmistakable styling or the unstoppable attitude, there’s just something endearing about the Jeep Cherokee that makes you want to love it. If we’re being rational, we might say the poor small front overlap crash test result might outweigh the overachieving fuel economy (Real MPG scored it at 21.8/28.1/24.2 mpg (10.8/8.4/9.7 L/100km) city/highway/combined compared to the EPA’s 19/26/22 (12.4/9/10.7 L/100km)), but car purchases are often emotional choices, and this Jeep just gets us. When everything else is a car on stilts, a crossover that actually drives like an SUV is special to the right kind of person.
|2016 Jeep Cherokee Active Drive II 4×4 (Latitude)|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$33,860|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.2L/271-hp/239-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,112 lb (58/42%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||182.0 x 73.2 x 67.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.8 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.3 sec @ 89.9 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||122 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.4 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||19/26/22 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||177/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.90 lb/mile|