Mar 19, 2021
The Jeep Cherokee has been many things throughout its history. Starting out as a simplistic but rough and tumble 2 door wagon in the 1970’s, it quickly evolved into a 4x4 powerhouse with its second generation, introduced in 1984. This generation, which was so sturdy and reliable that it lasted 16 years, is quite often seen as the progenitor of the modern SUV.
What it lacked in luxury appointments during the second generation was quickly remedied in the third generation. Know both as the Jeep Cherokee and the Jeep Liberty, it was a 2002 to 2007 model generation that saw the introduction of the four door variant that would become the standard arrangement for every generation after. It also had the option of two new engines, an inline four and a V6, for more economical in-city use.
The fourth generation was the last generation where the Cherokee/Liberty was designed as an SUV. Dropping the inline four gas engine, it came in America only with the V6, and in overseas markets had the option of an inline four diesel. However, with its cousins the Jeep Compass and the Jeep Patriot outselling it by a wide margin, and the larger Grand Cherokee being accepted as the SUV option, Jeep was left with a decision as to where the Cherokee would go.
This is when the fifth generation was a complete redesign of the SUV. Firstly, it was reduced in size to become a CUV, without losing any of the 4x4 heritage or functionality. It was also the first North American crossover to use the technology and base of the Fiat Compact Wide platform, which was designed by both Fiat and Chrysler to be the underpinnings of an entirely new class of CUVs.
One of the major parts of this is that the platform was designed from the outset to be capable of both rough off-road use and smooth on-road use via active variable four wheel drive. These are broken up into Active Drive I, Active Drive II, and Active Drive Lock. AD I is roughly equivalent to all wheel drive or 4-High in other 4x4’s, which AD II is the equivalent of 4-Low for hills and challenging grip situations. ADL is a 4-Low variation with a locking rear differential for heavy terrain, or “Rock,” as Jeep labels it on their terrain selection.
Jeep likes to brand the Cherokee as its most capable crossover, with the utility of a full sized SUV but the size and convenience of a CUV. For Texas, this is a pretty potent combination, as it can pack quite a bit of stuff in its cargo space, with folding rear seats in case you need even more space. As well, the selectable 4x4 modes mean that it will be able to handle everything from a dry, rocky creek, to a muddy and slippery hill, without getting into too much trouble.
A new variation for the fifth generation was also the addition, in case 4x4 was not wanted or needed, to have many of the trims available as FWD only. This is often paired with a new, high power but fuel efficient inline four, or in the higher trims, a compact V6. Both offer much improved power-per-liter than previous engines from previous generations, and incorporate some technology from Fiat to do so.
As one among many, the Jeep Cherokee is often put as the premium CUV above the Compass and Renegade. As such, while it starts off relatively inexpensive, even the lowest trim level has some luxuries included.
The Latitude is the base spec for the Cherokee lineup. It includes the options of coming in either FWD or 4x4, and includes luxuries such as air conditioning, power doors and windows, and a fully, bluetooth connected infotainment system with touchscreen LCD. These features, among others, include:
2.4L Inline 4 engine
9 speed automatic transmission
Remote keyless entry
Carpet floor mats
60/40 split bench rear seat
Manually adjusted driver and passenger seats
3 12V power adapter plugs
Full infotainment system, with 7 inch touchscreen LCD, with 6 speakers
Wheel mounted cruise control controls
Aluminum wheels with silver finish
Full LED lighting all around
Power adjustable and heated rear view mirrors
What could be considered a “half-trim,” the Latitude Plus has everything that the Latitude does, but adds:
Power 8 way adjustable driver’s seat
Heated front seats
SiriusXM satellite radio built in to the infotainment
Dual USB charge ports
Steering wheel mounted audio controls
Satin Carbon finished aluminum wheels
Dual pane panoramic sunroof
Leather wrapped steering wheel
The Altitude trim is another half-trim, being a half above the Latitude Plus. It is still technically a Latitude Plus, but with very specific equipment, mostly revolving around the color black:
Blacked out interior accents
10-way power adjustable driver's seat with memory
Blacked out front grille
Special design aluminum wheels in satin carbon finish
All name badges in satin black coloration.
Special deep maroon color option
The highest spec of the Latitude base trim, the Latitude Lux has everything from the Latitude Plus. It also adds the following:
Power adjustable passenger seat
Full floor console
Central dash 7 inch TFT information screen, between tachometer and speedometer
Black with chrome surround front grille
Blind spot warning indicators in mirrors
The Limited trim level is the first of the truly “luxury” trims for the powerful little CUV. It has everything the Latitude Lux carries, but changes and/or adds:
Dual zone automatic climate control
Radar controlled cruise control with traffic stop and go sensing
120V AC power plug in the cargo area
Alpine 10 speaker system with 8.4 inch touchscreen LCD infotainment with navigation
Parking distance sensors
Predictive ABS brake assist
ABS and driveline stability and traction control
Anti-roll stability control which, if at all possible, stops a vehicle rollover if per-wheel traction can prevent it
The TrailHawk is the highest normal trim level of the Cherokee. It includes all the bells and whistles, as well as some off-road specific tuning. It also is the only trim level that only comes as 4x4, no option for FWD. It includes all the luxuries of the Limited, plus some extras. These include:
Front off-road strut suspension
Rear off-road multilink suspension
Cloth/vinyl combination seats that are easy to clean of mud/dirt
Removal of radar cruise control, returning to driver commanded cruise control
Special P245/65TR17 OWL All-Terrain tires, designed for multiple surfaces and terrains
Active Drive Lock system, with locking rear differential depending on drive mode.
The 80th Anniversary trim is a special version of the Latitude Plus, with the only real difference being the selection of different colors, as well as 80th Anniversary badging on the exterior and interior. Otherwise, the only things it adds are:
8.4 inch version of the infotainment screen
Per-wheel TPMS instead of generic TPMS
The High Altitude Trim takes the Altitude trim and fits it with 19 inch wheels, as well as includes the optional navigation system from all other trims as standard in its 8.4 inch infotainment. It also gains the dual pane panoramic sunroof. The biggest difference is that the standard engine for this trim is the 2.0L dual-charged Hurricane inline four engine.
The Jeep Cherokee only has one cabin size, and one cargo size. The cabin is capable of carrying 5 adults in comfort. The cargo area can hold 54.7 cubic feet of cargo before the rear seats are folded, which brings it up to almost 90 cubic feet of total space if needed.
The Jeep Cherokee, as mentioned in the introduction, is the first variation of the model to be a CUV, not an SUV. It was first shown at the 2013 New York International Auto Show, where it impressed by letting the Grand Cherokee carry the SUV segment, and being a superbly comfortable and capable premium CUV that outshone its smaller cousins.
The biggest push behind making the Cherokee into a CUV was waning sales in the SUV segment, as by 2013, many companies, including European and Asian, were all presenting at least one SUV in their model lineups. Crossovers were still a rarity at the time, however, and Jeep (by way of Fiat and Chrysler) jumped on the chance to take an established, historical name and plant it firmly in the minds of those looking for a city sized, but country capable, family vehicle.
In terms of how Texans first approached it, it has to be said that the initial take up was a bit tentative, but once a few models had cleared dealership lots and word of mouth began to spread, it was viewed as an accepted vehicle. Especially important for Texas was the fact that, if optioned with the 3.2L V6, it could tow up to 4,500 lbs, and could carry more than enough cargo for family trips or intercity drives.
The fact that the air conditioning is also highly rated is an added bonus, cooling both front and rear seats with icy air within a few minutes of the engine being started.
With all that said, however, the Cherokee is still not the most popular CUV, reaching approximately 10,000 units sold per month across the entire US. The most popular of the Big Three in the US is the Ford Edge, which (no pun intended) edges out the Cherokee each month by a range of only 200 to over 1500 more vehicles. It makes for tight competition between Ford and Jeep, and if there’s one thing that competition does is make each company try harder, develop more, design better, engineer better, to try to overtake or decimate the other. “Competition benefits the consumer” most certainly applies here!
On initial release, there were two engines available for the Jeep Cherokee. The first is the 2.4L TigerShark SOHC Inline Four, a Fiat advanced world engine. It features MultiAir 2 electro-hydraulic variable valve timing and lift on the intake valves, which varies each valve’s opening per combustion cycle to keep the optimum fuel-air mixture in balance. At the time, this was one of the most advanced engines in the world in terms of VVT, and through it all to this day, produces 184 HP and 174 lb-ft of torque.
The second available engine, optional on all trims except the Limited and TrailHawk, is the 3.2L Pentastar V6. A common Chrysler engine that at the time had seen use in the RAM 1500 and even the Charger, in the configuration for the Cherokee, it develops 271 HP and 239 lb-ft of torque.
All Cherokee’s of the fifth generation come equipped with a ZF-developed 9 speed transmission, the 948TE automatic. This transmission is of note because it has been used on a variety of vehicles from many manufacturers, including the Jaguar E-Pace EV SUV, the Honda Ridgeline pickup, and the Fiat 500X. The Cherokee was the development and production model for the transmission.
The originally released trim levels for the first year also had a Sport trim, which was a Latitude, but with steel wheels, a tiny 5 inch infotainment screen, and the bare minimum of amenities. The Sport was quietly dropped from consumer brochures in 2015, although it was still available if requested all the way up to 2018. It was absorbed into the Latitude trim in 2019.
In a bit of bad fortune, as the Cherokee was the first production vehicle with the new 948TE 9-speed automatic, there were some growing pains related to the transmission, including a fairly major recall that spanned 2014 and 2015. This recall regarded the transmission, which would occasionally have a rough shift, not engage the next gear, or most worrying, default to neutral if it could not find the next gear to shift to. According to both Fiat and ZF, this affected 505,000 Cherokees sold between launch and the new version of the 948TE being released in mid-2015.
Jeep/Fiat also released a software update via dealer visit or over-the-air updating of the Cherokee that bypassed the lines in the code that controlled the transmission that were discovered to be causing most of the issues.
2015 saw Jeep quietly drop the Sport trim from customer pamphlets and on their webpage highlights, only showing it as an option in the comparison tool or if the consumer did a “build and price” build-up of their preferred options. This was mostly because the margins on the Sport were quite tight, and suited much more to commercial and fleet sales, which is where the Sport was advertised much more heavily.
2015 also saw possibly the biggest recall of Jeep’s history. Two IT security analysts from Cruise Automation, a company dedicated to developing self-driving systems for vehicles, had a 2014 Cherokee available as a mule for the company, and decided to see if the Jeeps built in systems were hackable.
In IT circles, this is a specific security test called “penetration testing.” Worryingly, the two analysts were able to hack the Cherokee within minutes of trying, over the internet. With the access they gained, they were able to control everything from the radio station to the braking, acceleration, and steering of the Cherokee, as all were partial drive-by-wire.
After reporting their findings to Jeep, Chrysler, and Fiat, FCA (Fiat) issued a recall of 1.4 million vehicles for a crucial software update to fix the glitch in the vehicle control software to prevent penetration. It affected every vehicle equipped with the UConnect 3C infotainment system, including the Cherokee, 2014 and 2015 Chrysler 200 and 300, the 2014 and 2015 Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Viper, and every RAM truck from 1500 through 5500 from 2014 and 2015.
2016 saw few updates for the Cherokee, apart from it starting sales in Europe and Asia as a 2016 model in 2015. Of note, these overseas Cherokee’s, especially in Europe, were available with 6 speed manual transmissions.
These European and Asian models also had a third engine option, Fiat’s2.2L MultiJet II Common Rail Direct Injection Turbo Diesel. This engine never made it over to North America, which is a shame as it produces 182 to 200 HP, and a grunty 325 lb-ft of torque. And it does this all while reaching an average of 48 MPG.
The only major update for 2017 is a new software version for the ZF 9-speed automatics, which was posted as a TSB to be done during the next scheduled service for all Cherokees. It was not customer facing at first, as Jeep wanted most of the systems to be patched by technicians. Once enough were updated, it was released as an over the air update that owners could install through pairing their phone to the infotainment system and letting it download via their data plans.
2018 saw no new developments or recalls at all for the Cherokee. It was revealed in January of this year, at the Detroit International Auto Show, that the reason not much had happened in the latter half of 2017 and the first bit of 2018 was that there was a facelift and realignment of trims coming in 2019. This is also the final year that the Sport trim was available, again mostly pushed for commercial or fleet sales.
2019 is the year that the Cherokee got a second chance to make a first impression. After fixing the transmission issues, the UConnect hack, and basically a bad start out of the gate, a new facelift added more aggressive curves to the CUV. It also narrowed the grille slightly to make way for the new, across-the-range standard LED headlights. All other exterior lights were also made to be LED, both for durability and longevity.
The Sport trim was completely absorbed into the Latitude trim, and the Latitude became the fleet sale and commercial option, as well as the standard base model for consumers.
The biggest update and change, however, was a thoroughly tested and audited UConnect infotainment system, namely UC4 7.0. This new version had been audited by several external penetration testing and security companies to find and fix weaknesses before they went to market. As such, despite UConnect 4 7.0 now able to use 4G LTE and Wifi connectivity, it is extremely secure against internet attacks. In fact, the only way to hack the system has been identified as opening the dash and physically bridging certain connections connected to a computer, which is extremely impractical if you need to quickly hack a vehicle.
Production of the Cherokee was also moved from Toledo, Ohio to Belvidere, Illinois, as the Toledo Production Complex was repurposed to produce the Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator models. The Cherokee took over the assembly line that was used to make the Dodge Dart up until late 2016, before the production of the Dart was discontinued.
The final update for 2019 was the introduction of a fourth engine (third option in America), the Fiat 2.0L Hurricane Turbocharged Inline Four, which produces 270 HP and 295 lb-ft of torque. The engine itself is an extremely advanced piece of engineering, and is used in the Alfa Romeo Giulia as its base engine. What makes this engine so special is that it is a mild-hybrid, but doesn’t use that hybrid energy on the driveline.
What the Hurricane engine does, and why it’s named that in the first place, is that it is actually what is known as a twin-charged engine. While the turbocharger is the main compressor, it needs to be at a certain RPM to compress the air enough for boosted power. To overcome that lag, Fiat has fitted an electric powered supercharger to the mass air intake, before the turbocharger. What this does is compress the air coming into the engine so that even at low RPM there is forced induction, while the airflow also blows over the turbocharger turbine to spin up that compressor.
2.0L Hurricane Inline Four Engine. Electric supercharger is directly in front of the turbocharger compressor housing, right after the black box on the intake. The black box is the control box for the supercharger.
As such, the 270 HP and 295 lb-ft of torque is available over a massive RPM range of the engine, and even has a cutover switch attached to the smaller intake that the supercharger uses when the turbocharger is fully spun up so that it uses the compression from the turbo instead. It also boosts fuel efficiency, as compressed air requires less fuel to make a similar explosion to uncompressed air.
2020 saw the introduction of two special edition models, namely the 80th Anniversary and the High Altitude. Both of these trims are slated to be available for sale until the 2022 models and trims are released in August-September 2021.
This is mostly due to the massive shutdowns of the automotive industry during the global pandemic. This was a worldwide effect, with almost all automotive manufacturers losing anywhere from a few weeks to almost half their production year due to the severity of the pandemic in their countries. In the USA, Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler all suffered multiple months without being able to produce vehicles.
However, many parts of the production lines of many factories were retooled quickly to make parts for ventilators, personal protective equipment, and other medically necessary equipment to help fight the pandemic.
As such, Jeep has remained steadfast that the work they did during those months was worth delaying any updates a year to the 2022 model year, and to be honest, we can’t fault them for that.
NOTE: For this table, the engine and tow rating fields are what the trucks come with as STANDARD. Optional engines may increase or decrease the tow rating.
|Trim||Years||MSRP||Engine||Tow Rating (lbs)||Review|
|Latitude||2014+||$26,755||2.4L TigerShark I-4||2,100|
|Latitude Plus||2019+||$28,825||2.4L TigerShark I-4||2,100|
|Altitude||2014+||$30,265||2.4L TigerShark I-4||2,100|
|Latitude Lux||2019+||$30,345||3.2L Pentastar V6||4,500|
|Limited||2014+||$34,495||3.2L Pentastar V6||4,500|
|TrailHawk||2014+||$35,795||3.2L Pentastar V6||4,500|
|SE: High Altitude||2019+||$37,185||2.0L Hurricane I-4||4,000|
Throughout the fifth generation so far, there is only one major recall:
16V529000: Automatic transmission discovered to have either insufficient wire harness crimps (physical) or erroneous software (non-physical) that can cause the transmission to incorrectly detect the next gear to shift to. This causes either a rough shift or, in worst-case scenarios, shifting to neutral and needing a vehicle shutdown and restart to be able to select gears again.
The Jeep Cherokee has seen a few major TSBs, the two most prevalent being the software updates for 2014 and 2015 Cherokee’s which suffer from the software style issue of the transmission recall above, of which there have been two major software patches released as TSBs. The other TSB, which was issues as a recall by Fiat but only as a TSB by Jeep, is the patching of the UConnect 3C infotainment system to patch out a vulnerability in the wifi and over-the-air connectivity that allowed hackers to take over the vehicle controls.
Despite the rough introduction of the fifth generation, the Cherokee is known as one of the more reliable of the new breed of Crossover Utility Vehicles. That said, if purchasing a 2014 or 2015 model, it would not hurt to have the vehicle given a once over by a Jeep technician to make sure all the latest software is installed for the transmission and infotainment, and to check the VIN to make sure it has been checked off in Jeep’s records as having the recall and TSBs done.
In terms of reliability and maintenance, the Jeep Cherokee is on par with other CUVs in the market. Any Cherokee from 2017 onwards should be quite reliable, and any Cherokee from 2019 onwards is more than likely to be rock solid. An average maintenance expectation of $500 to $1000 per year is not outside of reason, and plants the Cherokee directly into the middle of the affordable range.
In a bit of an odd turn, the Cherokee is quite capable of being exactly what you need it to be, when you need it to be. The only thing that it can’t do spectacularly well is hauling, with a payload limitation of just about 1,000 lbs in most trims.
If you can find a used one in good condition and with all the necessary recalls and TSB’s done, an older 2014 to 2018 Sport trim would do you well, as they were quickly destined to be sold for commercial and fleet use after just 12 months on the consumer side of the business. If you cannot find a decent Sport model, a Latitude base trim would also do you quite well.
Any of the trims. They all share the 1,000 lbs payload limit, mostly due to the materials used for the flooring inside the cabin. If you had to haul on the cheap, a Latitude would do you well here.
From the factory, the Latitude Lux, Limited, and TrailHawk all are capable of towing 4,500 lbs. For the best option here, we actually suggest the Limited, as it’s the most luxurious of the three, with the most amenities, and can still tow those 4,500 lbs without issue.
Honestly, some of us were discussing whether it was more sensible to go for a luxurious choice here, or what would be seen more as the “common” choice. In the end, we decided that the common man is the one more likely to be reading this, so we decided that the Latitude Plus or Latitude Lux would be the best daily drivers, depending on needs. The Plus has the inline-four engine and is much more suited to commuting, while the Lux has the V6 and the grunt to tow if you really need it, but also has some luxury appointments that make it feel that little bit more special if you need a business car for the week, and a camping car for the weekend.
The TrailHawk is your choice here. Off-road suspension and tires, as well as the only trim to have the Active Drive Lock powertrain control system to allow for 4-Low crawls over rocks and riverbeds with a locking rear differential to help gain traction. It also has the 3.2L V6, giving it great grunt to send to all four wheels to get it up that slippery hill, or down the dirty, dusty trail to the remote campsite.
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