A name revered in the SUV world, especially among serious off-roaders, the Jeep Cherokee has regained its off-roading chops for 2019. The Jeep Cherokee (XJ) was the first midsized SUV, and over 2.8 million were made between 1984 and 2001. Its progeny, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee, has been proclaimed by experts as the midsize SUV to have if your driving pleasures include climbing up hills, creeping over rocks, and muscling through sand or mud, thanks to several engine and all-wheel drive choices. Increased cargo space, a host of electronic driver aids, and upgraded interiors also add to the enjoyment of on-road driving.
2019 Jeep Cherokee goes upscale in the midsize SUV field
The Jeep team threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the competitors in the midsize SUV market segment and let them know that the Cherokee for 2019 wasn’t about to stand pat while they try to catch up. The 2019 Cherokee took a step upscale with a more premium design, new engine choices including a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder engine with direct fuel injection, more cargo space and, to the relief of many Jeep Cherokee fans, a new front fascia that’s more Jeep-like than previous models. All five Cherokee models for 2019, the Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk, have the new front end design which includes new Bi-LED projector headlamps incorporating signature Cherokee daytime running lights refined into one fixture. The rear fascia has been re-designed with new red “Feature Lights,” which are thin LED light strips that wrap around individual stop, turn, and reverse tail lamp applications.
Mike Manley, Head of Jeep Brand – FCA Global is obviously proud of his team’s work. “A stunning, more premium design and the addition of our new fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbo engine make the new 2019 Jeep Cherokee even more desirable in the mid-size SUV segment. In addition, Cherokee builds on its benchmark 4×4 capability and on-road dynamics with refinement and style, a host of new attributes, powertrains and the latest technology that is perfectly situated for consumers worldwide.” The Cherokee’s weight has dropped, thanks in part to a redesigned lightweight liftgate made of composite material that’s available with a handsfree operation system, actuated by a kicking motion under the rear bumper. Other new features for 2019 include an aluminum hood, retuned suspension and steering systems, and a dual-pane sunroof with a motorized sunshade.
Cherokee offers more engine and all-wheel drive choices
The Jeep Cherokee offers three engine choices for 2019. The proven 2.4L Tigershark four-cylinder single overhead cam engine and the 3.2L Pentastar V6 are joined by an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder engine. The new turbocharged engine has a twin-scroll, low-inertia turbo with an electrically-actuated wastegate for increased responsiveness and performance. The turbo is mounted directly to the cylinder head, reducing emissions and improving durability. A dedicated cooling circuit cools intake air, the throttle body, and the turbo. Rated at 270 horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque, the turbo engine utilizes an aluminum block with cast-in iron cylinder liners, has four valves per cylinder with dual variable-valve timing, and engine stop/start (ESS) technology. Jeep rates the 2.0L turbo 0.5 seconds faster from 0 to 60 mph than the 3.2L Pentastar V6.
The Pentastar V6 is the horsepower king in the Jeep Cherokee world, but only by one horsepower – the V6 produces 271 horsepower to the 2.0L turbo’s 270 hp. Also with ESS technology, the V6 has a best-in-class towing rating of 4,500 pounds, a 500 pound advantage over the 2.0-liter turbo Cherokee. The 24-valve V6 is standard in the Trailhawk model and is an available option across the rest of the Cherokee lineup. The base engine for the Latitude model and the Limited 4WD, the 2.4L Tigershark SOHC four-cylinder engine is rated at 180 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. An Electro-hydraulic fully variable valve-lift system replaces the traditional mechanical link between the cam and the intake valves to deliver precise control of intake valve timing, increasing engine efficiency and boosting fuel economy up to 7.5% compared with engines having a conventional valve train.
New Cherokee has real Jeep off-road capabilities
An enhanced nine-speed Torqueflite automatic transmission connects the engine to a choice of three 4×4 drive systems – the all-new Active Drive I, Active Drive II, or Jeep Active Drive Lock. Active Drive I has a rear drive module that reduces the Cherokee’s weight by seventeen pounds, and enhances fuel efficiency and performance. The automatic rear drive module switches between two- and four-wheel drive at any speed, delivers yaw correction, and improves understeer and oversteer conditions. Active Drive II includes a two-speed Power Transfer Unit with torque management and a low range to enhance climbing ability and give outstanding crawl ratios of 51.2:1 with the 2.0L turbo and 48.3:1 with the V6 Pentastar.
If you’re a true off-roader, you should consider Active Drive Lock, which includes all the features of Active Drive II, plus a locking rear differential for superior low-speed traction in severe off-road conditions. Active Drive Lock is standard on the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. All Cherokee 4×4 systems feature Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system which allows the driver to choose on- and off-road settings, and has up to five customized modes – Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, and Rock. Automobile magazine believes the new Cherokee had off-road capabilities not found in the competition, saying, “The refreshed for 2019 Jeep Cherokee is not just a mall crawler, but also a capable mountain tamer too. Try the same trails in a RAV4 or Ford Escape and you’ll probably have to call a winch-equipped Wrangler for a rescue.” Car and Driver agreed, noting that, “For off-roading enthusiasts, it [Cherokee] may the only choice” in its class.
Upgraded interior and electronic aids make Cherokee comfortable and safe
The Cherokee isn’t all about climbing over and through the worst off-road terrain you can find – it also offers amenities for those who are happy driving on nicely paved roads. Look inside the Cherokee and you’ll find ergonomic seats trimmed in premium cloth or quality Nappa leather available as power adjustable, heated, and ventilated seats with memory functions. The center console has been repositioned rearwardly, creating an enlarged front storage pocket that doubles as a front media hub with USB ports and an electrical outlet. Optional features include 60/40 split second row adjustable seats, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a rear cargo area that now offers 26 cu. ft. of space with the rear seats up and 55 cu. ft. with the rear seats folded down. On the top-of-the-line Overland model, the interior includes high-gloss black trim with satin-chrome accents.
The Jeep team hasn’t forgotten about electronics. The fourth-generation Uconnect includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the choice of 7.0” or 8.4” touchscreens with pinch-and-zoom capability, customizable menus, and Drag and Drop features. The instrument cluster can be customized according to your individual taste, and more than 80 advanced safety and security features, like Adaptive Cruise Control Plus, Forward Collision Warning Plus, and Lane Departure Warning Plus, are available.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee will be produced at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Illinois and should arrive in Jeep showrooms in the first quarter of 2018. The Cherokee has a new face, a new interior, and new powertrains, yet is firmly a member of the rugged Jeep family. Official prices have not yet been announced, but given its capabilities, the Cherokee may be a great value in the midsize market segment regardless of price. Keep an eye on your Jeep showroom and don’t be left behind by your off-roading friends.