2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4: Beyond the Nose

Trailhawk edition advances the Cherokee’s off-road credibility.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

The all-new Jeep Cherokee reminds me of my junior high school vice-principal, Mr. Bott. Like the Cherokee, Bott had a pronounced proboscis (not unlike Pinocchio), one that had us kids talking more about his beak than the man himself.

Until we got into trouble.

Bott was a holy terror to all who dared violate school policy at good ‘ole BFJHS. Unfortunately, I did just that and spent enough times in his office to become all too acquainted with “the nose.” Bott scared the heck out of me, although it wasn’t his face that frightened me.

Instead, it was the phone calls home, detention after detention, and threats of suspension that finally got my attention and set me back on the right path.

Still, some four decades later the only thing I recall about the school veep was his face. Had I looked past his nose, I might have learned a lot more about this man.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee may also have a case of Bott syndrome with its polarizing front end, particularly the slit-shaped daytime running lights that are so very unJeep-like. Unlike my treatment of Bott, I decided not to judge the Jeep based on its cover, but to go deeper with this small sport utility vehicle. That SUV was the Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4, the most rugged edition for Jeep’s newest model, and a recent weekly driver at that.

Just to clear up matters, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is a crossover, a class of SUV where the body and frame are a single unit. All Jeeps made today (except for the Wrangler) are of unibody construction, what provides much more structural strength. The downside is that these vehicles are not designed for anything past light-duty off-road use although the tested Cherokee is “trail rated” and can go places not one of its competitors can go.

Those competitors are legion and include the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Outback, Mazda CX-5, and others. The Cherokee is part of this segment, but it is a class above the rest especially when outfitted with a 4×4 system. But, I am getting ahead of myself.

Jeep Liberty Replacement

The current Cherokee replaces the defunct Liberty itself a replacement for the original Cherokee. There is no similarity between these models as Jeep took a Fiat platform and modified it to underpin the Cherokee. That platform underpins other Fiat Chrysler models including the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dodge Dart, and the 2015 Chrysler 200.

You won’t notice the similarities and most people simply will not care. The Cherokee is built in Ohio too — a true Italian-American!

The cabin of the Cherokee is a cut above the Liberty and is closer in quality and finish to the Grand Cherokee, Jeep’s flagship model. Soft touch materials, available leather seating and elegant stitching give this model a high-end look. The driver controls are sensibly placed with secondary controls located on the steering wheel.

The instrument panel features a pair of analog displays — tachometer and odometer — what flank a driver information display that yields trip and other information. The center stack holds what is perhaps Jeep’s crown jewel — I’ve given Fiat Chrysler models high marks for the UConnect system found in these vehicles. The color display is large and clear, the information presented is easy to figure out, and touchscreen access is supplemented by switches and knobs. You have voice-controlled access to the system too, but I prefer to key in that information myself.

The driver’s seat is as comfortable as any seat in this class, if not more so. My wife owns a late model Toyota RAV4 and I kept comparing my Jeep Cherokee experience to her vehicle. She loves her model, but I must say that this Jeep comes in better refined with features typically not found in this segment. Both models comfortably seat five which is the standard for this class.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Three 4×4 Systems

What the Toyota doesn’t have nor do any of Jeep’s competitors is a true 4×4 system. Sure, all-wheel drive is optional for all compact crossovers (standard with Subaru), but you won’t find a 4×4 system.

Before we dissect the 4×4 you need to know what is powering this model. Base models get a 2.4-liter four cylinder engine, but the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk comes equipped with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine. It is the latest in a family of Pentastar V-6 engines that includes the 3.6-liter mill found in larger Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles as well as a 3.0-liter V-6 available in China only reports Ward’s Auto.

The new engine makes 271 horsepower and is wholly suited for the Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler worked with ZF to develop an all-new 9-speed automatic transmission too, the first of its kind. Together, this Jeep has the stamina to handle off-road duty to the extent that no competitor can match including Subaru.

2014 Jeep Cherokee: To the Rubicon!

View manufacturer details and pricing

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee offers three new four-wheel drive systems. Active I is a single speed fully automatic system. Active II is a two-speed system with torque management and low range; Jeep Active Drive Lock is the third system with its locking rear axle.

The Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk is the transcendent model, what 4×4 fans will want and what I had the pleasure of getting dirty. This model is “trail rated” and wears a badge testifying the same. To earn this internal marketing rating, Jeeps must travel the Rubicon trail and prove worthy in several categories including: maneuverability, ground clearance, articulation, traction, and water-fording. Its 8.7-inch ground clearance and 17-inch all-terrain tires also work to give this Jeep some extra lift.

The extent of my off-roading was limited, but I did play with the included Selec-Terrain System and its five modes: auto, snow, sport, sand/mud, and rocky. Well, forget the snow — at 80 degrees there would be none of that. And as far as rocks go, the only worthwhile destination was more than an hour away. So I played in the mud and kicked a few stones around.

And mud was no obstacle for the Trailhawk even as it sunk several inches into wet clay. Back and forth I went with nary a hint that I might get stuck. If I had, there were tow hooks to pull me out — two up front and one in the back — painted bright red at that. Then again, the Trailhawk could have been used to pull out any one of its competing models that might have dared to follow it.

Props to Jeep for developing what is easily the best off-road maneuvered SUV of its class. Its not bad on road too as the V-6 bangs out a lot of power and the transmission shifts smoothly. Its fuel economy, however, isn’t particularly good — the V-6 4×4 model is rated 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway for a combined 20 mpg. For my 311-mile, one-week test drive I averaged 19.7 mpg according to Jeep.

Generous Jeep Amenities

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk brings Grand Cherokee amenities to the model line. A tilt and telescopic steering wheel column, dual climate control, leather touches, a rear view monitor and a navigation system were just a few of its many upmarket features. Jeep also included generous amounts of storage compartments including a cargo management system to the rear.

The leather group package ($1,295) included heated seats and a heated steering wheel; the convenience package ($1,895) added remote start, keyless entry, power front seats, a security alarm and a tonneau cover. Decals and an upgraded infotainment system added another $945, bringing the Trailhawk’s final price to $36,120.

That’s a lot of moolah, but if you want a much lower price then just look at a base front-wheel drive Cherokee S that can be had for only $22,995. Your other choices include Latitude ($24,495), Altitude ($24,995), and Limited ($27,995), with optional four-wheel drive adding $2,000 to these beginning price points.

And just in case you think Bott syndrome is holding down Cherokee sales you’d be mistaken. On sale since Oct., Cherokee demand is coming on strong, averaging more than 12,000 units sold monthly for the first quarter of 2014 — just ahead of the Wrangler and behind the Grand Cherokee. Others have looked past the nose — shouldn’t you?

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4

  • Sticker price from $29,495
  • Price as tested: $36,120
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 3.2-liter 24-valve turbocharged V-6 engine
  • 271 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
  • 239 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,400 rpm
  • 3.58 inches bore by 3.27 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10:7-to-1
  • 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 107 inches
  • Length: 182 inches
  • Width: 74.9 inches
  • Height: 67.8 inches
  • Passenger volume: 128 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 24.6/54.9 cubic feet
  • Towing: 1,000 pounds (std.); 2,000 lbs. (Class II); 4,500 lbs. (Class III)
  • EPA: 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 15.8 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 4,044 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick
  • Safety features: 10 airbags including driver knee and thorax airbag
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 5 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Toledo, Ohio

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

New York: 2015 Hyundai Sonata on Display

A midsize sedan with a large interior.

The New York Auto Show is all about technology so it seemed fitting that the 2015 Hyundai Sonata would use that venue to showcase “what’s new” from this Korean car manufacturer. The seventh generation Sonata was unveiled this week, a model replete with new and updated technologies including the latest version of its BlueLink infotainment system.

2015 Hyundai Sonata

2015 Hyundai Sonata

The changeover from sixth to seventh generation is much less dramatic than the one that moved this large sedan from its fifth to sixth generation. The “large” categorization is how the EPA sees this vehicle, measuring interior capacity that leads the midsize segment.

For marketing and comparison purposes the 2015 Hyundai Sonata is a midsize sedan. Its many competitors include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat and its corporate cousin, the Kia Optima.

Cleaner, More Sophisticated Lines

The Sonata’s exterior represents the latest iteration of its design language or what Hyundai calls “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0.” The new design includes a larger and sleeker grille along with a wider air intake.

From front to back the sedan features character lines that push back along the hood, extending from the headlamps to the front pillar, running from the top of the front wheel wells to the trunk, and offering a creased presentation just above the rocker panels.

The rear treatment includes wrap around tail lights with LED touches. With the 2.0T edition, a rear diffuser with quad exhausts tips and 18-inch alloy wheels gives this model a special look.

Chris Chapman, chief designer, Hyundai Design North America noted, “With the 2011 Sonata, Hyundai took the mid-size sedan from a meal to a gourmet dinner. The evolution to Fluidic Sculpture 2.0’s more taut, modern lines reflect the improvements in refinement and driving dynamics for 2015.”

Smarter Interior Layout

Inside, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata offers a cleaner and more sophisticated layout with the automaker noting that controls are grouped logically and are conveniently placed for the driver. The audio and navigation displays were moved to optimize driver visibility.

Every Sonata model provides generous amounts of technology including SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, auxiliary input jacks, and iPod/USB ports. An 8-inch navigation system is available, providing improved touch, better mapping, and a music split screen.

Hyundai’s Blue Link system has been updated to include the latest features such as destination search powered by Google, remote start, and a driver app for scheduling service at a Hyundai dealership.

Quieter Interior

Hyundai claims that it has reduced noise by increasing the amount of sound deadening materials in the dashboard and changing the size of the bulkhead openings. Its engineers also tuned the engine notes and added additional sound absorption materials in the floor plan.

The underbody tray itself is now made of a fibrous glass expansion board that has the dual purpose of containing sound and improving aerodynamics. And as for aerodynamics the 2015 Hyundai Sonata comes in at a slippery drag coefficient of 0.27, lower than any sedan in its class except for hybrid models.

Powertrain Choices

As before, Hyundai continues with its two four cylinder engine strategy, offering a reworked 2.4-liter four cylinder engine standard. Hyundai engineers shifted the power band downward and added new electronic intake continuously variable valve timing to reduce emissions. This engine is rated at 185 horsepower and 178 foot-pounds of torque.

An available 2.0-liter turbocharged four returns, what powers the Sport 2.0T models. For 2015 a smaller turbine and wheel compressor were added to increase torque and engine responsiveness. This engine is rated at 245 horsepower with an output of 260 foot-pounds of torque. Both engines are paired with six-speed automatic transmissions with manual shift capabilities.

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata hits showrooms by early summer. All US models are built at Hyundai’s factory in Montgomery, Alabama.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata photos courtesy of Hyundai.

2015 Toyota Camry Overhaul Breaks Cover

2015 Toyota Camry

2015 Toyota Camry

Best selling sedan receives a makeover.

The current generation Toyota Camry rolled out for the 2012 model year, as mild of an update as you might find. The overall dimensions of the model remained the same and critics faulted Toyota for playing it safe as it sought to retain its position as the best selling car model in America.

2015 Toyota Camry

Well, the days of playing it safe for Toyota may be a thing of the past if the 2015 Toyota Camry is an indicator. America’s best seller is not all-new, but for a mid product cycle refresh it offers many more changes than what are typically provided.

Indeed, Toyota says that it stripped the current generation down to its chassis and rebuilt it. The 2015 edition has 2,000 new parts although its powertrain choices remain the same. No matter, it was the bland skin that bothered many shoppers, a problem solved by crafting a whole new exterior.

Bob Carter, senior vice president of automotive operations of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc., admitted as much as he presented the Camry at the 2014 New York International Auto Show. “Customers today love the durability, quality and value that the Camry represents, but they are looking for a little more style, comfort and performance, and this 2015 Camry has all of the above.”

Stiff Competition

Clearly, Toyota could not wait for the next generation model to refresh the Camry. Its chief competitors — Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the Ford Fusion — have been gaining ground in recent years with bold styling and fresh powertrains the difference. Other competitors have jumped in with new models too including the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy and the Chrysler 200.

The Camry’s entire exterior except for the roof has been changed for 2015. This model measures 1.8 inches longer than the 2014 edition and the track was widened by 0.4 inches to help underscore its more athletic stance. Its front fender has a more confident look and its grille has taken on trapezoidal proportions.

New headlamps punctuate the front fascia with turn signal indicators and daytime running lamps integrated for an upscale look. To the rear the Camry features reworked tail lamps that push up into the leading edge of the trunk. Toyota also applied decorative trim along the inside of the tail lamps for visual enhancement.

No Powertrain Changes

Under the hood, buyers will continue to choose from either a 2.5-liter four cylinder engine or a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Both motors are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Toyota Camry Hybrid also returns, retaining the same Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter four cylinder it has always used. It remains paired with a continuously variable transmission.

Inside, the Toyota Camry makes use of premium materials. The center console tray has been redesigned for increased capacity and a power source has been added to the storage box. The enclosed bin located forward of the shifter includes 12-volt and USB ports as well as wireless charging system for smartphones, a segment-first feature.

The Camry’s instrument panel receives a new 4.2-inch TFT screen flanked by three-dimensional Optitron gauges on the SE, XLE and XSE (new) models. Audio, navigation, warnings and communication information are displayed on the screen.

Premium Seating and Noise Control

Toyota also gave seating surfaces a more refined look with those changes differing by model. Premium cloth is standard with genuine leather and ultrasuede available, adorned with French stitching.

Toyota’s engineers were also tasked with making the cabin quieter in a bid to reduce wind and road noise. Upgraded window and door seals, thicker carpeting and redesigned mirrors collectively contribute to reduce noise.

Will the changes be enough to keep the Toyota Camry on top of the midsize sedan segment as well as keep it the best selling car in America? That seems likely as long as pricing follows. Given Toyota’s resolve, the Camry should continue to keep its competitors at bay at least for another year.

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Photo courtesy of Toyota.