Trailhawk edition advances the Cherokee’s off-road credibility.
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.
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!
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?
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2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.