The big brands are all squabbling for a piece of the compact SUV pie. Jeep brings what it does best to the table: a practical package with real off-road capability.
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2019 Jeep Cherokee Overview
What's New for 2019
The Cherokee gets a substantial update this year, with both cosmetic and mechanical upgrades.
On the exterior, Jeep has redone the front fascia and headlights, which were a bit polarizing in previous years. The taillights, exhaust tips, and license plate placement change slightly as well. The interior features glossy accents and a new selection of infotainment options.
The big mechanical addition is a new turbocharged engine with a retuned automatic transmission to suit the change. The suspension and all-wheel drive system see slight tweaks as well, as part of a bid to save weight.
Choosing Your Jeep Cherokee
The Cherokee lineup includes a wide range of options and equipment, beginning with its engine lineup. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder unit producing 180 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque. The next step up is the familiar 3.2-liter V6 with 271 hp and 239 lb-ft. Where it’s not standard, the 3.2-liter is available as an option for $1,745.
Jeep’s new engine entry is another four-cylinder, but this 2.0-liter works alongside a turbocharger to produce 270 hp and 295 lb-ft. The notable figure is the torque, which doesn’t help with the towing figure (4,000 pounds vs the 3.2’s 4,500-pound rating) but does boost the Cherokee's performance both on the road and at the pumps. The turbo is available for $500 over the V6 on all trims except the most basic.
The turbo engine gets the best mileage of the bunch as well, at an estimated 23 mpg city, 31 highway, and 26 combined (for FWD models). The 2.4 and the 3.2 get an estimated 22/31/25 and 20/29/23, respectively. All three engines are routed through Jeep’s revised nine-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard on the Cherokee's Trailhawk, but it’s an option on all other trims, usually for a $1,500 premium.
The 2019 Cherokee rolls out with some well-placed standard features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All models boast at least a seven-inch infotainment screen with the newest generation of Jeep’s UConnect system.
For further option selection, Jeep offers five trims: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Trailhawk, and Overland.
Crossovers are still the domain of practicality, so spec accordingly – we recommend the Latitude Plus trim, which still allows plenty of room for luxury options and customizability. Most trims will have enough adventure readiness for the average buyer, but if you plan to spend a lot of time away from pavement, the Trailhawk will face some surprisingly serious terrain.
2019 Jeep Cherokee Review
With a new, more conventional front fascia, the refreshed 2019 Jeep Cherokee scores points for its class-above interior materials, available active safety features, and the off-road prowess of the Trailhawk model. But interior space falls short of competitors, the nine-speed transmission has been problematic, while fuel economy is only middling.
Prices for the 2019 Cherokee start at $25,440 for a front-wheel-drive Latitude and climb to $43,760 for a four-wheel-drive Overland. Two engines carry over from last year: a 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder as well as a 271-hp, 3.2-liter V6. New to the model this year is a 270-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. All three are matched to a nine-speed automatic transmission. All trims, with the exception of the all-wheel-drive-only Trailhawk, are also available with front-wheel drive.
We'd skip the base Latitude and Latitude Plus models and opt for the Limited 4x4, which brings upgrades that include leather seats, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated power driver and front passenger seats, an 8.4-inch touchscreen, satellite radio, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and 18-inch alloy wheels, along with access to a number of advanced safety features. Here's how we'd build it:
- Model: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4x4
- Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
- Output: 190 hp / 295 lb-ft
- Transmission:Nine-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Four-wheel drive
- MPG: 21 City / 29 Hwy
- Options: 2.0-liter turbocharged engine ($500), Technology Group ($995, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, park assist, rain sensitive wipers, automatic high beams), Dual-pane sunroof ($1,295, panoramic, power front, fixed rear).
- Base Price:$35,065 (including a $1,445 destination fee)
- Best Value Price:$37,855
For 2019, Jeep has updated the Cherokee's suspension with different springs, dampers, and roll bars, further elevating a ride that was already smooth. Both the V6 and turbo-four offer brisk acceleration, while the nine-speed automatic has been re-tuned for drivability over fuel economy, improving its performance, as well.
Three 4WD systems – Active Drive I, Active Drive II, and Active Drive Lock, in ascending order – offer everything from increased traction to true off-road capability. The Trailhawk model is the trim of choice for off-roaders with its improved approach, breakover, and departure angles, along with taller tires, skid plates, and tow hooks.
On the flip side, even commuters will find the base engine to be only adequate, while re-tuning the nine-speed transmission – which has been problematic in the past – may adversely affect fuel economy, which isn't one of the Cherokee's strong points to begin with. Moreover, the transmission lacks paddle shifters, handling is uncommunicative though competent, the top-performing turbo-four requires premium fuel, and its safety scores are near the bottom of the class despite available advanced active features.
Having eighty-sixed the odd six headlight look, the 2019 Cherokee's new mainstream front fascia is more cohesive and brings it in line with the upmarket Grand Cherokee, which is a good thing. It's wrapped around an attractive interior that's trimmed in class-above materials and offers a back seat that slides backward for more legroom and forward to maximize cargo capacity. The look is upscale with a soft-touch dashboard, door panels, and armrests, buttery smooth switchgear, and, unlike some rivals, there's no useless third row.
Skinnier than rivals, space remains an issue as bigger drivers might come into contact with the door panels and center console, while three adults will find accommodations tight in back. At the same time, storage space of 29.1 cubic feet with the rear seat pushed forward shrinks to 24.6 cubic feet with the seats pushed back. When folded, the resulting 54.9 cubic feet is at least 15 cubic feet less than the most spacious rivals.
The Best and Worst Things
The 2019 Cherokee's off-road skills set the bar in the compact crossover class. We only wish its fuel economy numbers and safety scores were better.
Right For? Wrong For?
The Cherokee's off-road prowess – especially that of the Trailhawk model – should attract family-oriented weekend warriors.
A long list of active safety options aside, the Cherokee's poor crash-test ratings could turn off safety-conscious buyers.
The Bottom Line
Despite unimpressive fuel economy and middling crash-test ratings, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee is a solid choice in the compact crossover class thanks to an upscale interior, plenty of active safety options, and segment-leading off-road skills.
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