Three very different engine choices. The 2021 Jeep Cherokee features three engine choices, and they’re each quite different from the other. The standard motivator is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder with 180 horsepower. This engine struggles to move the near two-ton Cherokee with authority, but at least it delivers a laudable 25 miles per gallon combined, according to the EPA.

A 3.2-liter V6 bangs out 270 hp, which is more like what we’d want in a vehicle of this caliber. Splitting the difference between the two is the Cherokee’s third choice, a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. This one develops 270 hp while delivering 26 mpg combined. We think the turbo engine is the best choice.

True off-road chops. Some of the smaller SUVs available claim off-road capability, but none come anywhere near matching the Cherokee.

For instance, the Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road has only some of the equipment to go off-roading, but it lacks a true low gear and it doesn’t offer skid plates and other underbody armor. A gravelly road or light-duty paths are fine, but take care if you climb a rock outcropping as the result may be none too pleasing and the repairs, expensive.

On the other hand, the Cherokee is designed for off-road fun, especially in Trailhawk guise. That trim comes with standard all-wheel drive and includes a locking rear differential. That’s important for keeping the rear wheels spinning together, ensuring that your chances of getting stuck in the muck are small.

When not working off-road, the Cherokee supplies stellar on-road comfort, thanks to its four-wheel independent suspension. Sure, you can opt for a front-wheel-drive model, but that misses the point of owning a Jeep with serious off-road chops.

Jeep Cherokee

Comfortable, yet not especially spacious. We remarked how Jeep’s four-wheel independent suspension system supplies the Cherokee with a comfortable ride on the road. Beyond that, the cabin does a laudable job of making the driver and front passenger comfortable with ample head, shoulder, hip, and leg room. Add in the thickly supportive front seats and it's clear that the best seating area is in the front.

The rear seating compartment is another story. It's cramped and trails most competitors in comfort. Three people sitting side by side brings in a level of intimacy unrelated passengers might find uncomfortable. Even two tall passengers will find accommodations tight, especially when it comes to rear leg room.

On the flip side, the Cherokee offers very good cargo volume, 55 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Add in 4,500 pounds of towing capacity, and the Cherokee has laudable on-road utility too. In all, the Cherokee may be the best in its class when these two attributes are combined.

Jeep technology on display. Fiat Chrysler is a formidable player in all things technology. We think the company’s Uconnect infotainment system is wonderful, especially in its advanced grades. FCA was one of the early adopters of a tablet-style screen, which matches handheld units in usability. Even as many other manufacturers have caught up, Uconnect has remained true to its mission.

A Cherokee won’t necessarily offer the best version of UConnect until you move up to the Latitude Lux edition. That’s where the 8.4-inch touchscreen display comes in. It's bright, easy to decipher, and offers the shortest learning curve.

We also like that Jeep was one of the early adopters of smartphone compatibility with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Add in the requisite USB ports, Bluetooth, app suites, and an outstanding upgradeable sound system, and the Cherokee takes second place to no one.

Final thoughts. Besides the turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive, we think starting your search with the 2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude grade makes sense. Its price point is higher than what we’d like, but Jeep routinely discounts their models aggressively. Through careful negotiation, we think you’ll find a Cherokee you like for a price you can live with.

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