The Jeep Cherokee was taken off potential buyers' lists for one reason – the design. Will a change be enough to win over new buyers to the brand? Paul Maric finds out.
According to Jeep, one of the main reasons people weren't wanting to drop their cash on a Cherokee was the design. It didn't strike the right chord with potential buyers and as a result Jeep listened and took to it with the design knife.
Today, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee sports a much more visually appealing front end with revised pricing that adds extra value, along with safety technology across the range.
Kicking off from $35,950 plus on-road costs, the new Jeep Cherokee adds around $4000 of value to the entry-level Sport variant, climbing all the way through to $48,450 (plus on-road costs) for the top-specification Trailhawk model, which has seen a substantial price cut.
You can read the full breakdown of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee pricing and specifications here – let us know what you think of the value proposition in the comments below.
While the Cherokee officially goes on sale from October 1 with Limited and Trailhawk variants, you won't be able to buy the entry-level Sport of mid-specification Longitude models until early next year. As a result, we only had the chance to test the top two specifications – the Limited and Trailhawk at the Cherokee's local launch.
At the front end, you'll notice the split headlight design has been culled in lieu of a more conventional single headlight cluster set-up. To boost the lighting throw from the front, LED headlights are now standard across the range (with some models picking up automatic high beam – but not a matrix LED system) in addition to LED tail-lights.
The signature seven-pillar slatted grille is used up front, while the off-road oriented Trailhawk variant also gets exposed and functional red recovery hooks at the front and rear.
Inside the cabin Jeep has made small changes to improve usability, such as enclosing the electric parking brake switch, increasing space for things like mobile phone storage and littering the cabin with USB outlets. Up front there are two USB ports with a 12V outlet, while in the second row you'll find two USB ports and two USB-C ports, effectively future proofing the technology offering.
The entire range now gets either a 7.0-inch or a big 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system. The 8.4-inch unit we tested takes it to the next level in terms of speed and functionality. Switching between menus is seamless and even functions like zooming in and out on maps is done with no fuss.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard across the range, while the top two specifications get inbuilt navigation with traffic management built in.
Safety equipment is loaded into the entire range with AEB featuring pedestrian detection, rear-view parking camera, lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring standard on all models.
Interior fit and finish, along with quality throughout the cabin is good. Materials used throughout the cabin feel robust and premium, which is good news at this price point.
The second row is comfortable but is short on legroom and seriously short on head room. At 185cm tall I found my head sitting against the roof (both vehicles we tested had the optional panoramic sunroof). Knee room was also short with the driver's seat in my regular driving position (which is quite far back).
It's somewhat offset with creature comforts such as rear air vents and a centre armrest with two cupholders. Cargo capacity has increased by 84 litres to 781 litres with a more usable space that now allows a full-sized golf bag to be stored in the rear. Beneath the cargo floor is a full-sized spare steel wheel.
The Cherokee range comes with two engines depending on the grade chosen. The entry-level Sport picks up a naturally aspirated 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 130kW of power and 229Nm of torque. It's mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive and consumes a combined 8.5 litres of fuel per 100km.
The rest of the range comes with a 3.2-litre six-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine that produces 200kW of power and 315Nm of torque, also mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. It chews through 9.8L/100km on the combined cycle in Longitude and Limited trim, while the Trailhawk steps up to 10.2L/100km.
We only had the chance to test the 3.2-litre V6, but would imagine the 2.4-litre to be fairly sluggish given the Cherokee's mass kicks off from 1590kg.
Thankfully the V6 more than makes up for the four-cylinder's lack of torque. While 315Nm isn't a world changing amount of torque, it feels agile when you jump on the throttle and is happy to rev out, with peak torque coming in at 4300rpm.
The four-cylinder Sport comes with a 1500kg braked towing capacity, while the V6 Cherokee models offer 2200kg braked (with a maximum down ball weight of 200kg and 220kg respectively).
On the move, the nine-speed automatic does an okay job, but it can sometimes hunt for gears when driving on undulating roads or steep hills. A quick flex of the right foot drops it back through the gears and it's then on its way fairly quickly.
Curiously, there's a performance difference between the Limited and Longitude and Trailhawk models. Limited and Longitude models will move from 0-100km/h in 7.5 seconds, while the Trailhawk is a full second slower at 8.5 seconds. You can notice the difference behind the wheel too. The Limited we drove felt sharper than the Trailhawk and was more willing to respond to throttle inputs than the Trailhawk was.
Steering feel is good and offers ample communication, while the brake pedal offers consistent feel throughout its pedal travel.
It's not a sports car, but still handles its own through corners. The ride matches the SUV profile with a relaxed ride that errs on the side of comfortable as opposed to sporty.
If you plan on doing any off-road driving, the Trailhawk well and truly has you covered. Offering 221mm of ground clearance (in comparison to 185mm with the rest of the range), Trailhawk is built to conquer any terrain with a trademark Jeep 'Trail Rated' badge of honour.
It's fitted with a low-range four-wheel drive system and rear differential lock, plus a hill descent and ascent system. Speeds can actively be varied from 1 to 9km/h on the move, which helps it navigate rough terrain. An on-demand terrain transfer dial allows you to move between a number of preset four-wheel drive modes that change stability control intervention, throttle sensitivity and four-wheel drive settings.
Jeep set us up with some pretty hairy terrain to put the Cherokee Trailhawk through its paces. Nestled deep within the Victorian bush, the terrain was a muddy clay that quickly filled the ruts of the all terrain tyres. As a result, the four-wheel drive system had to work overtime to navigate the slush we drove through.
With the rear differential locked it was able to traverse split surfaces and offset moguls without too much fuss. Without the rear differential locked we found the V6 engine could flare on occasion, which prompted more wheel spin and harsher traction control intervention.
Handy in this situation were the steering wheel mounted paddle-shifters. They allow the driver to quickly slip between gears in a hurry. Trailhawk models also pick up rated recovery hooks at the front and rear.
While the fuel consumption looks good on paper, we found it to be higher on test with a mix of highway, windy roads and off-road driving. It came in at around 13.8L/100km combined during our drive.
Jeep offers the Cherokee (and its entire range) with the There and Back guarantee, which affords customers a five-year warranty, capped price servicing and lifetime roadside assistance (when the vehicle is serviced with a Jeep dealer).
While the guarantee is in place, it's troubling that the 2019 Jeep Cherokee, which is yet to officially go on sale, has already been recalled for an issue that potentially causes gas pockets to build up within the rear brake lines. Jeep is working hard to make better and reliable products, but constant recalls certainly don't help the case.
Jeep says that customers won't need to return vehicles to the dealer for this recall, because all affected vehicles are new stock yet to be allocated to customers. As a result, all recall work will be completed prior to cars being delivered to customers.
If you put Jeep's recall activity to one side, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee is a welcome improvement on the original vehicle. It's capable off-road, fun to drive on-road and comes loaded with features and while the V6 doesn't set the world on fire, the drivetrain is pretty impressive.