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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jeep Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee is a compact or mid-size SUV that debuted in the 1970's, but vanished again in the early 2000's. It's coming back to the market as a 2014 model, but this time as a car-based crossover. Available with a four-cylinder or V-6 engine, the Cherokee is a family-friendly vehicle with some off-road credibility built into its Trailhawk trim. It competes with other crossovers like the Toyota RAV4, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe and Ford Escape.

The Cherokee hasn’t always been so neat and family-oriented, however. Earlier Jeep Cherokee models from the 1970s (from 1974 on) were shortened, compact versions of the big body-on-frame Jeep Wagoneer SUV—two-door first, later two- or four-door—powered mostly by big V-8 engines.

Utility vehicles were given a major evolutionary kick beginning in 1984 with the introduction of the game-changing 'XJ' Cherokee. A completely new unibody vehicle, with four- or six-cylinder engines (even a diesel for a time) and two- or four-wheel drive, this Cherokee arguably led the way for modern crossover vehicles, with its lighter-weight, somewhat car-influenced body structure, yet with solid axles (and a leaf-spring rear suspension) that aided off-road ability yet left a lot to be desired in on-road ride.

That Cherokee was discontinued for 2001; then for 2002 a new Jeep Liberty model line was introduced—and sold in some other non-U.S. parts of the world as a Cherokee. That model went through two generations (2002-2007 and 2008-2012) before its pending replacement by an all-new model based on a Fiat platform and some of the same underpinnings of the already introduced Dodge Dart sedan.

Compared to the Liberty, which while rugged was never all that comfortable, refined, or space-efficient, the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee takes on some of the most popular entries in the compact crossover market—including the CR-V and RAV4—and not only brings back the Cherokee name but a roomier, more versatile interior layout. And most notably, perhaps, it breaks in with all-new front-end styling, including narrow ‘eyebrow’ headlamps and a version of Jeep’s slotted grille, split between an upright snout and a low, curved, aerodynamic hoodline.

With a five-seat layout and an adult-sized second row that slides fore and aft, plus a special cargo-management system available in back, this is a useful family vehicle. A 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, making 184 hp, and hooked to a new nine-speed automatic transmission—enabling an EPA highway rating of up to 31 mpg highway. Those who want to tow (up to 4,500 pounds) or just want more power can select the 271-hp, 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6, also with the nine-speed.

The 2014 Cherokee also takes a big step up from the Liberty in terms of cabin appointments, and especially features. Memory heated/ventilated seats are on offer, along with an 8.4-inch Uconnect media center and Uconnect Access via Mobile. And Jeep’s compact entry has jumped toward the head of the pack in safety with bind-spot monitoring, advanced lane departure warning, and cross-path detection, plus a ParkSense parking assist feature.

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