2014 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 4x4
Time was when clambering over rocks and powering through muck would have been a major component of this drive, since that's what everybody thought SUVs were for. Now we know that they're really used just like cars, so we never put a tire off the pavement. More's the pity, as far as the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is concerned. If you really want to go off-road, your SUV search begins and ends here. More specifically, it ends with the Trailhawk version of the Cherokee, which has the most serious of the Jeep's three (!) available four-wheel-drive systems, with a locking rear differential, Select Speed Control (which functions like cruise control for off-road), and a low range -- although the latter comes on the mid-level 4WD system as well.
In contrast, our Cherokee Latitude, which is one level up from the base Sport, was equipped with the most basic AWD system, Active Drive I. The standard 2.4-liter four-cylinder paired with Chrysler's new nine-speed automatic completed the powertrain of this mainstream offering. Although nine speeds sounds impressive, it is less so in practice. The top four ratios are all overdrive, and the car almost never makes it into the super-tall ninth. The MultiAir four puts out a respectable 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, but it's overmatched by the heavy Cherokee, which at 3941 pounds is easily the porker of the group. With so much weight to contend with, and the engine's torque peak at 4600 rpm, the transmission is very busy, regularly sending the engine well up into the rev range, where it made lots more sound than fury. At the same time, fuel economy is unimpressive at 21/28 mpg (city/highway), which is no better than the far more powerful Ford Escape, whose turbo 2.0-liter bristles with an additional 64 hp and 99 pound-feet of torque. The Cherokee's available 3.2-liter V-6 offers a lot more power (271 hp) with not much of a fuel-economy penalty.
Aside from the powertrain, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee mostly made a good showing. "It feels really solid, supple, and refined," said DeMatio, who also praised the back seat for its room and comfort. The front seats, though, felt soggy and unsupportive. Nearly everyone liked the interior design and materials, and the available eight-inch UConnect touch screen was deemed the best here. The interior looks nice; too bad it's so hard to see out of. The chassis generally received high marks, although, as one driver said, "from behind the wheel the Cherokee still seems more Dart than Grand Cherokee." While the 2014 Jeep Cherokee has very good space for people, we were disappointed by the cargo bay, which is the smallest of the group by a substantial margin and suffers a high load floor—which seems like poor packaging given that the Jeep was one of the larger vehicles overall.
With a light load of options, the Cherokee's as-tested price was the second lowest here, at just a shade over $30,000. Our test example was missing leather -- which requires a step up to the Limited model -- as well as navigation and a sunroof. It did come with the $1995 comfort/convenience package, which netted a backup camera (an essential), a power driver's seat, keyless ignition, satellite radio, a power liftgate, and several lesser items. The Altitude package, with black exterior trim and 18-inch black wheels, bought a lot of visual punch for $500. The Cherokee driving experience, though, was defined mostly by the $1495 that wasn't spent -- for the optional V-6.
2014 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 4x4
|MSRP (with destination)||$27,490|
|Price as Tested||$30,485|
|Engine||2.4-liter DOHC I-4|
|Horsepower (hp)||184 @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque (lb-ft)||171 @ 4600 rpm|
|Fuel Economy (city/highway/combined)||21/28/24 mpg|
|CHASSIS AND MEASUREMENTS|
|Front suspension||Strut-type, coil springs|
|Rear suspension||Multilink, coil springs|
|Brakes f/r||Vented discs/discs|
|LxWxH||182.0 x 73.2 x 66.2 in|
|Track f/r||62.2/61.9 in|
|Curb weight||3941 lb|
|Cargo (behind second/first row)||24.6/54.9 cu ft|
|Legroom (first/second row)||41.1/40.3 in|
|Headroom (first/second row)||39.4/38.5 in|