There’s not debate that Jeep’s off-roading prowess is unrivaled, but what if you spend most of your time behind the wheel on pavement? What if you’re after a more comfortable vehicle to tackle the daily grind with ease, yet don’t want to sacrifice off-roading capabilities? In that case, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee will suit you perfectly. It proves that you can have the best of both worlds without compromising anything!
Launched in 2013, the fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee saw a drastic change compared to its predecessor. It got thoroughly more modern, both inside and out, as Jeep tried to graft their corporate fascia to the Cherokee. Being the first Jeep vehicle built on the Fiat Compact/Compact U.S. Wide platform, it’s actually a joint venture between Chrysler and Fiat and is assembled at the Toledo North Assembly Plant in Toledo, Ohio.
RUGGED EXTERIOR DESIGN
Visually, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee is quite far removed from its predecessor. The old Cherokee’s boxy shape is gone, replaced with new curved edges and sleek lines. The redesigned front fascia is especially striking, doing away with the square headlights and massive boxy grille. Instead, new ‘hawkeye’ headlights make an appearance, giving the Cherokee a more sleek and aerodynamic appearance. The grille is a lot wider as well, giving off the illusion that the car is much larger than it is. It gets functional inlets just below the headlights, as well as a striking lower bumper. All in all, the front end is unmistakably “Jeep”, but modernized to today’s design cues.
Around back, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee gets horizontal taillights instead of the vertical, square ones which were becoming outdated. The wide and narrower tail lights flow with the overall design of the Jeep nicely. The large gap between the taillights and the reflective lights at the top of the bumper also make the Cherokee appear taller than it is. Up close though, you start to notice just how compact and well proportioned it is, despite offering class-leading interior space.
The higher trims offer better wheels and sportier looking body parts, giving the Cherokee an aggressive look of being able to tackle any outdoor conditions. While it may not look as tough as Wrangler or as bold as the Grand Cherokee, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee does a perfect job of fitting right in the middle.
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee’s cabin has a quality look and feel, especially in the higher end models where more options come standard. The materials used are superb and the fit and finish is second to none. Jeep has invested a lot of time and money into making the cabin as robust and durable as possible, a wise choice given the fact that most Cherokees are owned by families with kids. The optional Uconnect 8.4-inch touch screen display is huge and easy to use. Anyone can get the hang of it right away, thanks to large menus, clear virtual buttons and an ergonomic knob for scrolling through the lists. It’s definitely a must have feature.
The driver sits a good height above the road, with a clear field of view making for great visibility and safer driving. Passengers get plenty of leg and shoulder room and an optional massive full length panoramic sunroof. Rear passengers benefit from seats that recline and adjust forwards and backwards. I did find the rear cargo area a touch on the small side as a large set of golf clubs was unable to fit without folding down a rear seat.
ENGINE AND DRIVE
The base 2.4L four-cylinder is Jeep’s tried and tested powerhouse used on most of the other models in the lineup. Outputting 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, it’s got a lot of power everywhere in the rev range and for a four-cylinder, it’s eager to rev too! Don’t expect a lot of straight-line performance, but it will keep up with traffic with ease. The model we tested was outfitted with the optional 3.2L V6 engine, outputting 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque and paired with a the new nine-speed automatic transmission, which is fast and slick, changing gears seamlessly. All models come with the choice of either engine.
Although both engines send power to the front wheels only in base model Cherokees, you can always opt for a four-wheel drive system with any Cherokee model. It’s important to note that there are two different 4WD systems available. The Sport, Latitude and Limited models get the light-duty Active Drive I 4WD system, which doesn’t require any input from the driver, controlling power distribution automatically. The Trailhawk and Overland models are equipped with the more robust Active Drive II system, and that comes with low-range gearing, a locking rear-differential and an extra Rock mode in the Selec-Terrain system.
Even with all the off-roading and four wheel drive capabilities, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee still drives smooth and quietly on the city streets. Body sway is surprisingly minimal considering how high you sit above the road. Acceleration is fast with the V6 engine and smooth with the 9 speed automatic transmission. Overall a pleasant driving experience within city limits.
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee genuinely feels like it’s in a class of its own, created by Jeep itself. Although there are plenty of light duty “off-road” crossovers out there like the Nissan Murano, the 2017 Cherokee is more of a mini Wrangler rather than a glorified hatchback. As far as our driving experience goes, the 2017 Cherokee is one of the only spacious, comfortable and luxurious SUVs on the market that’s truly off-road capable. Starting at $27,695, the bigger question you have to ask yourself is what level of off road capability do you truly need?