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2019 Jeep Cherokee: The Baby Grand

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 1/16/2018 TONY MARKOVICH

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and Jeep Cherokee Limited
The Jeep Cherokee sits in an extremely important segment from a brand and sales standpoint. Compact crossovers are the top-selling utility-vehicle class, with entries such as the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, and Honda CR-V among the best-selling vehicles in the United States. The Cherokee has been a solid performer for Jeep since it relaunched the nameplate for 2014, but there is room for growth. For 2018, Jeep has refreshed the Cherokee with a less polarizing look, an all-new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four under the hood, and improved interior packaging.

Setting priorities for what needed to change on the Cherokee must have been easy. Its design, with an insect-like squint and dual-light setup, was a point of contention among consumers. So, Jeep switched things up by reverting to a more family-like appearance. After launching the smaller Compass with styling reminiscent of its best-selling flagship, the Grand Cherokee, Jeep tweaked the Cherokee to look like a bigger Compass. Or like a Grand Cherokee twice removed.

Although the sheetmetal is mostly the same, the rear is slightly re-sculpted. The license plate recess has been moved from the bumper to the liftgate, which allows for a higher-stretching skid plate and a tauter tail. The taillamps remain in the same location but have been restyled to feature a slim, lighted underline. The Cherokee Trailhawk’s looks are differentiated from the rest of the lineup with more aggressive front and rear bumpers, taller fender flares, increased ride height, and 17-inch wheels wearing knobbier off-road tires.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk© Manufacturer 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

The biggest change comes in the engine room. Jeep added an all-new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four that puts out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. It features a twin-scroll turbo that’s mounted directly onto the cylinder head, stop/start technology, and what Jeep calls a cooled exhaust gas recirculation system. Also attached to the cylinder head is a water-cooled exhaust manifold.

The 2.0-liter turbo, developed using Jeep’s Global Medium Engine architecture, joins the Cherokee’s two other engines: a 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 that makes 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque, and a 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 that makes 180 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque. The 2.4-liter is standard in the base Cherokee, and the V-6 is available across the range. All three engines pair with a TorqueFlite nine-speed automatic transmission that has upgraded software for more refined shifting.

More important to Jeep buyers than the engines are the on- and off-road capabilities. Like the previous models, the 2019 Cherokee has independent suspension with MacPherson struts in the front and an independent multilink suspension in the rear. Jeep offers three different 4x4 systems for the Cherokee: Active Drive I (ADI), Active Drive II (ADII), and Active Drive Lock (ADL). ADI and ADII are available on Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland models, while ADL is standard on Trailhawks.

All three systems offer the ability to disconnect the rear axle, and will automatically switch between two- and four-wheel drive to maintain traction. The ADI has been completely redesigned, and Jeep claims it made the system 17 pounds lighter and reduced low-speed drag by 50 percent. ADII, which is paired with an inch of increased ride height, also has been recalibrated but retains its two-speed Power Transfer Unit. ADL now features a locking rear differential for the first time, and also sports Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system with five different settings.

Inside, Jeep endeavored to make the cabin look a little more upscale and slightly more useful. Satin Chrome and Piano Black accents are offered for the first time, and buyers have the choice of 7.0- or 8.4-inch Uconnect systems equipped with optional Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. Jeep also claims it widened the rear cargo area by more than three inches, and the rear cargo space now measures more than 27 cubic feet, up from 25. Pricing for the 2019 Cherokee has not yet been announced, but expect it to be slightly more expensive than the current model.

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