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On and Off Road: 2019 Jeep Cherokee Test Drive Review

Necessity is not just the mother of invention. It’s the mother of re-invention, too. Actors and musicians are proof of that. Whether it’s because they feel the need to explore different genres or because they find more success outside of their comfort zone, they re-invent themselves. Certain performers get their start in television, then transition into starring in major films on the silver screen. Others make a fine living out of being one of the attractive faces of romantic comedies for several years, then decide to pursue roles in more dramatic films that enlighten us about groups of people that are different from us or share important social messages. Musicians reveal their inner thoughts during different parts of their lives and sometimes completely change musical categories as their careers progress.

It’s the same in the automotive industry. The Jeep Cherokee competes in the mid-size SUV category. According to the automaker’s press kit for the 2019 Cherokee, that’s the “largest SUV segment in the United States with more than 2 million sales annually.” The KL version of the Cherokee came out as a 2014 model with radically new styling, fresh powertrains, and its parent company’s characteristic off-road prowess. Now that revolutionary new model is five model years old in a market that’s ravenous for SUVs.

Jeep has responded to that necessity for change with the 2019 Cherokee. It’s more than a mid-cycle visual refresh. It’s a re-invention, inside and out. Designers updated its looks, most notably in the front. By trimming the front overhang, using an aluminum hood, tweaking the seating design, making the liftgate out of composite materials, and overhauling the Jeep Active Drive I system’s rear drive module, engineers have reduced weight by approximately 150 pounds (although the 2019 Cherokee’s additional content offsets some of those weight savings). While they were at it, they increased the Cherokee’s rear cargo capacity. They also added a new turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 to the new Cherokee’s engine assortment. Product planners slightly altered the trim lines, which are now Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk. Additionally, they updated the available infotainment offerings inside. Then Jeep’s media relations team invited me out to Westlake Village, California to experience the re-invented 2019 Cherokee on- and off-road.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Exterior

You can probably see the difference between the 2019 Cherokee and the 2018 model from 100 feet away. The bi-LED headlights and DRLs are now inside the same sleek units, giving the Cherokee a more refined, mainstream appearance. Five new wheel designs, including the Cherokee Overland’s 19-inch wheels, are available. The back end features restyled taillights and a redesigned and lighter composite liftgate with available foot gesture activation.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Interior

The changes inside are more visually subtle, but technologically significant. According to Jeep, “The resculpted center console front media center hub (USB port and 115-volt outlet) has been repositioned rearward creating additional space with the enlargement of the front storage pocket, perfect for placing mobile smart phones and other devices next to the integral USB port for easy access to connected services.”

Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s fourth-generation Uconnect systems feature faster start-up times, increased processing power, and high-resolution graphics. You can operate that technology through a seven-inch touchscreen, 8.4-inch touchscreen, or 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation. All units have pinch-and-zoom functionality and the convenience of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for hands-free iPhone- or Android-based calls, music, and navigation.

Designers added two new color themes to the Cherokee for 2019. The contrast between Iceland’s dark volcanoes and blue skies inspired the black seats and blue stitching of the Storm Blue package that’s available on Latitude and Latitude Plus models. You can now order the Cherokee Overland with a Dark Sienna interior motif of earth tones – many of which you see when you take a Jeep into the wild.

The team behind the 2019 Cherokee widened its cargo area by more than three inches, increasing its capacity to more than 27 cubic feet. In other words, all you golfers out there can now fit a set of clubs into the back of the Cherokee.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Performance

Jeep offers the 2019 Cherokee with three power plants. The 2.4-liter MultiAir2 Tigershark four-cylinder engine generates 180 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque, as well as less noise, vibration, and harshness than before. The 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 produces 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. A new 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct fuel injection cranks out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft. All engines route their power through a re-tuned nine-speed automatic.

EPA fuel economy ratings for the V6-powered 2019 Cherokee range from a two-wheel-drive high of 20 city, 29 highway, and 23 combined mpg to a Trailhawk low of 18 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 21 combined mpg. Cherokees with the 2.4-liter I4 and two-wheel drive get 22 city, 31 highway, and 25 combined mpg; Jeep Active Drive I models get 21 city, 29 highway, and 24 combined mpg. The turbo 2.0 is good for a 4X2 maximum of 23/31/26 and a Trailhawk minimum of 20/26/22.**

A Class III Trailer Tow Package is available with all three engines and enables a towing capacity of 2,000 pounds with the Tigershark, 4,000 pounds with the 2.0, and 4,500 pounds with the V6.

The 2019 Cherokee is available with the Jeep Active I, Jeep Active II, and Jeep Active Drive Lock 4X4 systems. The first can automatically switch from four-wheel to two-wheel drive – if available traction allows – to save fuel. The second setup offers low-range gearing and includes a one-inch ride height increase as well as protective underbody skid plates. Only the Trailhawk is equipped with Jeep Active Drive Lock with low range, a locking rear differential, Hill Descent Control, and Selec-Speed for just-add-steering low-speed travels over rough terrain. All four-wheel-drive Cherokees feature Jeep’s convenient Selec-Terrain system with Auto, Snow, Sport, and Sand/Mud modes; the Trailhawk gets those and a Rock mode.

I started my day with the 2019 Cherokee off by driving a V6-powered Overland model through the twisty roads of Southern California and alongside the glistening, deep blue waves of the Pacific Ocean. My passenger and I enjoyed more than just the breathtaking views, though. The Overland rode quietly and smoothly as its ventilated front seats cooled us off. I appreciated the peppiness of the sport mode’s throttle tuning as the V6 was a little too sleepy for the constant elevation changes and switchbacks in its regular state.

For the off-road portion of the event at Canyon Ranch Studio, I hopped into a Trailhawk with the turbo 2.0. I made fast friends with the Trailhawk’s 4LO setting, rear locker, and Selec-Speed off-road speed control. Even with its Firestone Destination A/Ts fully inflated, the Trailhawk had no problems getting over a stretch of jagged rocks, through a series of knuckle-whitening whoops, and up a long, steep incline covered in fine, loosely packed dirt.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Safety

The 2019 Cherokee is available with more than 80 safety and security features, including a frame that’s 65 percent high-strength steel, eight airbags, Forward Collison Warning-Plus, LaneSense Departure Warning-Plus, Blind-spot Monitoring, and Rear Cross Path detection.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Overall

Prices start at $23,995* for a two-wheel-drive 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude. Four-wheel drive costs an additional $1,500. Jeep has priced the Cherokee Trailhawk from $33,320.* You can see the entire 2019 Cherokee lineup at an AutoNation Jeep dealership beginning in Q1 of this year.

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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