Jeep went out on a stylistic limb when it designed the current Cherokee sport utility.
As a replacement for the fondly remembered XJ, Jeep deep-sixed the classic boxy body for a radical, modern look that initially raised howls from longtime Cherokee aficionados.
But hey, there’s no vindication like success: The Cherokee is Jeep’s best-selling vehicle, leaping ahead of the stalwart Wrangler and Grand Cherokee.
And as usually happens with unusual designs, after a couple of years they don’t look so odd anymore. Same with the Cherokee: Now it seems just a tad edgy, but overall handsome.
Cherokee offers a wide array of models, starting with the fairly basic Sport at $23,595 for a four-cylinder front-wheel driver. Seven MSRP steps later, the range tops out at the Trailhawk L Plus at $35,195. Our tester was a midrange Limited, starting at $29,495.
But wait: You’d want the punchy, 3.2-liter V-6 paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission, and being a Jeep, four-wheel drive. Now you’re looking at $35.440. But why stop there? Pile on the Safety Tech Group, Technology Group, Luxury Group, Panoramic Sunroof, and a navigation/audio/connectivity package, and cha-ching, you’re at our tester’s $42,945.
That seems like a lot, but this peppy puppy really can do it all. Equipped with its off-road suspension and Active Drive II, rock- and pock-marked trails barely present a challenge. And yet the Cherokee delivers a surprisingly smooth ride on highways and urban streets.
The Limited’s attractive cabin sports leather-clad seating (heated and ventilated up front), with plenty of high-grade soft-touch surfaces on dash and doors. An 8.4-inch touchscreen displays a backup camera, full-color navigation maps and audio/climate/communication controls.
The Cherokee’s relative heft rears its head through turns, and also takes a toll on fuel mileage, which at 18 city/26 highway is on the low end compared with its SUV competitors.
Overall, though, the Cherokee is a solid, tough, go-anywhere machine that doubles as a comfortable, competent daily driver. It easily lives up to the sacred Jeep pedigree, while adding a healthy complement of safety, luxury and convenience features – all at a price, of course.