- What’s Best: New power choices, new content, new tech and a handsome, less polarizing evolution of design.
- What’s Worst: Not a lot but slight turbo lag with the new 2.0-litre four-cylinder. There is less weight, more cargo space but still not quite up to par with the rest of the pack of competitors in those measurements.
- What’s Interesting: Sales stats are surprising. Canadians buy proportionally more V6s, more 4X4s and more Trailhawks than U.S. counterparts.
THOUSAND OAKS, CA: “Just a little to the left!” the instructor said from in front of the Jeep, gesturing with somewhat emphatic hand signals.
“Okay,” I muttered but, frankly, I couldn’t quite see how “a little to the left” was going to solve the problem of a ginormous jumble of freakin’ rocks.
But I have learned not to doubt the Jeep Cherokee.
Others learned that lesson when Jeep’s modern midsize was first resurrected five years ago.
And there were no shortage of doubters – traditionalists who swooned and palpitated at the sight of the 2014 Cherokee’s feral face, slash-style DRLs and edgy styling lines.
But, while old heritage Jeep cues are fine for riding in parades while wearing old uniforms and a tin pot on your head, the Cherokee was designed with another mission in mind – conquering new customers in a burgeoning SUV/CUV market.
I also learned not to doubt Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk performance a few years later when we carved a path along Hell’s Revenge Trail in Moab, Utah, piloting first generation models over rugged trails, chugging our shiny Soccer Mom utes up steep, rocky inclines past aggrieved enthusiasts standing perplexed beside their lifted and modified 4X4s.
“Is this the way to the mall?” I called out to them just for fun.
So, yes, clenching the wheel of a brand new, second-generation model last week in California, it was no problem pushing aside any doubts, turning a little left and wriggling the 2019 Jeep Cherokee through the rock-strewn rubble.
But, while it’s nice to have Jeep consistencies in life, there have been changes made for 2019.
Much as I liked the radical design departure of the 2014 original, let’s admit it was a little polarizing.
The new “authentic, more premium” and somewhat dialed-down design for 2019 refines the face of the Cherokee, reverting from a six-light layout to a more traditional four-light display with DRLs inside new LED headlamp assemblies and available LED fog lamps mounted below.
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The look, leaning more toward an upscale Grand Cherokee influence, comes complete with a blunted shark nose front end, trapezoidal wheel arches, a wider track and new wheel choices with new lower rolling-resistance tires.
A revised rear end treatment touches up taillights, tailpipes and tailgate, moving the licence plate up from the bumper.
Inside, a refreshed interior adds console storage space, new colour treatments in cloth or Nappa leather upholstery, and enhances the fourth-generation five-inch, seven-inch or 8.4-inch Uconnect systems with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Passenger volume is unchanged but there was always some griping about golf bags fitting in, so the cargo area has been widened by 76 mm (3 in) increasing luggage room by 79 litres for a 781 litre total (1634 litres with the second row folded).
A lighter composite tailgate offers an available hands-free powered version that opens with a foot swipe under the bumper. Other weight-saving measures include a shorter overhang, new aluminum hood, and reduced-weight rear-drive units, chopping total weight by 68 kg (150 lb).
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee lineup ranges in price from $29,995-$46,095 through Sport, North, Trailhawk, Limited and Overland trim levels.
There are three engine choices this year – the standard 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir inline-four (180 hp, 170 lb/ft), the 3.2-litre Pentastar VVT V6 (271 hp, 239 lb/ft) and a new 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four (270 hp, 295 lb/ft).
I spent most of my seat time testing the new 2.0-litre turbo, a potent little powerplant, snarly in Sport mode but surprisingly smooth and civilized under normal driving conditions. All three engines have added anti-idling ESS systems and have been recalibrated for better performance through the nine-speed automatic.
There are 4X2 entry-level models and three different degrees of 4X4 power delivery. Selec-Terrain with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock settings, complements Jeep Active Drive I, a hands-off system that automatically switches between two- and four-wheel drive. Then there is Jeep Active Drive II with a two-speed transfer case, or Jeep Active Drive Lock, with a locking rear differential designed exclusively for the off-road capable Trailhawk model.
Other features worth noting for 2019 include the ParkView rear back-up camera made standard across the lineup, new tire fill alert, capless fuel fill, a height-adjustable cargo floor, new heated rear seats in the top-of-the-line Overland and various other trim-specific package tweaks.
The Cherokee is the best-selling Jeep in Canada and rightfully earns Jeep’s boast of being “the most capable midsize sport utility vehicle” in its segment.
But, with a goal of catching up to the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape competitors that currently outsell Cherokee by a rate of two-to-one, Jeep’s hope is that the new 2019 Cherokee will complement off-road prowess with a new look, new refined style and increased content levels to make new inroads into uncharted sales territory within the rapidly expanding compact utility market.
2019 Jeep Cherokee
BODY STYLE: mid-size crossover SUV.
DRIVE METHOD: 4X2 or 4X4 (SelecTerrain and Jeep Active Drive I, Jeep Active Drive II and Jeep Active Lock)
ENGINES: 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir inline four-cylinder (180 hp, 170 lb/ft), 3.2-litre Pentastar VVT V6 (271 hp, 239 lb/ft), 2.0-litre turbocharged inline four-cylinder (270 hp, 295 lb/ft), all through a nine-speed automatic transmission.
CARGO: 781 litres behind rear seat, 1,634 litres with rear seat folded
TOWING CAPACITY: 2.4-litre, 907 kg (2,000 lb); 3.2-litre, 2,041 kg (4,500 lb); 2.0-litre, 1,800 kg (4,000 lb).
FUEL ECONOMY: TBD
Sport 4X2 $29,995, Sport 4X4 $32,495
North 4X2 $33,495, North 4X4 $35,995
Trailhawk 4X4 $38,995
Limited 4X2 $36,995, Limited 4X4 $40,495
Overland 4X2 $43,595, Overland 4X4 $46,095
WEB SITE: www.jeep.ca
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