Reviews

2014 Jeep Cherokee Walk Around

The all-new Cherokee doesn't get lost in the SUV crowd. It delivers style and distinction while clearly being a Jeep. Maybe best expressed by the grille, the seven Jeep slugs backed by eggcrate, one vertical piece with the aluminum hood, a unique design described by Jeep as waterfall. The hood has a hump as on a muscle car, made into a flat-black wedge on the Trailhawk. The slugs are bright chrome in every model but the Trailhawk, where the eggcrate is black, changing the car's presence. All around, the Trailhawk with its rugged touches (wheels, tires, fender flares, tow hooks) looks more Jeepish.

Other SUVs dream of looking like the new Cherokee. Sweet little slits that look like headlamps are actually LED daytime running lights with turn signals, while the projector headlamps rise in black fascia over the front bumper, like bugeyes. They're so small they look more like foglights, while the foglights themselves are even smaller, down at the bottom corners of the fascia, again eggcrate black on the Trailhawk.

The Latitude is less blingy than the Limited, and therefore better looking.

There are trapezoidal wheel arches, with sculpted sides leading back to where the Cherokee tries hard but struggles. There's a big fat horizontal concave in the liftgate, reducing the inherent slab but obscuring the Jeep identity. It could be a Kia. The 4×4 models have more black fascia in the rear, which tweaks some style out of the slab. Big LED horizontal taillamps extend into the glass with a top-heavy touch that's apparently aerodynamic.

Interior

Tight, comfortable, everything a function, easy to reach, stylish. They nailed it.

The Jeep Cherokee Latitude comes with cloth seats on the are rugged and sporty, fit just right. Perforated leather seats in place of the cloth in the Limited. The excellent fat steering wheel makes you feel like you're in control. You're surrounded by the right stuff in the right places: leather armrest/grab handle, deep door pocket and center console, clean and responsive center stack, trim like brown titanium, black vents, stitched leather on the dash. And many knobs. Knobs are good. But not too many.

The knob for terrain has four positions: Auto, Sport, Snow, and Sand/Mud. There's an electronic parking brake, behind the shift lever. Cruise control and audio on the steering wheel. Big dead pedal.

Digital gauges between the speedometer and tach are clear, lit organic white, including a display for the transmission gear; it sure is strange to see a 9 there. Navigation on the touch screen is easy to read, with basic buttons. We wish the radio had a dial. There's a lovely storage bin on the dashboard that can hold a laptop.

The standard touch-screen is 5 inches, and the premium one is 8.4 inches. The rearview camera display is big and beautiful. Connectivity goes all the way, including wireless smartphone charging, internet radio, voice-command navigation, media hub with ports galore, and UConnect access, that can do everything from call 911 to read incoming text messages to you.

We like the instrument panel's function more than its design. Jeep designers spent endless hours trying to make the dashboard fluid, like water, with lines like the wings of an osprey. It seems a bit foo-foo for a Jeep. That's what the Compass was supposed to be for.

The center stack is supposed to harken a '40s Jeep grille, and the vents are supposed to harken a skeleton. As for colors, it's a world tour. There are the colors of Mount Vesuvius, Kilimanjaro, the Grand Canyon, Iceland, and Morocco at night. Kilimanjaro inspired the cloth-and-leather Trailhawk interior. Jeep says the Masai tribe that lives there influenced the design (we didn't ask how). If your imagination runs with the designers, you'll see it. The hues are sweet.

Behind the front seat, there's a lot of room and convenience for passengers and cargo. The 60/40 rear seats fold flat in a heartbeat. The 40.3 inches of rear legroom is nearly 2 inches more than big brother Grand Cherokee has, because the Cherokee's rear seat is higher. The SAE standard for rear legroom measures hip to ankle, as part of the equation to determine the total in inches.

The power liftgate can be opened with the remote or pressing the electronic latch button, which is right where you expect it to be. To close the liftgate there's a button inside that's conveniently located but hard to see. Slide out your cargo and press it, it's right there. At night, however, we groped around trying to find it because it is not lighted. Pressing the remote also closes it, of course. The cargo cover gets in the way at times with its big flap.

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