- - Friday, May 30, 2014

For an extraordinary off-road experience, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee has little competition since this rough-and-tumble crossover is all about driving in any condition — but that includes taking it easy for a trip to the mall or date night too.

With an all-new design for 2014, this Jeep has a little less space for hauling than the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and the Kia Sorento, but it offers a generous amount of features, albeit with a bit more sluggish engine to go with them.

When you consider a small crossover for off-roading, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee can keep up. It also has the V-6 engine option, the same six-cylinder variety offered in the Grand Cherokee.

With four trim levels on the Cherokee, this SUV holds five passengers with choices of the Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk or Limited variety.

On the Sport, you can expect 17-inch steel wheels and all-season tires, full power accessories, keyless remote entry, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a handy 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seat.

For technology additions there is Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a 5-inch touch-screen interface, USB for connecting and an SD card reader. If you want to add more, you can up the features with the Cold Weather Group package, which will give you a wiper de-icer and heated front seats. Stand-alone additions include alloy wheels, a rearview camera and a CD player, which does not come standard on the Sport trim level.

On the Latitude, you get all of the above, plus alloy wheels, roof rails, fog lights, privacy-tinted glass, LED interior lighting, a folding front passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel that also includes audio controls and a 115-volt outlet. To add on to this trim level, there is a good range of choices from the V6 engine to front/back sunroofs in which the front roof completely opens. You also can opt for a higher-end audio system and 8.4-inch touch-screen interface.

The Comfort/Convenience package will give you a power lift gate, automatic headlights, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power driver seat, rearview camera and a remote start option.

The Trailhawk is the Jeep Cherokee’s off-road star and only comes in a 4WD with 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires. The suspension tuning is geared to dirt road capability, and there is also a rear locking differential, skid plates with tow hooks and an 8.4-inch touch-screen with satellite radio. To upgrade this trim level, the Comfort/Convenience package can be added, but with a panoramic sunroof that opens over the front and rear seats as well as  leather upholstery.

The Technology package option will add automatic high-beam control, adaptive cruise control, forward collision, lane-departure warning, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems and a parallel and perpendicular parking assist.

On the high-end Limited, you get all the Trailhawk features except the off-road goodies, but still there is the same interior technology features. The Limited also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and all-season tires, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry and heated front seats as well as a heated steering wheel. There is leather upholstery and a cargo cover with a rearview camera.

For additional features on this trim, you can opt for the same add-ons as on the Trailhawk, but the Luxury Group Package is the option versus the Trailhawk’s Comfort/Convenience package and along with a power lift gate you can add the features on the Luxury Group Package of xenon headlights, upgraded leather upholstery and ventilated front seats.

Under the hood, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee has a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. On the three higher trim levels you can choose instead the 3.2-liter V6 engine that ups the horsepower to 271 with 239 pound-feet of torque. For all trim levels you get a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Since the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is all about taking it off the road, for the hardy driver the 4WD can be had with either engine type too.  Taking that a step further you can choose between two different 4WD systems. The standard system on the Sport, Latitude and Limited is of a light duty variety, the Active Drive I 4WD system good for winter roads. On the Trailhawk, or as an option on the other trims, it’s the Active Drive II system with low-range gearing.

For safety, the 2014 Cherokees has antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front and rear seat side, side curtain and front knee airbags as well as the optional rearview camera that comes as an option on all models. The Trailhawk and Limited trims also have the optional  packages with even more safety features like a forward collision warning system that has an  automatic brake intervention when needed, a lane-departure warning system and blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alerts.

If you are used to Jeep Grand Cherokee luxury, the 2014 Cherokee redesign has stepped up in this department, as well. The interior has a quality look and feel, and the Jeep styling can’t be beat. The knobs and dials are ultra-easy to use and for passengers even the rear seat reclines. There is also plenty of head room, but passenger comfort does cut into the cargo space so that even with the seats down in the back there is only 54.9 cubic feet available for hauling.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s four-cylinder has been built tough to drive aggressively when needed; however, getting up to speed on the highway takes more time than the competition. With the V-6, you get a stronger bang for the buck — and it’s an easy drive, taking the highway and the dirt with ease.

For the off-road junkie, the Trailhawk trim stands out from the competition, but all around the 2014 Jeep Cherokee knows what it means to perform.

Should You Need to Know: Take note of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s four-wheel-drive Selec-Terrain dial offering choices of Auto, Snow, Sport and Sand/Mud modes. On the Trailhawk, you also get an added Rock mode choice.

Miles Per Gallon: The 2014 four-cylinder Jeep Cherokee provides 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The V-6 engines deliver 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Cost: The 2014 Jeep Trailhawk 4X4 has a price tag of roughly $29,000, but overall prices start for the Jeep Cherokee at $24,500 and can go as high as $30,000, depending trim level and added options.



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