The Jeep Cherokee blazes its own trail. When the Cherokee was redesigned as a 2014 model, it was both praised and criticized as different, daring, even. It signaled a break from tradition. Especially when viewed from the front, the Cherokee was unlike any other member of the Jeep family.
Not much has changed for the 2017 Jeep Cherokee, apart from newly standard high-intensity discharge headlights on all but the Sport model. Two new option groups (Heavy Duty Protection and Trailer Tow Prep) are available for the top-end Overland edition, which was launched during the 2016 model year.
Jeep calls the Cherokee a midsize, but we see it as more of a compact crossover SUV, along the lines of a Ford Escape or Honda CR-V.
The Cherokee nameplate is an old one, last used in 2001. The current models are fully modern, emphasizing capabilities in a variety of conditions. If equipped with four-wheel drive, the current version boasts a startling level of off-road expertise, especially the trail-rated Trailhawk model, continuing Jeep’s reputation for conquering wilderness trails.
Five trim levels are offered: Sport, Latitude, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk. Offered only with four-wheel drive, the latter is the Trail Rated version of the Cherokee. Trio special editions also are available: Altitude, High Altitude, and 75th Anniversary.
Two engines are available. The standard four-cylinder, making 184 horsepower, is smooth and quiet. Strong, too, provided that it’s not overloaded with people and cargo. Generating 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque, the optional 3.2-liter V6 has plenty of torque and performs without fuss.
All V6 models get Stop/Start. With a towing package, a V6 model can tow up to 4,500 pounds. A 9-speed automatic transmission blends with both engines.
In addition to abundant ground clearance, the Cherokee offers a choice of three optional traction assistants, providing either all-wheel or four-wheel drive. Active Drive I is the basic setup, for four-cylinder models. Active Drive II adds a dual-range transfer case. Active Drive Lock, with a locking rear differential, is standard on the Trailhawk. Additional skid plates and red tow hooks go on the Trailhawk, which has unique front/rear fascias and is raised by an inch.
All 4WD Cherokees include Selec-Terrain, with distinct modes for Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud, and Rock. Low-range four-cylinder models boast a startling crawl ratio, of 56:1.
Crash-test scores disappoint. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave Cherokee four stars overall and for individual tests, except for side-impact, where it earned five stars.
A rearview camera is standard, except for the Sport model. Active-safety features are available on upper trim levels, including lane-departure and frontal-collision warnings, blind-sport monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and parking sensors.