Dare to be Different: We Off-Road the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite 2.0T
THE GOOD: Powerful Engine | Handsome Physique | Incredible 4X4
THE BAD: Limited Cargo | Poor Fuel Economy | Slow Transmission
As much as we try to differ from the crowd of chocolate stained seats, 12-day old Starbucks crusted filled cup holders and being an over-stressed cubical junkie, at the end of the day we’re all the same. And so is all of our crossovers. With the same dreary performance, subpar fuel economy and ability to stuff a day of the big box store merchandise in the back, no crossover is really that different from each other. However, when it comes to Jeep, they always know how to add little bit of sizzle to break up our mundane life.
Jeep updated the Cherokee for 2019 to be a more road warrior component with a new 2.0-liter turbo engine option, upgraded interior finish materials, updated infotainment system, and revamped styling cues. Straying away from its polarizing agenda that got the general car community talking, the Cherokee carries a more grown up, urbane posture. Our Trailhawk Elite, which is a new trim level for 2019, conveys a host of off-roadable upgrades like 17-inch wheels wrapped in chunky all-terrain off-road rubber, steel skid plates front and back, a higher riding stance, red painted tow bars front and back, and LED lights all around.
What sets the Cherokee apart from the rest of the Costco crowd is its actual ability to go off the beaten path and then off that path where the path doesn’t exist at all. All crossovers have all-wheel drive that can cross a puddle or go up a slippery hill. But with the Cherokee’s Selec-Terrain system, choosing from Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud, Rock or just leaving it an Auto, can adjust the four-wheel drive system to respond differently to each terrain. Available only on the Trailhawk, the Cherokee can even get more complicated with a rear-locking axle, as well as downhill and uphill crawl control assist for more of the extreme circumstances. Having left all of our confidence in the four-wheel drive capabilities, we managed to explorer parts of the Arizona desert that no other crossover could attempt.
Considering those though that live the daily life in traffic, even in this Trailhawks off-road form, the Cherokee is quite a pleasant crossover to drive. Our sampler here arrived with the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder option. Developing 270-horsepower and 295lb-ft of torque – this puts it more powerful than the outgoing 3.2-liter V-6. However, there is a drawback to the turbo-four – towing. Towing drops by 500lbs to 4,000lbs max, whereas the V-6 can tow up to 4,500lbs. It may not seem like much, but an average size camper or toy hauler & trailer can easily climb into that max range.
The new turbo-four however is quite the champ of a little engine. Its torque comes in around 2500 rpms and sticks to its power through most of the rev range. It hustles pretty well too, getting to 60 mph in roughly 7-seconds. Continuing to use its 9-speed automatic transmission setup, it has gotten better of the years. The turbo-four pairs nicely with the 9-speed to help maximize performance and fuel efficiency despite its lack lustering slow upshifts and painfully annoying delayed downshifts. Unfortunately, without our 200-mile highway loop, we only managed to see just under 18 mpg in the city using the required premium fuel.
One would think riding in an off-road suited SUV would damper its driving quality – even with an off-road suspension, the Cherokee carries appropriate road mannerism to its drivability. While firm, its comfortable with no harsh road feedback and any unpleasant road vibrations. While the steering isn’t very assertive, its light and nimble with quick responsiveness. Even braking has its strong point with a nicely weighted pedal and minimal travel distance.
Inside the Cherokee has been fitted with more premium quality touches to make it feel a little more likes its price tag. With our Trailhawk Elite and its featured $2,995 Elite Package our interior hosts a handsome array of premium leather trimmed seats with heated and cooled fronters, soft touch materials, heated steering wheel, power seats and a load host of other options to feel more comfortable while cruising through the wild. The interior of the Cherokee is surprisingly very comfortable for its compact size, there is plenty of support from the front seats while the rear seats offer commodious space for all different sized passengers along with 2-USB outlets and a 110-volt outlet for rear occupants.
Technology is also on the rise in the Cherokee, entry level Cherokees get a new 7-inch touch screen display while others can opt for the 8.4-inch Uconnect system which now features an even more high definition display as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. With the $995 Technology Group: Adaptive Cruise Control with Advance Brake Assist, Collison Warning with Crash Mitigation, LaneSense Detection, Parallel and Perpendicular Park Assist with Automatic Braking and Blind Spot Monitoring all get fitted.
The Cherokee has definitely stepped up its game from just a few years ago being a more advance suitable daily mundane crossover that can add a little spice to some ones adventurous lifestyle. It’s much quieter and relaxing to drive, the kind of vehicle that can impress the in-laws when taking them out to brunch and then meeting up with the rowdy crowd in the desert for camping. It comes down to the price, and at $40,000, it’s a very hard pill to swallow. So hopefully your negotiation tactics are on point and the amount of wild off-road activity make it worth writing that monthly check.
|2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Elite:||$33,320|
|As Tested (including Options & Destination):||$39,950|
|2.0-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder – 270-Horsepower, 9-Speed Automatic Transmission – 0-60MPH: ±7.0 seconds|
|EPA MPG: 19/27/22 (City/Highway/Combined) – SSB Average: 17.9 MPG’s – Fuel Range: ±300 Miles|