There’s always some conflict between our desire for progress and the reluctance to accept change.
It’s a tension particularly acute within the iconic Jeep lineup where designers and engineers constantly balance styling evolutions against the traditional cues held dear by stalwart brand loyalists.
Hence the uproar when the Cherokee name was resurrected for the 2014 model year with a new feral-faced, slash-styled, controversial design.
But, traditionalists be damned, the new Cherokee sold just fine, thank you, conquering a new market of crossover converts more concerned with contemporary convenience than historical lineage.
For a 2019 Cherokee makeover, Jeep stylists have the luxury of being able to take a leisurely step back with a less radical, less polarizing shift that makes for, as they refer to it “an authentic, more premium design”.
The controversial front treatment has been refined, reflecting more moderate upscale Grand Cherokee styling influences – the sharp shark nose blunted through a new front fascia, the six-light layout reverting to a more traditional four-light display with new LED headlamps with DRLS and underscored with available LED fog lamps.
The Cherokee’s new, wider track has been emphasized with trapezoidal wheel arches and also accented with new wheel choices mounting new lower rolling-resistant tires. A retuned suspension improves ride and handling.
In back, the license plate holder sits higher and the tailgate, taillights and tailpipes have all been touched up with complementary styling tweaks.
Open the driver’s door and a refreshed interior features new colour treatments in cloth or Nappa leather upholstery. The Cherokee also adds new console storage space and enhances the fourth-generation 5-inch, seven-inch or 8.4-inch Uconnect systems with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
Passenger volume is unchanged but customer griping about golf bags fitting in has resulted in a 76 mm (three-in) expansion of the cargo area, increasing luggage room by 84 litres for a 781 litre total (1,634 litres with the second row folded). And a height-adjustable cargo floor adds storage versatility.
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, a new aluminum hood, and reduced-weight rear-drive units, chopping total mass by up to 68 kg (150 lb).
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee lineup offers Sport, North, Limited, Trailhawk, Trailhawk Elite and Overland trim levels ranging roughly from $26-$45K.
Three engine choices include the standard 2.4-litre Tigershark MultiAir inline four-cylinder (180 hp, 170 lb/ft), the 3.2-litre Pentastar VVT V6 (271 hp, 239 lb/ft) and a brand new 2.0-litre turbocharged DOHC inline-four (270 hp, 295 lb/ft).
Tested here, we have a 2019 Cherokee in Limited trim, sitting in sort of the sweet spot of the lineup. It has the Goldilocks-like “just right” amount of included extras – Nappa leather-upholstered power eight-way front heated seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate and the largest 8.4-inch Uconnect screen system, now with enhanced processing power and graphics and including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Under the hood, this tester opts for the new 2.0-litre turbo motor, a compact but potent little powerplant, snarly in Sport mode but surprisingly smooth and civilized under everyday driving conditions. Fuel economy is rated at 11.2/8.0L/100km (city/hwy) with my real world averages working out to a respectable 10.1L/100km (comb).
Like all engines in the Cherokee lineup, the 2.0-litre engine includes an improved anti-idling engine stop-start system (ESS) and has been mated to a smooth-shifting nine-speed automatic transmission.
The 2019 Cherokee Limited 4X4 harnesses Jeep Active Drive I, a hands-off four-wheel-drive system that automatically switches between two- and four-wheel drive while offering Selec-Terrain mode choices with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock settings. This is Jeep’s entry-level 4X4 system, offering all-weather security and some off-road capabilities.
Other features worth noting for the 2019 model year include the ParkView rear back-up camera made standard across the lineup, new tire fill alert and capless fuel fill system.
The 2019 Cherokee has maintained a brisk sales pace since its unveiling, second only to the iconic Wrangler in Jeep’s lineup.
And, bearing the boast of being “the most capable midsize sport utility vehicle” in its segment, FCA execs have hopes that it will play catch-up to class leaders like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4 and Ford Escape.
It’s a complete package and, complementing its off-road prowess with a new look, new refined style and increased content levels, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee offers crossover customers a viable alternative in the ever-expanding mid-size utility market.
2019 Jeep Cherokee Limited 4X4
BODY STYLE: Mid-size crossover
DRIVE METHOD: 4X4 (SelecTerrain and Jeep Active Drive I)
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four (270 hp, 295 lb/ft), nine-speed automatic transmission
CARGO: 781 litres, 1,634 litres with rear seat folded
TOWING CAPACITY: 2.0-litre – 1,800 kg (4,000 lb)
FUEL ECONOMY: Cherokee Limited 4X4 11.2/8.0L/100km (city/hwy); As tested 10.1L/100km (comb)
PRICE: Limited 4X4 $40,495; as tested $45,645 incl.
Luxury Group ($1,295)
2.0-litre engine ($995) and more.
Destination ($1,895) and other fees not included
WEBSITE: Jeep cherokee.ca
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