You might be wondering why Jeep chose to go with such eccentric styling for the 2015 Cherokee. The answer is rather simple and it lies within the history of the model.
This might not seem that obvious at first, but the Cherokee nameplate can be considered a classic. Generations grew up with it after it was introduced back in the mid-70s and Jeep made a big mistake when it discontinued it after the 2001 model year.
Having realized that, the carmaker wanted the Liberty experiment, which hadn’t been all that successful, to end. So when Jeep brought back the Cherokee, they needed to do it with a bang. Instead of betting on what could’ve been a predictable retro styling card, their designers decided to think outside the boxy.
The result is a design that definitely splits opinions, but this vehicle is always ready to face any of its visual critics. That’s because the 2015 Cherokee is a very capable car.
We didn’t use “car” by mistake here. This compact crossover is one of the most driver-friendly in its segment, so you’ll never mistake it for an SUV
This is a far stretch from the Cherokee we were used to, but it’s all for the better. We’ll return to that soon, in the urban driving part of our review. However, we want to dig deeper into the visual side of the 2015 Jeep Cherokee for now.
First of all, this might sound a bit obvious but try to focus on the rest of the car, not on its front fascia, for a second. In case you need help with that, here’s a rendering
that shows what could have happened if Jeep had chosen more conventional front-end styling for the Cherokee.
It’s striking how well the two sides of the car are joined at the belt line - visually speaking the Cherokee has two personalities. We have the streamlined, upper side of the car, including elements such as the traditional Jeep seven-slot grille and the raked windshield. Then the vehicle displays a more rugged lower side, with the trapezoidal wheel arches serving as the perfect example.
The Trailhawk model takes the badass part one step further, coming with bespoke styling, including scuff plates and red-finished tow hooks.
Stepping inside (no, you old-school maniacs, you don’t climb aboard), we get mostly positive feelings, but the cabin is not without its flaws.
The design is a good exercise in melange, mixing a few elements from the Jeep tradition with modern cues, all wrapped around the practical purpose of such a vehicle.
The best embodiment of this comes from the dashboard. It all starts from the very top, where we find a storage compartment that also serves as an excellent holder for the smartphone we use as a backup navigation system.
Speaking of which, the navigation on the Cherokee could be improved and it mostly has to do with the resolution of the optional 8.4-inch infotainment system. This is about the only gripe we’ve had with the Uconnect infotainment on our tester. In fact, the system, which controls most of the car’s functions, is easy to use. For example. the menus are intuitive - From setting up the temperature to navigating though the driver assistance menus, our experience was positive.
We can’t say the same thing about the standard audio system though, which is why the optional 506-watt system is a must for audiophiles.
Moving on to the instrument panel. We love the retro theme of the rev counter, but what really matters is the screen in between this and the speedometer. Instead of the standard 3.5-inch display, our tester came with a 7-inch screen that can display plenty of useful information and is not only visible in both day and night conditions, but also highly configurable.
The interior space is decent, with five adults being able to travel in the Cherokee for short and medium distances. You can also adjust the rear seats, favoring either passenger space or cargo capacity. Speaking of the latter, the Cherokee can swallow up to 24.7 cubic feet (700 liters) of your luggage. And the car also packs a system that allows intelligent compartmentation of the trunk.
The cabin flaws we mentioned above have to do with the fit and finish of certain elements. The gear shifter is the worst part of the car when it comes to this, but some of the door card surfaces are not far in terms of poor quality.
Inside the city, you can have two Cherokees. The one with all the driving assistance systems and the one without the electronic goodies.
We’ll start with the basic car.
The Cherokee shares its platform with vehicles that appear much more prepared for a crowded city, such as the Dodge Dart and the Fiat 500X. Don’t let appearances fool you, this Jeep will handle urban driving just fine.
This crossover feels entirely car-like when it comes to driving and this is exactly what you want to hear inside the city. The all-round visibility is good, helping the driver stay confident. The only thing that kept our tester from being even better at the urban game was the engine.
Fiat’s 2-liter diesel, present here in the 170 hp version, is too laggy for the swift maneuvers that city driving sometimes requires. Luckily, the standard ZF 9-speed automatic manages to compensate, almost always keeping the engine in the lucrative rev range.
If we factor in the plethora of active safety systems fitted to our test car, the experience only gets better. The 2015 Cherokee introduces plenty of such features to the Fiat Chrysler Group.
The list includes the Adaptive Cruise Control
-Plus, which can bring the car to a halt on its own, as well as its little brother, the Forward Collision Warning-Plus, Lane Departure Warning-Plus, which also includes mild steering intervention and others. The idea is that all these systems work brilliantly. While they do their job perfectly, you never feel they are too intrusive and it’s all thanks to the calibration. The attention to such details goes down to the parking assistance.
If you’ve reached the full beep of the parking sensors and are still rolling, the car will apply the brakes on its own. While it will come to a halt before you hit the car in front/behind you, it won’t bang your head against the headrest either. And yes, you can override the system if, for some tight parking reason, you want to go further.
This auto-braking feature of the parking assistance system, which also includes a rear-view camera, is a brilliant piece of kit all carmakers should offer.
Even when you’re on the highway and you forget your turn signal on, the Cherokee doesn’t have to pack a hood-mounted turn signal like the 2016 Mustang GT. A simple warning issued by the infotainment system is enough.
When a car comes with so many assistance features, the overall result ends up transforming the vehicle altogether. As for the passive safety, we’ll go past the Jeep Cherokee’s ten standard airbags to talk about its IIHS
The mid-size SUV has received “Good” overall ratings across the board, with the exception of the stricter small overlap front crash test. This is where the Cherokee got a Marginal protection rating, mainly due to the driver space showing more intrusion than it should have. As a result, we’ll give this Jeep nine out of ten points for this chapter.
The standard motivation for the new Cherokee comes from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. With its 186 hp and 171 lb-ft (232 Nm), it gets the job done, but this is not a Camry - you can feel the four-cylinder is not exploiting the car’s full potential.
You’ll need the 3.2-liter V6 for that. And while it delivers a respectable 271 hp and 233 lb-ft (316 Nm) of torque, it won’t make you regret it when you get to the pump. Oh, and this powerplant choice also comes with a towing capacity of 4,500 lbs (2,040 kg).
Speaking of which, while the Grand Cherokee
does pack an oil burner for North America, the Cherokee leaves this treat to the European market. Old Continent buyers get to choose between two power levels of a Fiat-sourced 2-liter diesel.
There’s the entry-level 140 hp incarnation of the engine, as well as the 170 hp version. While we didn’t sample the former, the latter offered us a decent experience, but nothing more.
In theory, the maximum torque of 258 lb-ft (350 Nm) arrives as early as 1,500 rpm, but in real life you’ll have to go way beyond 2,000 revs to receive the desired push.
You can trust the car when overtaking, but having similar acceleration to cheaper and ultimately inferior budget sedans may leave you wishing for more.
Ironically, the gearbox, which saves the day in many situations and has a brilliant effect on fuel efficiency, is the weakest technical link of the car.
Chrysler continues to release software updates for the tranny, with ZF insisting the quality issues experienced by certain customers have nothing to do with the hardware part.
Truth be told, this is a revolutionary transmission, offering nine forward cogs in a compact package. This is why we’ll cut the gearbox some slack for now, hoping that updates, be they mechanical or software-related, will solve the problems.
The smoothness of the ZF 8HP, probably the best transmission of its time, has not yet been achieved. The 9-speed box, which makes use of a complex design to achieve its goals, still manages to deliver comfy shifts, but you can occasionally catch it out. Still, you can pull hard launches if you’re into that kind of shenanigans.
And don’t worry about the number of ratios causing the transmission to change gears all the time. Thanks to the intelligent spread of the ratios, it won’t. In fact, you can tell it at which gear to stop - pulling the lever to the left doesn’t engage the “manual mode” we used to know. Instead, you get to tell the gearbox which is the highest ratio it should engage.
Tipping the scales at 4,305 lbs (1,953 kg), the diesel Cherokee is only around 250 lbs (115 kg) lighter than an entry-level Grand Cherokee. But the handling difference between the two is massive, both on and off the road.
Even at ridiculous speeds, the Cherokee shows dependable handling, being pleasantly stable. We even went as far as turning off the electronics (they never seem to fully go away) and pulling a few sideways maneuvers, with the car being obedient. This segment isn't exactly the best envirnoment for performance range-toppers, but a Cherokee Trackhawk would be an incredibly agile crossover. Part of the credit for this goes to the all-wheel drive system. Our tester was fitted with the mid-level Active Drive II, which accompanies the Active Drive Lock and Active Drive I. All three disconnect the rear axle to save fuel when extra traction is not required.
Active Drive I implies a Power Transfer Unit (PTU) for also sending power to the rear wheels, while Active Drive II comes with a low range, while increasing the ride height by one inch (25.4 mm). The crawl ratios depend on which engine you choose.
Active Drive Lock is standard on the Trailhawk and adds a locking rear differential. In case you offroad enthusiasts are curious about the offloading-savvy model’s ground clearance, you should know this sits at 8.7 inches (221 cm).
As for the torque split, this sits at 40:60 (front: rear) in Sport mode. We couldn’t find any official mention on this, but it felt like the FWD
bias was stronger with Active Drive I.
Returning to the more civilized part of our tarmac driving, we must discuss comfort. The Cherokee offers medium soundproofing, but its ride is decently comfortable while the seats provide proper accommodation for long trips.
As for the fuel efficiency of the 170 hp diesel, we got 36 mpg (6.5l/100 km) doing 80 mph (130 km/h) on the highway and 27.7 mpg (8.5l/100 km) inside the city.
Before we hit the rugged terrain, we reminded ourselves of the vehicle’s suspension architecture. Up front, you get MacPherson struts and 6.7 inches of travel. At the rear, the Cherokee features a four-link setup with 7.8 inches of travel.
As we said, we didn’t get to sample the Trailhawk, but our Active II-fitted tester did a decent job.
This is easily the most capable car in its class when it comes to offroading.
While it doesn’t give you the “I can always plow through this” sensation the Grand Cherokee has, it will get you through.
More than anything else, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee is a trustworthy business/work partner. Imagine you’re enjoying and your job and are tasked with going on a business trip with a colleague. The Jeep Cherokee is that kind of DDD who goes on this trip with you, gets the job done and also serves as an enjoyable company when you have a free evening and go for a beer.
How expensive will that beer be? The 2015 Jeep Cherokee has a starting price of $23,095. Over in Europe, the Cherokee starts at EUR 32,900 (including 19% VAT - German market). Nevertheless, you should expect to inject some 10-12 grand in optionals to get a nice package.
The interior does have its quality flaws, while the ZF 9-speed automatic still isn’t quite where it should be. But we hope the latter problem will be solved in time.
Despite those who criticize the Cherokee’s appearance, Jeep has managed to build a strong identity here. This treat helps the vehicle step ahead of many competitors, whether we’re talking about the US or the European market.
Let’s say you’re one of the millions of Americans who are in the market for a mid-size crossover. After all, this is the largest SUV segment in North America. Sure, the Nissan Rogue has a marginally classier interior, while the Ford Escape (Kuga in Europe) may be sportier to drive. But none of its competitors give you the organic feel you get when living with this Jeep.
Over in Europe, the story is largely the same. On one hand, we have cars such as the Toyota RAV4. Largely credited with popularizing this segment, the RAV4 has grown into a bit of an overpriced package of mixed feelings. On the other hand, there is one Cherokee competitor that also feels organic and that is the Land Rover Discovery Sport.
The 2015 Cherokee is unapologetic and yet knows how to take good care of its owner. And that’s what a Jeep should be all about.