By: Jag Dhatt
My first memory of the Jeep Cherokee was in the mid-1990’s, when it had the classic boxy shape (XJ). It looked like a Jeep, capable and strong. My favourite Jeeps at that time were still the YJ and Grand Cherokee, both of which I owned, and loved for different reasons.
Then, as we all know, transformations happen and the Cherokee underwent some design changes. Even though the new design was still slightly boxy, it had newer curves. The fourth generation went back to a slightly boxier look and it seemed like Jeep hadn’t really found the right look, just yet. And then came the fifth generation, the KL, completely different than anything before.
I’ll admit – when the current generation was first revealed in 2014, I wasn’t a fan. It wasn’t that the design was unattractive; for me, it just didn’t look like a Jeep. But over time, it grew on me and when I was handed the keys to the 2019 Overland edition, I was impressed. The extensive refreshes made all the difference.
Up front, the 2019 Cherokee Overland looks handsomely rugged. The classic seven-slat grille is adorned by new daytime running lights (DRLs), now sitting lower than before and sometimes get mistaken for the headlamps. This new light assembly fits into the Jeep lineup and really is a distinguishing look compared to last year. Staying at the front, the aluminum hood has a muscular crease which adds depth to the angle. The rest of the Cherokee received some needed upgrades, including new LED taillamps, upgraded bumpers, skirts and a lighter, composite power liftgate that can be operated by a swoop of your foot.
Stepping inside the Cherokee Overland is where one may feel slightly torn – do you like it or do you accept it? On the plus side, the Cherokee Outlander looks top-notch and probably has one of the most ergonomic interiors in the class. Everything is within reach, perfectly located and super functional. Our test Outlander edition was equipped with Dark Sienna leather seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood accents, and of course, the Outlander badging. The interior is very roomy up front and even the rear seats, although sitting higher than I’d like, offer good overall room and comfort. The downside of the interior is it lacks the quality and feel of rivals like the Mazda CX-5 or Honda CR-V. So, it’s a toss-up: do you want better ergonomics and layout or slightly better materials? Your call.
In terms of technology, you can’t beat FCA’s UConnect infotainment system, especially with the 8.4” display. Everything works; it’s quick, smooth, and has a touch display that supports both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Yes, a couple of the German ones are better, like Audi’s MMI system, but then that’s a lot more $$. One aspect that FCA does that I like is place the secondary volume and tuning buttons behind the steering wheel. While some hate the placement, it was fun fooling my kids that I could tune channels and control volume by what seemed like magic!
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee has three available powerplants: a 2.0L turbo four; a 2.4L naturally aspirated; and a 3.2L V6. Our test Outlander was equipped with the 2.0L turbo four that produces 270HP and 295 lb-ft. of torque, and is personally the best choice for 90% of buyers. It’s surprisingly quick for a four-cylinder and will probably make most think it’s the V6.
On the road, the Cherokee Overland delivered everything that most would expect from a Jeep in this category, but with a couple of quirks, which we’ll get to in a bit. The ride quality of the Cherokee is perfect for both city, highway, and off-road…to be clear, I don’t mean extreme off-road. The Overland isn’t Trial Rated, meaning no rock climbing. But it’ll do everything for the average Canadian consumer, and will provide a confidence-inspiring drive. The chassis is simply bullet-proof.
Off the line and in passing, the Cherokee is surprisingly quick, but you have to get the rpm’s higher than 3000. In the city, this SUV is very easy to maneuver, and parking is a breeze thanks to the back-up cameras. I’ve owned the Grand Cherokee and initially, I thought the Cherokee would be somewhat light with respect to overall feel. However, even after just a few days in the vehicle, this new Cherokee has presence.
A side story here. A friend of mine has made it clear to me that she doesn’t like the Jeep brand. We’ve gone back and forth many a times, but she’s always been adamant. Even when I said I was going to lease a Grand Cherokee SRT as my next vehicle, her question was, “Why?” I told her about what SRT and Trackhawk mean, but she still shook her head. What’s the point of this? Well, when she saw the Cherokee Overland, she was thrown by the badge. But after she sat in the car for a few hours, she actually admitted that it was much different than she had expected, and for the better. I think she’ll be blown away by the SRT, and maybe even develop a soft spot for the brand – fingers crossed.
Getting back to the Cherokee Overland and the minor quirks I had mentioned before. The gems of this SUV have to be the styling and turbo-four. However, Jeep’s 9-speed transmission has its downfalls. A few times, I found the transmission slow to engage. An example: when I back out of my driveway and change from reverse to drive, there’s a lag, and I mean a lag. And this happened many times during the week. Again, for the majority, it won’t make a difference. However, if you’re planning a get-away after a heist, this may not be the best option. Second, the engine noise can get loud, especially if you’re stepping on the throttle. Yes, the four-cylinder can be loud, but I believe that more soundproofing would fix this quite easily. And finally, the Cherokee doesn’t offer paddle shifters…yes, I’m reaching here, but if there’s a manual mode, include paddle shifters for us enthusiasts.
The compact and sub-compact SUV category is probably the most competitive in the automotive segment. There are a lot of choices, but in the end, the choice of vehicle is dependant on the needs of the buyer and his/her family. The 2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland is a competent, reliable, and capable SUV for any daily driver. And since it wears the Jeep badge, you know its off-road capability. I had a sticker on my Grand Cherokee that read, “God Drove a Jeep.” Well, if it’s good enough for God, then it should be more than okay for us.