Cars are a lot like cakes. They come in many different shapes and sizes, colors and flavors. When you order your cake, you choose a base, like vanilla and then start adding on the glorious options like chocolate chip, orange mocha icing. Then you decide what you want on top? Strawberries? Iced "congratulations" or a simple frosting flower?
The Jeep Cherokee line is a lot like a cake. You can get anything from a plain vanila sheet cake at the base to a top-of-the-line tuxedo cake with mouse and lifelike edible flowers. As the Jeep (or FCA) option packages go, you can mix and match options to make the car for you. Just keep in mind every strawberry option you add costs another grand.
The Cherokee reminded our staff of the Toyota Corolla in a few ways. First, the driving are sufficient, stable, and doesn't rile the senses. It simply goes where you tell it to go with little fuss as long as you opt for engine other than the base 4-cylinder. Power is sufficient, but not drag race friendly. Handling is safe, but won't win any autocrosses anytime soon. As a grocery getter or daily commuter, it is a surprisingly mundane place to be. That is great for a Jeep, which typically beats up anyone inside due to the hard suspension.
The interior itself was quite a nice place to be. The instrumentation was simple with a neat command center between the guages. The dash was nicely sculpted and put the infotainment screen within reach of the driver and passenger. The air conditioning controls underneath the infotainment screen always seemed to be the perfect reach away. We also really loved the shifter feel. The leatherette and cloth seats in the Latitude Plus we drove we amazingly supportive and looked more expensive than they really were. Overall, we fell in love with the new 2019 interior and felt like we could spend hundreds of miles in the cabin on a road trip.
With the 3.2 liter V-6 in our tester, the Jeep always had power. The V-6 reminded us of a golden retriever who is always there for you. It was quiet and unobtrusive in everyday driving. When punched, it made a highly refined growl and launched us well into the next speed bracket on the speedometer. Combined with the stable handling (our tester had Active Drive II and the off-road suspension) even for an off-roader and you really start to enjoy this crossover. Even when pushed into a corner, the Cherokee communicates well as the rear end starts acting up and wants to push around. After a few drives around our test circuit in Boulder County, Colorado, we quickly became confident in knowing what the little Jeep could handle and when to back down. Overall, we were left impressed with the overall package.
Things are not all rosey with the Cherokee. The 2019 redesign got rid of the squinted headlight treatment and replaced them with a more traditional front-end. While greatly improved in our opinion, many people still find the overall design to be off-putting. Toss in the curvacious window line and the rugged Jeep looks seem to be missing, replaced with more of an import look and feel. This is a bit decieving as Jeep assembled our CHerokee in the Belvidere, IL plant. Whether you love it, hate it or tolerate it, the styling is still an issue for many, which could affect resale value.
Another compromise is interior space. The rear cargo area with seats down is just 54.9 cu ft and 24.6 cu ft with the rear seats up. That's pitiful, especially given the CR-V and RAV4 have about 75 cu ft in back. The optional subwoofer on our tester also ate into the space, making it much more narrow. The utlity of the Cherokee is stunningly not there. If you aren't hauling much stuff to go camping, it will likely suffice. Serious campers will need to get an exterior cargo box to make up for it. Our staffers thought Jeep would more synonymous with utlity. We tried hard to fit a few different types of bikes into this Jeep and failed. Wheels have to come and once in place, there is little room for passengers or gear.
Resale value is questionable too. Yes, the Wranglers and Grand Cherokees have pretty good depreciation numbers, some at 65% plus value at 3-years. The average is about 55%. Now that the Cherokees have been out for a while, we noticed resale all over the board. In fact, what we discovered was that lower end models like the Sport and Latitude had far worst resale than the upper trims like the Trailhawk. If you are considering a more base model Jeep without the upgraded drivetrain (Active Drive II and off-road suspension is optional), we think you should head over to CarMax and grab a used one. However, if you spring for the Active Drive II and Off-road package, negotate hard for at least $5k to $6k off sticker price. Going for the Trailhawk model isn't advised if you are looking for a deal, but with the best resale value, the Trailhawk model is worth the premium, just go light on the options.
As we stated before, the styling is improved, but still a bit polarizing. A few staffers thought it was a bit more feminine while some staffers justified it as Jeep trying to be a bit more modern. Either way, it is unique and you will be noticed on the road.
When ordering your Cherokee, make sure to pay attention to the add-ons. A base Latitude 4x4 model starts at about $25,500 and screams all the way up to $37,775 for a 4x4 Overland model. The Latitude Plus 4x4 we drove started at $27,995 and had a healthy bit of options. That luscious V-6 costs $1,745 and the Active Drive II/Off-Road package ran $1,205. Adding on the Trailer Tow Package and Cold Weather Group (must have a heated steering wheel) cost $795 each. While we would leave off the $695 subwoofer, the pain was in the $1,445 destination charge. But, the sticker shows a -$360 "Safety Tec Equipment Credit" which seems a bit odd, but we'll take it! Overall, our car came to $34,315, but advertised at $31,500 with incentives. Overall, this would be the Cherokee we would get. The Trailhawk comes with too much of a premium and the additional off-road capability (which most people don't need) compromises handling and ride quality a bit much. Spend a bit of time with the Cherokee Configurator on Jeep's website before you buy. We would also recommend spending time on the Jeep dealer's website looking at window stickers. If you are careful with the options, you can get a great car.
After spending time with our Cherokee Latitude Plus with Active Drive II, we really started to fall in love. While the lack of cargo space was gravely concerning, the driving dynamics, comfort, and go anywhere seating position really grew on us. We really didn't want to give it back. However, add just over $31k with incentives, it left us wondering if it was worth it. With questionable resale, Mopar reliablity history, and a quickly changing car market and economy, we wondered if a good used model in a year would be a better buy? We loved it, but for the right price.
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