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Jeep Cherokee KL (2013-present): Review, Problems, Specs

The fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee is a big departure from its predecessors, mostly from a design point of view. The designers' bold approach made the Cherokee instantly recognizable, but the compact SUV also has substance behind its daring looks. It's one of the best models off-road, and it does a pretty good job on the road as well. The Cherokee KL's handling is the most significant improvement over its predecessor, but Jeep has made considerable progress with the interior as well. The thing with the latest Cherokee is it doesn't excel in any area except off-road capabilities.


Pros & Cons
Strong Points

Pros


Strong Points
  • Unique off-road capability for the segment (Trailhawk model)
  • Spacious interior
  • Fuel-efficient diesel engines (in Europe)
  • Good standard equipment

Recommended Versions
Strong Points

Cons


Weak Points
  • Sluggish four-cylinder models
  • Smaller trunk than some rivals

Stay Away From
  • Base four-cylinder engines (gasoline and diesel)
Strong Points

Attention


Known Problems & Recalls
  • Certain 2014-2016 Jeep Cherokees equipped with the power liftgate option were recalled in June and December 2015 to inspect the Power Liftgate Control Module and connectors for corrosion.
  • Some 2015 Cherokees were recalled in October 2015 to inspect the routing of the air conditioning hose and replace any misrouted hose.
  • Jeep recalled certain 2014-2015 Cherokees in July 2015 to solve software vulnerabilities that would have allowed third-party access to vehicle networked control systems.
  • Some 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokees were recalled in January 2015 to re-flash the software for the occupant restraint control module. That was done to prevent unintended side curtain and seat airbag deployment during vehicle operation.
  • Jeep recalled certain 2014 Jeep Cherokees in July 2014 to inspect the rear shocks and replace those with insufficient welds.

Car Details
Powertrain

The Jeep Cherokee is available with a standard naturally aspirated 2.4-liter Tigershark engine in the United States. With 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque, the unit is rather weak for the Cherokee. Furthermore, the standard 9-speed automatic transmission can be slow to downshift when the driver needs to accelerate quickly. With 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque, the optional 3.2-liter V6 delivers better performance but is pricier. In Europe, the Cherokee is also offered with diesel engines: a 2.0-liter with 140 PS and a 2.2-liter with either 185 PS or 200 PS.


Handling

Since the Cherokee is rather heavy for this segment and has a comfort-oriented suspension, it doesn't like going quickly around corners. It feels ponderous when negotiating turns and certainly not as sporty as rivals such as the Ford Escape or Mazda CX-5. Compared to the previous Cherokee, though, the new one is significantly better on-road and has a more direct steering. If you appreciate a comfortable ride, you won't feel the need for more. Trailhawk models are extremely competent off-road, as they feature a more sophisticated 4WD system with low-range, a locking rear differential, and higher ride height.


Safety

Both by the IIHS and NHTSA have assessed the Jeep Cherokee in North America. The first organization gave it the maximum "Good" rating in all areas except the small overlap front impact, where the protection offered by the Cherokee was rated as "Marginal". Front crash prevention was assessed as "Superior". In NHTSA's crash tests, the Cherokee was given a five-star overall rating, but four stars for rollover. The Cherokee also racked up five stars overall in Euro NCAP testing. Standard safety features include nine airbags, ABS, as well as stability and traction control systems.

Comfort

The Cherokee's suspension soaks up bumps and potholes with little effort. The driving position is good and most controls are straightforward, easy to reach and use. The seats offer decent comfort, particularly the available power driver seat which delivers a high level of adjustability. The Cherokee has one of the most comfortable backseats in the segment: it reclines and provides for fore-and-aft adjustment, while the high-mounted bench offers good support for the thighs.


Quality

The cabin is a major improvement over the previous-generation model, but that doesn't mean the Cherokee is a reference in the segment. Materials, fit and finish aren't on the same level with German premium rivals but they are comparable with the rest of mainstream competitors. Upper trim levels have a more high-quality look and feel, with Jeep offering soft leather upholstery with contrasting stitching - even the dashboard. Tire roar and engine noise at high speeds are a bit disturbing, though.


Practicality

Passengers have enough space in the Jeep Cherokee: there's plenty of headroom and legroom at the front, good headroom at the back but slightly tight legroom for rear seat passengers for a car of this size. The size of the trunk is a disappointment, though. The SUV offers just 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 54.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. That's 5-15 cu ft less than what most other compact crossovers have to offer. Also, the Cherokee lacks useful storage space up front for personal belongings.


Infotainment

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' UConnect infotainment system with an 8.4-inch touch screen is optional on the Jeep Cherokee from the Latitude trim level upwards (standard on Limited). The system is one of the best available and features menus that are easy to navigate, as well as large virtual buttons. Browsing through UConnect's long lists is made easy by an accompanying knob. The entry-level Sport grade offers the UConnect 5.0 infotainment system with a 5.0-inch touch screen that delivers a solid performance.

Efficiency

Unsurprisingly, the 2.4-liter unit is more economical than the 3.2-liter, but not by much. In FWD configuration, the 2016 Cherokee returns 25 mpg (combined) with the standard engine and 24 mpg with the optional one (both fitted with the 9-speed auto). 4WD models obviously return less miles per gallon: 24 mpg combined for the 2.4 and 23 mpg for the 3.2. Combined fuel economy drops to 23 mpg and 22 mpg, respectively, for Trailhawk models equipped with the sophisticated Active Drive II 4WD system. In Europe, the most fuel-efficient Cherokee comes with the 2.0-liter diesel: average fuel consumption is 5.3 l/100 km according to the NEDC cycle.


Equipment

2016 Jeep Cherokee models are well-equipped, even in the base Sport trim level (the other grades offered are Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk). Standard features for Sport models include air conditioning, cruise control, remote keyless entry, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a USB charge-only port, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, height adjustable front seats and more. Jeep only offers 17-inch steel wheels as standard on the Sport, but aluminum wheels are optional. Equipment increases with each trim level, with the Limited and Trailhawk grades packing the most features.


Acquisition

2016 Jeep Cherokee has a $23,395 starting price in the U.S. (Sport trim in FWD guise), which makes it slightly cheaper than 2016 Honda CR-V ($23,745) or 2016 Toyota RAV-4 ($24,350). Both Japanese models offer more cargo space and match the standard Cherokee's off-road abilities. The compact Jeep is more expensive that 2016 Ford Escape ($21,745) and 2016 Mazda CX-5 ($20,915), which are both significantly more fun to drive on-road. This makes the Jeep Cherokee a middle-of-the-road offering except Trailhawk models that are unrivalled when it comes to off-road capabilities.

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Dan Mihalascu
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