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2014 Cherokee: 30 Years In The Making

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On: Fri, Apr 19, 2013 at 1:38PM | By: Lou Ruggieri


2014 Cherokee:  30 Years In The Making

Since its inception in 1984, the Jeep Cherokee has essentially looked exactly the same for almost its entire life. The tell-tale upright, boxy rectangular 4X4 has exuded nothing but Utilitarian functionality since Journey was all the rage. Even when Jeep officials made a name change from Cherokee to Liberty, they weren't fooling anyone. We know a Cherokee when we see one. Sure, the engines have changed slightly, a few little touch-ups here and there, and Jeep added a few more options over the years, but, if nothing else, Jeep kept it real for the better part of three decades. For its 30th anniversary, however, it seems Jeep wanted to give its second oldest model its first legitimate change of its lifetime.  

 

First and most obvious is the new Cherokee's redesigned exterior that features a much more aerodynamic, sleeked back look that gives a nod to its bigger Grand Cherokee brethren. Not that it would take too much to look more aerodynamic than the outgoing 90 degree angles of the Liberty, but we digress. The futuristic look will no doubt aggravate and, in some cases, infuriate purists. But, objectively speaking, after eight and a half presidential terms, change is good.

 

Aside from its looks, the biggest changes are actually under the skin of the new Cherokee. New owners have a choice of four trim levels that offer up three 4X4 systems, two engines, and a partridge in a pear tree. Well, skip the bird in the tree, but opt for the Trail Rated Trailhawk trim and you will be able to see just as many birds in the forest as you dare. There is no wrong engine choice, as the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 comes in as the base engine, producing 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. Those power numbers are nothing to write home about, but that little engine can provide up to a very noteworthy 31 mpg highway thanks, in no small part, to the very impressive nine (yes, nine) speed auto transmission (which, for those keeping score, more than doubles the number of gears available in the first generation Cherokee). Want more power? No problem, the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 puts down a very respectable 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. The new Cherokee also boasts an industry first: An automatically disconnecting rear axle that contributes to a 45% increase in fuel economy.

Jeep will tell you the new Cherokee has something to the effect of a "World Class" new interior, and that may be, if you are grading on a curve using the first gen-Cherokee as the median score. What the latest Cherokee does provide, however, are a few long-overdue comforts that almost no one, even the purest of purists, would complain about—an 8.4 inch navigation screen, keyless start/stop, steering wheel controls, two sunroof choices, a wireless charging pad, ten standard air bags, as well as plenty of nifty storage compartments all make the new Cherokee quite a bit easier to live with than the old one.

Jeep also gave the new kid on the block all of the latest safety features. Aside from the aforementioned decatet of airbags, the Cherokee also gets a Forward Collision Warning system which will subtly remind you that you may be coming up on another car a bit too quickly, as well as a backup camera, immediate 911 or roadside assistance buttons, and a traction control system that offers five customized settings for just about any occasion. But don't worry about the new Jeep ruining its rep for being a rugged rock climber—in Trailhawk form, it comes with skid plates, a rear locker, a 56:1 crawl ratio, one-inch factory lift, and it can even ford 20 inches of water.

All in all, the newest Jeep may initially seem like a far departure from the original, but after a slightly closer evaluation, that may not be the case. Jeeps have been known for their toughness and off-road capabilities for the better part of their existence, but since the advent of the Grand Cherokee, we, the people, have started becoming okay with the idea that Jeeps don't have to be simply a billet steel body on four wheels with three pedals and a steering wheel. They can also be fun to live with on a daily basis, livable even! The 2014 Cherokee seems to find an almost perfect balance between the original Jeep ideology and the more modern, dare we say, "Grander," philosophy. So it may take a little while for old Cherokee lovers to come around to the new one; after a long drive or two over the highway and through the woods, we are quite sure they too will realize, change is good.


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