By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
When a Jeep Cherokee last visited our garage, it was during its rookie year. It was all-new, with an exciting design and great features — it was a major hit. The public loved the Cherokee and it was so popular that dealers had long waiting lists to get one. The success continued with the Cherokee ending 2015 as the second best-selling FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobile) model right behind the Ram pickup. So far in 2016, it?s still the third best-selling FCA vehicle behind the Ram pickup and Caravan minivan.
We just drove the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Overland which the new top trim level. It?s distinguished by an award-winning interior, extensive standard features while maintaining it serious off-road capabilities. It?s certainly a plush new model.
Jeep purists argue that a real Jeep should have round headlights and a flat seven-slot grille and body on frame platform. We like the new expressive interpretation of the Cherokee design. The front end is the most interesting design element with its bulged hood, high-mounted LED daytime running lights (DRL) and modified seven-slot grille. The DRLs look like headlights, but instead the headlights are mounted just above the bumper on either side of the grille. The rear end is distinctive with taillights mounted just below the rear window and there are marker lights mounted lower in the bumper area.
The sleek body has a well-toned muscular look. Large tires, lower protective trims and aggressive approach and departure angles augment the Cherokee?s best-in-class off-road capabilities. Built on a new global architecture developed by Fiat, the Jeep Cherokee unibody structure is 65 percent high-strength steel.
Inside is an attractive quality-looking interior that looks more like something we?d see in an expensive sport sedan. We appreciated the well-organized controls on the center console, center stack and steering wheel, but the highlight is FCA?s outstanding 8.4-inch Uconnect screen mounted at the top of the stack. We think the Uconnect system is the industry?s best infotainment and navigation system. It?s fast-acting, with large easy-to-see icons and it?s logically organized, so the driver doesn?t have to spend time searching through deep menus. The system has Bluetooth, USB ports and a full complement of input jacks. The system also has HD Radio, SiriusXM Travel Link, Siri, SiriusXM Traffic and Uconnect Access Advantage which allows the owner to connect to home functions and a large selection of entertainment options.
The ergonomically designed seats are attractive and comfortable. Lower level model seats are covered with a premium cloth while leather or a leather and cloth trim is available on higher level models as are heated and ventilated seats.
Inspired by the larger Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland edition, the Cherokee Overland interior includes up-scale enhancements like leather-wrapped instrument panel, a new Jeep steering wheel with Zebrano high-gloss wood trim, bright door sill plates, Berber floor mats, standard Nappa leather seats with ventilated/heated front seats, standard Alpine Premium Audio system, Uconnect 8.4, and standard memory driver?s seat, radio and exterior mirrors.
Other Overland features include power liftgate, blind spot monitoring and rear crosspath detection, Parksense rear backup assist system and a premium insulation group. The Overland 4×4 also has 8.2 inches of ground clearance to ease off road travel.
A 184-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder Multiair2 Tigershark engine is standard on most Cherokee models. However, the Cherokee Overland comes standard with the 271-hp 3.2.-liter Pentastar V-6. Both engines use a nine-speed automatic transmission with standard front-wheel drive or optionally with two four-wheel drive choices. The V-6 engine delivers a best-in-class 4,500-pound towing capacity and it has an automatic stop/start system that temporarily shuts down the engine at stoplights and at other stages of inactivity.
The V-6 engine has an EPA fuel economy rating of 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. The trip computer indicated we were averaging 22.3 mpg during our week in the Cherokee. Buff magazine testing shows a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 7.7 seconds.
The Jeep Active Drive I is a fully automatic system that delivers seamless operation in or out of four-wheel drive, at any speed. It also helps yaw correction during cornering. The Overland has the Jeep Active Drive II four-wheel drive system which includes a two-speed power transfer and the industry-first disconnecting rear axle which helps improve fuel economy. Overland also has hill descent control, hill start assist and Selec-Speed Control which is like a cruise control for off road.
The Cherokee is available in five trim levels and in a couple of limited edition models. The basic Cherokee levels include the Sport, Latitude, Limited, Trailhawk and the Overland.
2016 Jeep Cherokee pricing starts at $24,490, including the destination charge, for the two-wheel drive sport with four-cylinder engine. Four-wheel drive is a $2,000 option and the V-6 engine with electric start/stop is an additional $1,745. The top four-wheel drive model, the Jeep Cherokee Overland is priced at $39,390.
After a week in the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Overland we thought this was an SUV we could love. It looks, good inside and out, it had a quiet comfortable ride, performance was good and we loved the high level of equipment with features like blind spot monitoring and active cruise control with the Uconnect closing the deal.
If someone were thinking about a Jeep Cherokee, we think now would be a perfect time to buy. The 2017 model seems to have only minor changes, and we expect prices to change little. However, year-end-clearance deals should give shoppers big savings on the remaining 2016 models.