- Available V6 engine provides smooth and assertive power
- Absorbent suspension smooths out rough surfaces
- Capable and user-friendly 8.4-inch touchscreen on many models
- Trailhawk offers unique off-road capability for a small crossover
- Sluggish acceleration with four-cylinder engine
- Less cargo capacity than other small crossovers
If the 2017 Jeep Cherokee is going to stand out during your search for a small crossover SUV, its exceptional off-road ability is likely going to come to the fore. That's what Jeeps are known for, after all, and particularly in "trail-rated" Trailhawk trim, the Cherokee can take on dirt and rocks better than any other rival crossover. But most shoppers are looking for pavement-based performance in this class, and fortunately the Cherokee succeeds here as well. With a supple suspension and a strong V6 engine option, plus an excellent 8.4-inch touchscreen inside, the 2017 Cherokee is equally prepared for the daily grind.
We're less bullish on the Cherokee's standard four-cylinder engine, which suffers from lackluster acceleration and a nine-speed automatic transmission that doesn't shift as crisply as we'd like. But if that underhood tandem doesn't bother you too much, there's not much else about the Cherokee that merits disapproval. To some, the sleek styling might seem un-Jeep-like, but we'd counter that it shows the company's forward-looking perspective. More objectively, the Jeep does come up a bit short in regard to cargo space, as some rivals allow you to shove more stuff in back, which can enable bigger Costco runs or less cramped road trips.
If you're not totally sold on the Cherokee, you picked a great segment for cross-shopping. The usual suspects include the tried-and-true Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4, with the latter also available in exceptionally fuel-efficient Hybrid form. For more driving excitement, we'd steer you toward the athletic yet wholly practical Mazda CX-5. Meanwhile, the Subaru Forester delivers welcome doses of style and value. But with its blend of off-road skills and on-road refinement, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee continues to make a strong case for itself.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
The 2017 Cherokee gets only minor equipment revisions, including standard xenon headlights on every trim but the base Sport. This is also the first full year for the top-of-the-line Overland trim that was introduced in mid-2016.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is a five-passenger crossover SUV offered in five main trim levels: Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk, Limited and Overland.
Standard equipment on the Sport includes 17-inch steel wheels, LED running lights and taillights, remote keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, height-adjustable front seats, sliding and reclining rear seats with 60/40-split folding seatbacks, Bluetooth, a USB charge-only port and a six-speaker audio system with a 5-inch touchscreen interface, an auxiliary audio input and an SD card reader.
The Latitude adds alloy wheels, roof rails, foglights, automatic xenon headlights, a rearview camera, body-colored door handles and mirrors, tinted glass, LED interior lighting, upgraded cloth upholstery, a folding front passenger seat with a storage compartment inside the seat cushion, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio controls and a 115-volt outlet.
The off-road-themed Trailhawk comes with an advanced four-wheel-drive system (Active Drive II) and also boasts slightly wider 17-inch wheels and all-terrain tires, increased ground clearance, off-road-oriented suspension tuning, a locking rear differential, hill ascent and descent control, skid plates, tow hooks, unique exterior trim, cloth and leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a larger driver information display with color graphics, satellite radio and Jeep's 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen interface with a USB audio interface, Siri Eyes Free and smartphone-app integration.
The Limited sheds the Trailhawk's off-road hardware, but it includes largely the same standard convenience items plus 18-inch alloy wheels, remote ignition, a wiper de-icer, upgraded power-folding side mirrors (with heating, integrated turn signals and puddle lamps), keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar) and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
The range-topping Overland includes its own 18-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-path alert, a power liftgate, unique body-color exterior trim, cornering lights, sound-deadening windshield and front windows, driver memory functions, a leather-wrapped instrument panel, wood steering-wheel inserts, upgraded leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a power-adjustable passenger seat (with four-way power lumbar), a nine-speaker audio system with a subwoofer, a navigation system and HD radio.
Some of the higher trims' features are available on lower trims via optional packages or as standalone extras. Additional options, depending on trim, include various appearance packages (including a 75th Anniversary package that comes with bronze exterior trim and "tangerine" interior accents), a towing package, a dual-pane sunroof (power front, fixed rear) and a safety-oriented Technology package (automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, automatic wipers and — if not already specified — the upgraded exterior mirrors, rear parking sensors and an automated parking system).
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The cabin of the 2017 Jeep Cherokee has a quality look and feel, especially on upper trim levels. The available Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen isn't the freshest system in this class anymore, but it's still wholly satisfying thanks to easy-to-navigate menus, large virtual buttons and an accompanying knob that makes whipping through long lists a breeze. It's certainly worth the extra cost if you can make the jump out of the Sport.
Passenger quarters are generous in the 2017 Jeep Cherokee. It's easy to get comfortable in the available power driver seat, which offers ample adjustability, but we also like that even the manual front seats come standard with height adjustments for both driver and passenger. The Cherokee also features one of the better backseats in the compact crossover class. Not only does it recline, but it also provides for fore-and-aft adjustment, and the high-mounted bench supports adults' thighs without pushing their heads into the rafters.
Alas, cargo capacity is unimpressive. There's just 24.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 54.9 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded down. Both figures are 5 to 15 cubic feet less than what most other small crossover SUVs offer; indeed, they're closer to the norm in the smaller subcompact crossover class. Another drawback is the lack of useful storage space up front for personal effects.
Standard safety equipment on all 2017 Jeep Cherokees includes antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front- and rear-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and front knee airbags. A rearview camera is optional on the Sport trim level and standard on all other models. Cherokees with the 8.4-inch touchscreen come with a Uconnect Access system that includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking and stolen vehicle assistance.
Trailhawk, Limited and Overland models can also be equipped with an optional package that adds adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning and mitigation system (with automatic brake intervention in potential collision situations), a lane departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Cherokee Trailhawk came to a stop from 60 mph in 131 feet. The all-terrain tires contributed to that lengthy stop, but it's still one of the longest distances we've recorded in this segment. A Cherokee Limited with more common all-season tires and 4WD came to a stop in 122 feet, which is about average.
In government crash tests, the Cherokee received an overall rating of four out of five possible stars, with four stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Cherokee the best possible rating of Good in the moderate-overlap front-impact, side-crash and roof strength crash tests. The Cherokee's seat and head restraint design was also rated Good for whiplash protection in rear impacts, but the Jeep received a Marginal rating (second worst of four) in the small-overlap front-impact test. The IIHS also tested the Cherokee's optional forward collision mitigation system and gave a high score of Superior.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Standard on most 2017 Jeep Cherokees is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque. Optional on most is a 3.2-liter V6 that makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.
You have your choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive with either engine, but Trailhawk models are 4WD-only. Jeep offers two 4WD systems. Standard on four-wheel-drive Sport, Latitude and Limited models is the light-duty Active Drive I 4WD system; it requires no input from the driver, though it does come with a Selec-Terrain dial that features different terrain modes. Standard on the Trailhawk and Overland and optional on the Limited is the more rugged Active Drive II system, which features low-range gearing and a locking rear differential along with an additional Rock mode for the Selec-Terrain dial.
The optional towing package gives V6 models a healthy 4,500-pound towing capacity.
When equipped with front-wheel drive and the four-cylinder engine, the Cherokee is EPA-rated at 25 mpg combined (21 city/30 highway). Surprisingly, the V6 and front-wheel drive is nearly as good with 24 mpg combined (21 city/29 highway). EPA-estimated fuel economy for 4WD Cherokees is slightly less than above, with the Trailhawk bringing up the rear at 22 mpg combined with the four-cylinder and 21 mpg combined with the V6.
In Edmunds testing, a V6-powered Cherokee Limited with Active Drive I went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, a satisfactory showing for a small crossover with an upgraded engine. A Cherokee Trailhawk, also with the V6, fell back to 8.0 seconds.
The 2017 Cherokee is on the heavy side for this segment, which is why the four-cylinder engine can feel sluggish despite its competitive horsepower and torque. This engine also has a more raucous sound than some other four-cylinders in this class. We really like the V6 engine, though; it gives the 2017 Cherokee a relaxed, refined demeanor not found in the typical four-cylinder SUV. There's plenty of power, too, and the nine-speed automatic feels more at home in this pairing. With either engine, though, that transmission can be a bit reluctant to downshift once you're cruising on the highway.
The Cherokee is exceptionally quiet for this class at elevated speeds, and over rough city streets it provides about as cushy a ride as you'll find for the money. The downside is that the Jeep feels rather ponderous when going around turns. Its steering is precise, but there's nothing like the sportiness that segment standouts such as the Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5 bring to the table. All Cherokees have solid off-road potential if one of the 4WD systems is specified, but it's the Cherokee Trailhawk that stands out for its trail-conquering ability. If you have the inclination, the Trailhawk can take on some pretty serious terrain, thanks to its low-range gearing, rear locking differential and other exclusive off-roading equipment.
Jeeps are legendary for their off-road prowess, but what if you spend more time tackling the daily grind? With its comfortable ride quality and appealing features, the 2017 Jeep Cherokee proves that you can have it both ways.