By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.4
It's not surprising that off-road prowess is the ace-in-the-hole the 2015 Jeep Cherokee SUV boasts over rivals like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. After all, Jeep, more than any other SUV manufacturer, has a reputation to uphold. Yet the really surprising thing is that despite its off-road capability – especially the Trailhawk – the 2015 Jeep Cherokee gives up nothing on-pavement, where most drivers will spend their time. Offering a low-range and three different 4-wheel-drive systems that give it uncanny rock crawling ability for a small crossover SUV, the Jeep Cherokee also offers creature comforts that put it at the head of the class. Jeep tops it off with an available V6 engine and a class-exclusive a 9-speed automatic transmission.
If you think anything that looks like an off-roader should be an off-roader – especially if there's a Jeep badge on the nose – then the 2015 Jeep Cherokee SUV is for you.
If you're put off by the controversial front-end styling, if you need more interior space, or if you just don't care about off-road ability, then you might well make another choice.
KBB Expert Ratings
All-new last year, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee gets a few additional features. Forward Collision Warning is now available, a backup camera is standard on Latitude, Altitude, Limited and Trailhawk models, and a new SafetyTec option package bundles various electronic aids for Latitude, Altitude, Limited and Trailhawk models.
The 2015 Jeep Cherokee crossover SUV comes in five models: Sport, Latitude, Altitude, Limited, and Trailhawk. The Trailhawk is only available in 4-wheel drive (4WD), while the other models can...
... be had in front-wheel drive only. As you might expect from something that competes with a Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, a front-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee is perfectly acceptable on the road around town. The 4-cylinder offers up adequate acceleration, while the power-hungry will prefer the V6. Yet order one of the three available 4WD systems and head off-road, and the Cherokee's character changes. The standard Selec-Terrain traction-control system allows drivers to choose settings for Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock, optimizing performance. An "Auto" setting uses sensors to choose for you, and all Cherokee models offer good approach and departure angles plus reasonable ground clearance, while the off-road optimized Trailhawk version ups the ante in each department.
9-SPEED AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION
Credit German transmission manufacturer ZF for the near-magical packaging that lead to the 9-speed automatic used in the Jeep Cherokee. Even better, it all works, offering smooth launches and excellent power delivery, plus fuel economy from the V6 that's as good as some competitors' 4-cylinder engines.
Part of the off-road prowess offered by the Jeep Cherokee is due to the Selec-Terrain system. It uses up to 12 different vehicle systems, including the drivetrain control module, electronic brake controller, electronic stability control, transmission, and powertrain controller to ensure maximum traction.
The 2015 Jeep Cherokee interior blends traditional Jeep cues – such as the trapezoidal "center stack" – with modern touches to create an attractive and upscale layout. The seats offer up good support, and come trimmed in either attractive cloth or soft Nappa leather. The heated and ventilated top-of-the-line seats also come with power adjustments and memory. The 2nd-row seats adjust forward and backward for better legroom, and split 60/40 for maximum cargo flexibility. We were particularly fond of the available wireless-device charging pad, plus the enormous glovebox. However, we do wish the Cherokee offered more room overall inside.
Polarizing is the best way to sum up the 2015 Jeep Cherokee's exterior. It's one thing to stray from the traditional Jeep design aesthetic of round headlights flanking a 7-slot grille, but quite another to ditch the appearance of headlights entirely. However, we've warmed up to the new Jeep Cherokee, and there's a lot here that says Jeep. The 7-slot grille has a "kink" folding it into the hood, and the less-controversial rear resembles the Grand Cherokee SUV. Trailhawk versions kick up the macho with a higher ride, red-painted front tow hooks, skidplates and more aggressive front and rear treatments.
All Jeep Cherokee SUVs come standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, offering very good fuel economy and a range of about 500 miles on a tank of gasoline. Other standard equipment includes a Uconnect 5-inch touch-screen media center that includes Bluetooth, USB, SD and auxiliary ports. Also standard are a 3.5-inch full-color center display, 10 air bags, electronic stability control, traction control, Hill-start Assist, electric power steering, and an electric parking brake, plus cruise control, air conditioning with rear outlets, and remote keyless entry. The Jeep Cargo Management system includes standard hooks and a storage tote.
Jeep Cherokee Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk models can get the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 engine. There are three all-wheel-drive systems available as well: Active Drive I, Active Drive II, and, on Trailhawk models, Active Drive Lock. Other upgrades include an 8.4-inch touch screen for Uconnect, an Alpine premium audio with nine speakers and a subwoofer, and a CommandView dual-pane panoramic sunroof with power sunshade. Cherokee Limited models add leather, heated power seats and steering wheel, Keyless Enter-N-Go, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Trailhawk models emphasize off-road capabilities with skidplates, an increased ride height, and a more rugged look.
The base engine for 2015 Jeep Cherokee models is a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine offering 184 horsepower. However, unlike many of its competitors, Jeep offers a V6 engine in its small SUV as well: a 3.2-liter V6 with 271 horsepower, and the added ability to tow up to 4,500 pounds. Both engines offer good fuel economy, with the 4-cylinder obviously being the fuel-sipper's choice. Both engines come with a 9-speed automatic transmission, whether equipped with front-drive or 4-wheel drive. Three different 4-wheel-drive systems are available, ranging from the Jeep Active Drive I and Jeep Active Drive II, to the aggressive Jeep Active Drive Lock reserved for the off-road ready Trailhawk. V6 models get a modest fuel economy bump thanks to the new-for-2015 standard start-stop mechanism.
184 horsepower @ 6,250 rpm
171 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/31 mpg (front-wheel drive), 21/28 mpg (4WD Active Drive I), 21/27 mpg (4WD Active Drive II), 19/26 mpg (4WD Trailhawk)
271 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
239 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/29 mpg (front-wheel drive), 20/28 mpg (4WD Active Drive I), 19/26 (4WD Active Drive II), 19/25 mpg (4WD Trailhawk)
Prices for the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Sport, the base model for this SUV, start at about $23,000 for the front-wheel drive version. Midrange Cherokee Latitude and Altitude models start at about $24,500 and $26,700, respectively, while Limited models start at about $28,000. If you want the off-road-ready Cherokee Trailhawk, bring $29,500. The 4-wheel-drive system on the other models adds around $1,000 to $2,000, depending on which system and model you get, while the V6 adds about $1,500. That's right in the heart of competitors like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, none of which offer a V6 engine. If you're looking for serious off-roading chops and reasonable towing capabilities, the Cherokee is the choice, otherwise, note that some competitors offer more interior space. Be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase price to see what others paid in your area. Also note that the Cherokee's cost of ownership runs better than average.