Making its world debut as a replacement for the Liberty, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee brings a legendary name back into the lineup as a tidier complement to the Grand Cherokee. An all-new design, this 5-passenger, mid-size crossover SUV rolls onto the scene backing its bold new look with segment-leading levels of capability, technology and efficiency, whether turned out in Sport, Latitude, Limited or Trail Rated Trailhawk trim.

Based on a specially adapted version of a platform architecture developed with the Fiat Group, the Cherokee's core structure uses nearly 65 percent high-strength steel that both reduces weight and adds to its rugged character. While the Cherokee's new bodywork may be polarizing, it's also been aero-optimized from its distinctively cast front fascia and trapezoidal wheel arches to its cleanly rendered rear quarters complete with a functional spoiler. The exterior makeover also endows the Cherokee with a contemporary character that was decidedly absent from its predecessor while retaining sufficient Jeep signature cues to leave no doubt about its heritage. That's particularly true in the case of the Trailhawk, which dispenses with external brightwork in favor of more off-road-oriented body elements, additional undercarriage protection, extra ground clearance, bespoke suspension tune and a more aggressive wheel/tire fitment.

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Inside, the new Cherokee blends what its creators describe as emotional design cues with a host of upgraded materials. Colors and textures were inspired by a host of exotic locales from Iceland and Mt. Kilimanjaro to Morocco and the Grand Canyon. In addition to more premium materials, legible displays, well-positioned controls and a bounty of soft-touch surfaces, the user-friendly cabin of the new Cherokee features well-formed front buckets and an adult-friendly split rear bench with fore/aft adjustability and reclining seat backs. Whether those perches are covered in cloth or available leather, this versatile Jeep Cherokee also offers an extensive range of cool tech touches, including a new smart Uconnect system with an 8.4-inch screen that can be had with or without navigation but also allows buyers to upgrade to a navi system after purchase. The Uconnect Access Via Mobile and wireless cellphone charging system also are in the extras mix.

The 2014 Cherokee will offer two engines. A 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir 4-cylinder that makes 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque is standard in all models except the Trailhawk while a new 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 will be optional in all but the Sport. Derived from the current 3.6-liter and intended for those seeking more muscle or greater towing capacity - a best-in-class 4,500 lb -- it develops 271 horses and 239 lb-ft of twist. Both engines will be backed by the segment's first 9-speed automatic transmission, a genuine game-changer that turns any Cherokee into a relative fuel miser. That's particularly true when teamed with the Tigershark, where it's expected to help generate an estimated 31 mpg highway rating on the front-drive version, a huge 45-percent increase over the 4-cylinder Liberty. However, its also adds 2 mpg to the city-cycle figure of the new V6 compared to a conventional 6-speed autoshifter.

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To ensure the new Cherokee excels at everything from freeway cruising to hard-core off-road work, it matches its robust unitized structure with an all-new suspension tuned for smooth ride and good control in both front- and 4-wheel drive configurations. Buyers who opt for a 4x4 version will be able to choose from three distinct variations on the theme: Jeep Active Drive I with a one-speed power transfer unit (PTU), Active Drive II with a two-speed PTU plus a low range, and Active Drive Lock with a two-speed PTU, low range and a locking rear differential - which is standard issue on the Trailhawk. All three feature an industry-first rear-axle disconnect feature that enhances efficiency by completely decoupling the rear wheels when 4x4 isn't required. All 4-wheel-drive Cherokees also bolster the standard vehicle dynamics with the Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control system that offers five operating modes. All of the 4x4 setups also feature outstanding crawl ratios that should please the most ardent rock walkers.   

On the safety the front, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee will offer everything from Lane Departure Warning-Plus, Forward Collision Warning-Plus and Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus, to a ParkView rear backup camera, ParkSense front/rear park assist with stop, Blind-spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path detection and ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist with stop.

The 2014 Jeep Cherokee will go on sale in the third quarter. Pricing has not yet been released.


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