Test Drive: Redesigned 2019 Cherokee is a success

Our family has owned or leased no fewer than five Jeeps, including a Renegade, a Patriot, an older Cherokee and a pair of Wranglers. So we have acquired some affection for the brand. Only one, the now-discontinued Patriot, was a bit of a disappointment in terms of driveability, durability and reliability.

Given our generally positive experiences with Jeeps, we had fairly high expectations for Cherokee Overland 4X4, redesigned for 2019. The Cherokee is a nicely proportioned compact SUV that incorporates many of the styling cues and attributes of the iconic original Cherokee.

In designing and then redesigning the Cherokee, a badge that was revived in 2014, Jeep sought to meld the driving characteristics of mainstream compact SUVs with the off-road prowess the Jeep brand is famous for. The enterprise has been a success. While we never dared take our $43,510, top-of-the-line Cherokee Overland off road, we were thoroughly satisfied with its handling, comfort and performance on pavement.

The star of the show was the new-for-2019 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four. It’s much smoother and more powerful than the standard 2.4-liter Four, without exacting a fuel-economy penalty. While competitors like the Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4 and Ford Escape deliver superior fuel economy, they can’t match its off-road capability.

For fuel economy and low price of admission, the Cherokee of choice is the Limited with front-wheel drive. It starts at $23,995 and is rated at 31 mpg on the highway. The Overland, with a sticker price (before options and destination charge) of $37,775, comes with an impressive list of safety features, as well as Fiat Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto capability, satellite radio, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard second-row seats, power-adjustable front seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The Cherokee is easy to access and egress, controls are simple and clearly marked, and the interior has an up-to-date look. Rear seating, though not quite spacious, is sufficient for two or three adults. Major competitors’ models, however, beat the Cherokee’s cargo capacity — 24.9 cubic feet with the back seat upright, and 54.9 cubic feet with the seat folded flat.

Maximum towing capacity is a strong suit for this model. The 2019 Cherokee can be fitted out to tow up to 4,500 pounds, if equipped with the available V-6 engine. Models with the turbocharged Four can tow up to 4,000 pounds. But Cherokees without towing options are limited to 2,000 pounds.

Our test car had several option packages. It was set up for serious off-road travel, which added about $1,500 to the bottom line. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine added $500, and the Technology Group — enhancing the car’s safety systems — cost $995. Filling out the optional-equipment list was a panoramic sunroof, for $1,295.

After a 2017 sales slump, the redesigned Cherokee is well on its way to exceeding 200,000 units sold in 2018 — having rolled out 91,286 during the first five months.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

Price: $43,510

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline Four, 270 horsepower, 295 lb.-ft. torque (combined)

Transmission: 9-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 8.7 in.

Weight: 3,953 lb.

Suspension: 4-wheel independent

Wheels: 19×7.5-in. polished aluminum

Tires: 235/50R19 all-season

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 24.6 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 54.9 cu. ft.

Towing capacity: 2,000 lb.

Fuel capacity: 15.9 gal.

Fuel economy: 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway

Fuel type: premium unleaded gasoline

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

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