2014 Jeep Cherokee: the modern Liberty replacement SUV
The original “XJ” Jeep Cherokee was major innovation for its day, with a powerful yet economical six-cylinder, a high interior-space-to-footprint ratio, and strong offroad capabilities, thanks to a unique “link/coil” suspension. The 2014 mid-sized Jeep will also be called Cherokee, but it’s very far from the original in many respects: on-road manners are better, acceleration and gas mileage are better, and the interior is much quieter and more solid-feeling. The down-side comes off-road, with less ground clearance, a lower approach angle, and less ability to modify.
While on-road manners appear to have taken a front seat in its design, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee still has numerous mobility features:
- 4x4 capability, with low range (crawl ratios up to 56:1) and locking rear differential (on Trailhawk)
- 20 inches of water-crossing capability (on Trailhawk) at up to 5 mph
- Rear axle disconnect, to prevent parasitic losses when four wheel drive isn’t needed
- Leading approach, breakover, and departure angles
- Up to a best-in-class 4,500 pounds of towing capacity
- Jeep Selec-Terrain system
|Cherokee||Trailhawk||4x4 I||4x4 II||Liberty||Patriot||RAV4||4Runner|
|Approach angle||38°||29.9°||18.9°||21°||39.1° *||29.0°||29°||33°|
|Breakover angle||24 °||22.9° ||19.5°||21.7°||20.4°||23.7°|
|* With front fascia lower trim removed. Trailhawk tested with the trim on.|
Overall, with regard to off-road capability, it comes in at around the same point as the 2011-13 Trail Rated version of the Jeep Patriot, boasting a better approach angle but less ground clearance and reduced breakover and departure angles. While comparisons to 4Runner are somewhat unfair (the Trail version of the 2013 Toyota 4Runner lists at $37,155), Cherokee Trailhawk suffers in approach angle and ground clearance, but does much better in departure angle; 4Runner’s breakover angle is unpublished. Trailhawk does absolutely beat its closer-competitor RAV4’s numbers.
The Cherokee will be the first vehicle to use the 3.2 liter Pentastar V6 engine, which boasts 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque — nearly as much horsepower as the 3.6, albeit with lower torque. It has the best horsepower to weight ratio of any Cherokee or Liberty, past or present; and while the XJ Cherokee had a better torque to weight ratio, the nine speed automatic should more than compensate for that. The V6 is available on Latitude and Limited, and standard on Trailhawk.
The four-cylinder Tigershark engine is rated at 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque. With that powerplant, the front-wheel-drive version of the Cherokee is rated at 31 mpg highway. It is available on Latitude and Limited, and the only engine for Sport.
The four wheel drive systems
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Sport, Latitude, and Limited come with a choice of front wheel drive or four wheel drive, using Jeep Active Drive I or II — “Active Drive” being the new name Jeep assigned to their four wheel drive system (supplied by American Axle). The front wheel drive model has an approach angle of 16.7°, a breakover angle of 17.7°, and a departure angle of 24.6°.
Jeep Active Drive I uses a power transfer unit (PTU) which has yaw correction, balanced torque distribution, and brake traction control; it improves both understeer and oversteer. The system uses a fully variable wet clutch in the rear drive module, which supplies the proper amount of torque for either slippery roads or high performance, interacting with the electronic stability control (ESC) system when needed. With Active Drive I, the PTU dog clutch is either locked or unlocked to engage the rear powertrain.
Jeep Active Drive II includes a two-speed PTU with torque management and a low range. Specifying low range locks the front and rear drive shafts, and adds a 2.92:1 gear reduction for better climbing; crawl ratios for severe off-road conditions are 56:1 with the four-cylinder and 47.8:1 with the V6, up to 90% higher than the Liberty. Jeep Active Drive II works with the Selec-Terrain system to modify torque distribution, calling in the stability control system as needed.
The Active Drive II system uses a planetary gearset in the power transfer unit, has an open differential unit, and relocates the front differential to the power transfer unit. Active Drive Lock is similar but has a locking differential.
When in neutral, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee with Jeep Active Drive II disconnects the driveline for flat towing behind another vehicle.
|Axle Ratios||Standard||Tow Pack|
Jeep Active Drive Lock, standard on 2014 Jeep Cherokee TrailHawk, is the Jeep Active Drive II with a locking rear differential for severe off-road conditions. The locking rear differential can be chosen in any low-range terrain mode, but will lock automatically when in “Rock” mode.
All 4x4 systems have the Jeep Brand’s Selec-Terrain traction control system, which allows the driver to select one of five customized settings. The system coordinates up to 12 systems, using the powertrain and drivetrain computers, brake controller, stability control, Hill Ascent Control, and Hill Descent Control.
With Standard mode, the front/rear split varies depending on conditions; most of the time, the Cherokee should stay in front wheel drive for better gas mileage.
Sport limits traction control, increases stability-control slip thresholds, changes the torque bias for better cornering, and allows a target front/rear torque split of 40/60 for a rear-drive feel.
Snow starts in second gear, sets brake controls for slick surfaces, and goes into full time 4x4, preferring a 60/40 front/rear split. Mud/Sand is similar but uses off-road brake controls, and a preferred split of 100% rear wheel drive. Finally, Rock, on Trailhawk only (and requiring 4x4 Low), is similar to Mud/Sand but increases brake lock differential capacity and locks the differential.
Stability control is fully on with Auto and Snow, off in 4-Low; in sport and sand/mud, traction control and stability control are reduced, but anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic roll mitigation remain fully enabled.
Selec-Speed Control, only available in 4-Low, uses Hill Descent Control and Hill Ascent Control to limit speed when climbing or descending, so the driver to focus on steering; it uses both the throttle and brakes. The target speed, ranging from 1 to 5 miles per hour, can be adjusted by using the +/- shifter input.
Configurable gauges, stereo, gadgets
The 3.5-inch grayscale or 7-inch full-color reconfigurable instrument cluster provides information and vehicle feedback; it displays the basic information a driver needs at his or her fingertips but also allows the driver to add information they desire, including turn-by-turn navigation, speed, real-time fuel economy, safety warnings, Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus, audio information, and Selec-Terrain.
The optional ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist System (first Chrysler Group availability) is in the center of the gauge cluster and operated with buttons on the steering wheel and the shifter. The park assist screen has a 1941 Jeep Willys graphic on each side of the open parking space.
The optional 8.4-inch touchscreen multimedia command center, the largest in the segment, and the standard 5-inch touchscreen multimedia command center are attractive and easy-to-use, having won awards for their intuitive design. The UConnect2 system controls audio, climate, heated/ventilated seats, and more, with redundant controls below the touchscreen and via voice commands. It includes Bluetooth connections, SiriusXM radio, navigation, music, apps (Pandora, Aha, iHeart Radio and more), voice-to-text messaging and streaming audio capability. A built in WiFi hotspot is available as well.
Buyers can get navigation up front, or can get the dealer to install it later. The navigation system includes new 3D maps with graphics of some landmarks and terrain features; the system can also start a hands-free phone call to the destination. The system shows lane guidance and points of interest, echoing turn by turn directions in the main gauge cluster. Sirius XM music and Travel Link (with weather, wind speeds, storm tracking, ski conditions, fuel prices and directions, sports, and movies) are built into the 8.4 inch systems.
A premium 506-watt sound system is available with nine speakers and a subwoofer. UConnect Access allows users with paired BlueTooth cellphones to get text messages, identify senders, and read the messages aloud; they can dictate a reply back as well. The navigation system can accept continuous, single-sentence instructions.
The 948TE automatic transmission, built by Chrysler following a ZF design, has a stunning 9.81 ratio spread, with a low first gear and a tall top gear; the wide ratio spread delivers an aggressive first gear ratio of 4.71 for low-end performance and small gear ratio steps which provide smooth transitions. Jeep said that the nine-speed boosted gas mileage by 2 mpg over a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, when mated with the new 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6.
|I-4power||125 hp / 150 lb-ft||184 hp / 171 lb-ft|
|Six-cyl. power||190 / 225||271 / 239|
|mpg, 4 cyl 4x4||19 / 22 (old standards)||23 / 31|
|mpg, 6 cyl 4x4||17 / 21 (old standards)||22 / 29|
|Weight, lb||3,111 - 3,153||3,811 - 4,106|
|Engine||Pentastar V6||TigerShark Four|
|Type||60° V-type, 198 cid||Inline, 144 cid|
|Valvetrain||Chain-driven DOHC (24V)||SOHC (16V)|
|VVT||Variable cam phasing||MultiAir 2 + cam phasing|
|Horsepower||271 hp (199 kW) @ 6,500||184 hp (137 kW) @ 6,250|
|Torque||239 lb-ft (316 Nm) @ 4,400||171 lb-ft (232 Nm) @ 4,800|
The nine-speed automatic has Electronic Range Select for a manual override. The system can dynamically choose from forty shift maps for specific conditions, choosing based on engine characteristics, longitudinal and lateral acceleration, grade changes, temperature, speed, and electronic stability control demands.
Both engines run on regular gas, redline at 6,500 rpm, and use organic acid technology (OAT) coolant, which lasts up to 10 years or 150,000 miles, and spark plugs that last 100,000 miles.
The new dual overhead-cam 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 engine was the first derivative of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, named one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines three years running. The 3.2 is optimized for efficiency and low weight, with exhaust manifold runners integrated into the casting. A variable-displacement oil pump cuts parasitic losses, operating at low pressure when the engine is below 3,500 rpm. The paper oil filter can be incinerated after the oil is squeezed out.
The Tigershark four-cylinder is standard; it will most likely be rated at 31 mpg highway, and produces 184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. The MultiAir 2 fully variable valve-lift system delivers precise control of the intake-valve events, cutting engine pumping losses and increasing volumetric efficiency. MultiAir accounts for a fuel-economy boost of up to 7.5 percent, compared with a conventional valve train. The Tigershark’s cam drive, cam-phasing, and valve-train components require no scheduled maintenance.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s body structure is 65% high-strength steel; hot stamped-, high-strength- and ultra-high-strength steel contributed to a strong, lightweight, solid vehicle architecture. There are three different wheelbases depending on configuration, with 4x4 at 2.7 meters (106.3 inches), FWD at just one millimeter less, and Trailhawk at 2.719 meters (107 inches).
The front independent suspension with MacPherson struts provides 6.7 inches of travel, while the rear independent multi-link suspension provides up to 7.8 inches of travel. The isolated rear cradle, aluminum front cross member and superior torsional rigidity deliver customers a quieter, smoother ride with improved handling characteristics.
Electronic power steering system (EPS) cuts maintenance and helps to provide a turn circle radius of around 36 feet in 4x2 models, approximately 38 feet in 4x4 models (39 feet for Trailhawk). It provides optimal steering effort at all speeds, with less noise and better fuel efficiency, since there is no parasitic loss from a power steering pump.
The boost is speed sensitive, responding to sensors monitoring steering torque, steering wheel speed and angle and vehicle speed. The steering system is fully integrated with the ESC, and helps to compensate in split-traction, torque steer and pull-drift (crowned road) situations.
The interior is kept quiet by the double dash construction, acoustic front windshield glass, and premium NVH insulation.
Styling and aerodynamics
According to Chrysler, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee “debuts a progressive exterior designed for the future with a global appeal. Fluid, sleek exterior lines highlight the efficient, wind-splitting upper body of the all-new Cherokee. The tough, protective lower body conveys the legendary capability that is characteristic of every Jeep. The rugged lower and smooth upper body is divided by the key waterline feature that connects the exterior 360 degrees.”
Mark Allen, Head of Jeep Design, wrote, “Our objective with the Cherokee was to visually convey that this is an all-new Jeep while still communicating legendary best-in-class capability, but the rest of the equation has changed. Our vision was a smooth and flowing upper body with signature Jeep cues such as the peaked seven-slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches and the functional ‘kink’ in the beltline mated to a tough, durable lower body. We wanted a design that is fluid and efficient yet still rugged and looks at home on the trail or at the theater.”
Aerodynamically designed features include the rear spoiler, underbelly pans, sill aero spats, tail-lamp design, and lightweight aluminum wheels.
Retro references include a subtle Wrangler outline in the front-end graphic, and the waterfall hood with the peaked, seven-slotted grille which includes a crisp, horizontal snap, “a feature in many classic Jeep vehicles including the SJ, XJ, YJ and TJ.” Inside, references include the “signature trapezoidal plan view feature line” (Chrysler’s words, see if you can figure out what they mean) and a center stack bezel “inspired by the outline of the front grille of the 1940s Willys Jeep.”
Forward lighting has a unique daytime running lamp (DRL) shape. A projector headlamp is almost in disguise below the DRLs, near the dark fascia. DRL lamps are placed high; Jeep claims that’s for water fording, but since the headlights and fog lamps are down low, that seems unlikely. The rear has full LED tail lamps. The lower rear fascia was designed to allow for every license plate across the globe, and also has rear fog lamps and reflectors.
Colors will include white, Brilliant Black Crystal Metallic, Billet Silver Metallic, Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat, Eco Green Pearl Coat, Mango Tango Pearl Coat, Cashmere Pearl Coat, Granite Crystal Metallic, Auburn Pearl Coat, True Blue Pearl Coat, and Anvil .
Engineers used computational fluid dynamics to design the ductwork. The air conditioner uses a variable displacement compressor to match the needed load without waste, and avoid bursts of cold and warm air; central duct doors are cable-free, for greater reliability. The air outlets are adjusted with rack-and-pinion vane adjusters, which make them both feel pleasant to the touch. Models with automatic temperature control also include a humidity sensor, which can automatically engage the de-fogger.
The CommandView dual-pane sunroof is available for the first time in a mid-size SUV; buyers can also choose the industry-exclusive SkySlider open-air sunroof.
Klaus Busse, Head of Interior Design, said, “Jeep, the go-anywhere do-anything SUV is forever connected with nature, so there is no better inspiration for the new interior of the Cherokee than some of the most intriguing landscapes around the world.”
- Morocco at night: when the sun sets in Morocco, there is high contrast with golden tones, so the Morocco interior is black with warm accent stitching, in cloth or leather, on all trim levels of the Cherokee.
- Iceland: The black/gray interiors reflect the Icelandic ocean and the cold terrain, with silver accents on black and gray. Iceland is available in cloth or leather, on all but Trailhawk.
- Kilimanjaro: The brown-and-red interior was based on red hue of the local ground, which is also a dominant color for the Masai tribe, with golden-tone accents. The fabric in the cloth seats resembles a handmade basket weave; it is cloth with leather trim, on Trailhawk only.
- Grand Canyon: The warm brown was based on the hues in the rocks, with golden-tone accent stitching. It is available in cloth on the Latitude.
- Mt. Vesuvius: Dark brown and dark blue with white accent stitching and silver trim, Vesuvio is available in leather on the Limited.
A vinyl-wrapped, stitched instrument panel brow, center console armrest, and front door armrests are standard across the line. Seats are trimmed with premium cloth or Nappa leather (a specific type of leather that includes both upper and lower portions), available with power adjustable, heated/ventilated memory seats. Other features include the optional heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, second-row seats that recline and move fore and aft, and a wireless charging pad, first seen in Dodge Dart as a Mopar accessory.
A covered top bin above the center stack provides storage of items such as a wallet or phone. The front-passenger seat folds flat and has hidden, in-seat storage. The glove box is deep enough to hold an iPad or most laptop computers, as well.
The center console holds the phone docking station, USB and SD ports, and auxiliary power source. A small storage slot was added between the cup holders and the center console armrest. Two rubber-lined front cup holders have grips for different sized containers and are rubber lined. The center armrest provides storage underneath, with a large rubber-matted bin, and holds the second 12V power outlet and the optional CD player, if equipped. Optional door map pockets can store 20-ounce bottles.
Second-row seats recline and move fore and aft to increase legroom or storage room as needed.
The Jeep Cargo Management System makes the most of the cargo space in the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. A universal module rack mounted on the side provides for hooks and a removable grocery bag. Mopar accessories include an off-road accessory kit, cargo bin, cargo mat, and a foldable cooler, and a first aid/emergency kit. The accessories mount securely to the rack.
Specifications, safety, comparisons to 1997 Cherokee, and how the 4x4 system works
For specifications, safety, comparisons to the XJ Jeep Cherokee, and our views on just exactly how the 4x4 system works, see our specs/safety/4x4 page. Also see our 2014 Jeep Cherokee forums and many more photos in our New York Auto Show coverage, and what Ralph Gilles said about the design of the 2014 Cherokee.