2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee: the modern Liberty replacement SUV
The original “XJ” Jeep Cherokee was major innovation for its day, with a powerful yet efficient engine, a high space-to-footprint ratio, and strong offroad capabilities.
The 2014-15 mid-sized Jeep was also called Cherokee; it shares some features with the original, including class-beating off-road capability, efficiency, and on-road manners for a 4x4 of its time. The new Cherokee has far better cornering and ride, gas mileage and acceleration, and noise reduction; but it also has less ground clearance, lower approach and breakover angles, and is harder and pricier to modify.
Mobility features in the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk include:
- 4x4 capability, with low range (crawl ratios up to 56:1) and locking rear differential
- Leading approach, breakover, and departure angles
- 20 inches of water-crossing capability at up to 5 mph (this may include minor changes to the engine as well as extensive sealing)
- Tow hooks that can handle 1.5 times the Cherokee’s gross vehicle weight
- Up to a best-in-class 4,500 pounds of towing capacity
These features are not present in other Trailhawks (other than rear axle disconnect).
|Cherokee||Trailhawk||4x4 I||4x4 II||Liberty||Patriot|
|Approach angle||38°||29.9°||18.9°||21°||up to 39.1°||29.0°|
|Breakover angle||24 °||22.9° ||19.5°||21.7°||20.4°||23.7°|
See comparisons to competitors’ SUVs. JP Magazine found that the KL 2014 Cherokee matched or beat their old XJ Cherokee in most regards, writing that, with the addition of a “ratio lock” button, the KL would be a strong addition to the Jeep line. Other off-road magazines were more enthusiastic and less reserved in their judgements.
The Cherokee is the first vehicle to use the 3.2 liter Pentastar V6 engine, which boasts 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque, the best horsepower to weight ratio of any Cherokee or Liberty, past or present (XJ Cherokee had a better torque to weight ratio). The Cherokee also debuts a new active parking system, adaptive cruise control with full stops, and lane departure warning system. The active parking system’s ability to use perpendicular spaces is either the first or second in the industry, with the Mercedes S series — in a rather different price class.
The four-cylinder Tigershark engine is rated at 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque, but its MultiAir valve lift and timing system should spread the torque around better than the older 2.4s. 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 Chrysler 948TE nine-speed transmission is fully electronic, but unlike the 300/Charger’s “Frustrat-O-Matic,” which moves back to the center after a gear is selected, each Cherokee gear has its own “space,” so it feels like a conventional unit. The gear is electronically reported by the shifter; it does have a cable, used only for activating or releasing the park pawl (according to Fargo59).
2015 Jeep Cherokee changes
New for 2015 is the engine stop-start system (ESS), which shuts off the engine, while leaving climate control and other key systems on at a stop; as we predicted, the engine restarts automatically when the driver releases the brake. The system, used only with V6 engines, increases combined fuel economy by 1-2 mpg, depending on model. (See our test of a similarly equipped BMW.)
Vehicles with stop-start systems have upgraded starters and associated equipment; Jeep has a longer-durability starter, in a stronger case, with stronger teeth, and a more robust solenoid. It was tested to more than two and a half times as many starts as a normal unit (over 300,000 cycles). A hefty 700-amp AGM battery is included. Stop-start is only activated if there is enough voltage available for an easy restart, if the driver has not disabled it, and if certain other conditions are met. The system should be available on the Chrysler 200 as well.
The 2.4 liter engine is now certified as a Partial Zero Emission Engine (PZEV) in the 14 states that have adopted California clean air rules; to achieve this, engineers revised the fuel tank, fuel filler neck, air cleaner, engine downpipe, vapor purge canister, and fuel cap. A backup camera and automatic headlamps are now standard on Latitude and Trailhawk. Other new 2015 Jeep Cherokee features are:
- Low-speed crash mitigation added to the forward collision warning
- SafetyTec Group is now optional on Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk models; it includes blind spot monitoring, rear cross path detection, rear park assist, and signal mirrors.
- A Ventilated/Memory Seat Group package is optional on Trailhawk (with the Leather Interior Group).
- Nepal, a Black / Light Frost interior color, replaces Black/Iceland Gray (“Iceland”) on cloth interiors for Sport and Latitude and on leather interior for the Limited
- New cloth insert fabric on Latitude seats
- Tonneau Cover is a standalone option for all models
2014 Jeep Cherokee prices
The base front wheel drive, four cylinder 2014 Jeep Cherokee is priced at just under US$23,000 (prices don’t include destination, tax, etc). That includes a nine-speed automatic, five-inch media center, ten airbags, voice command and phone integration, split second row seat with fore/aft movement, and cargo management system; this is the model that can beat 30 mpg highway. The 4x4, at around $25,000, adds the Selec-Terrain traction control system.
The likely volume model has three names, depending on where it’s sold: Latitude in the United States, North in Canada, and Longitude elsewhere. It costs another US$1,500 and adds bigger, aluminum wheels; body color mirrors and door handles; chrome surrounding the “daylight opening;” privacy glass; fog lamps; fold-flat front passenger seat (with storage); leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; express front windows; AC outlet; and LED interior lighting. At this level, buyers can also pay more for a two-speed four wheel drive system.
Paying another $3,500 lifts buyers up to Limited, which includes leather, heated front seats, mirrors, and steering wheel, eight-way power driver seat, 18-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, mirror-mounted turn signals, 8.4 inch media center (this is likely to be a dual upgrade with better hardware and software in addition to the larger screen), satellite radio, customizeable instrument panel, keyless entry and ignition, remote start, and backup camera.
Finally, for $29,495, buyers can opt for the Trailhawk, which drops down in luxury from Limited but goes up in off-road capability. It includes all Latitude features plus a more capable 4x4 system and suspension, skid plates, the 8.4 inch touch screen and configurable gauges, premium cloth seats, and various insignia and visible off-road tools. Trailhawk is clearly the best model for buyers who think they will be going off-road on more than gravel or dirt roads; it has 20 inches of water-crossing ability, at 5 mph, and substantially better approach and departure angles, along with more ground clearance and skid plates.
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; there are new 3D maps with graphics of some landmarks and terrain features, and the system can call (hands-free) the destination. It shows lane guidance and points of interest, with turn by turn directions in a redundant instrument-panel display. Satellite radio 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. One option is a 506-watt sound system with nine speakers, including a subwoofer; and UConnect Access, which lets people pair their cellphones to get text messages, identify senders, read the messages aloud, and dictate a reply.
The 948TE automatic transmission, built by Chrysler using a modified 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.
|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)||21 / 28|
|mpg, 6 cyl 4x4||17 / 21 (old standards)||19 / 28|
|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, which essentially means you can choose the highest gear it will go into (a modern version of the old “L1, L2” positions).
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. (ZF actually allows for even more shift maps, but so far Chrysler has not taken them up on it; 40 seems complex enough.)
Both engines run on regular gas, redline at 6,500 rpm, and use long-life organic acid technology (OAT) coolant (up to 10 years or 150,000 miles), with 100,000-mile spark plugs.
The new dual overhead-cam 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 engine is based on the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, one of Ward’s 10 Best Engines for three years running. The 3.2 is optimized for efficiency and low weight; 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 variable valve-lift system controls intake-valve events, cutting engine pumping losses and increasing efficiency.
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 uses a universal module rack mounted on the side provides for hooks and Thule/Mopar accessories including 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; the portable kennel also attaches to hooks in the front.
Quieted with soy foam
The Cherokee uses a new acoustic foam whose density is lower than conventional foams, cutting up to 1.5 pounds per vehicle. Developed with Dow Automotive Systems, BETAFOAM™ Renue replaces a petroleum-based ingredient with a soy-based material. Less foam is needed to achieve the same result due to its lower density, cutting costs; it has twice the shelf life; and it is easier to work than conventional acoustic foam. It is used in ten locations in the Cherokee structure, including the pillars and rear wheel wells.
Parts is parts
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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. See comparisons to competitors’ SUVs. 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.