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2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Review: No 4WD, No Problem

by Patrick Rall on

I have little doubt that there are hardcore Jeep fans who have read the headline and immediately discounted this entire piece, but bear with me. If you live in an area that gets heavy snowfall or if you spend a great deal of time, a front-wheel-drive Jeep definitely isn’t for you, but if you are one of the many, many SUV owners who literally never drives in snow or in rough terrain – getting a Cherokee without four-wheel-drive makes for a better daily driver.

You read that right – the 2019 Cherokee is better without four-wheel-drive. Provided that you are driving on paved, ice-free roads, the front-drive mid-sized Jeep is more fuel-efficient and it is more fun to drive.

Who Buys a FWD Jeep?

When I took delivery of the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude, I had similar plans to most of my Jeep test vehicles, which included a fair amount of driving on the absolute worst roads that I know and occasionally stepping off of public roads to see how the trail rated machine does in extreme situations. However, the new Cherokee that I received for testing was not equipped with four-wheel-drive, so my normal plans were dashed.

My first move was to reach out to FCA for some insight into whether or not they actually sell any front-wheel-drive Jeeps. To my surprise, a company representative explained that in the South East, South West and California, a whopping 80% – that’s eighty percent – of Cherokees are ordered without 4WD. In the Midwest, that number drops down to just 33%, but the bottom line is that a shocking number of Cherokees are ordered in front-drive trim, making it very clear why a Jeep without 4WD was in the local fleet.

With that in mind, I took to the street with my 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude test vehicle and I quickly learned why people buy front-wheel-drive Jeeps. As it turns out, while every Jeep is built to handle the most extreme off-road conditions, people buy them because they are great daily drivers regardless of the terrain or the weather patterns.

The FWD Advantage

Of course, in lacking four-wheel-drive, the biggest disadvantage with my Cherokee tester was that I couldn’t do any off-roading and battling the snow would have been tough. Fortunately, I drove the new Jeep in the spring when there wasn’t any snow or ice to stress over and like most people, my daily commute doesn’t involve any off-roading, so I didn’t need 4WD. Had it been the middle of January or if I lived atop a steep, unpaved road, perhaps the lack of four-wheel-drive would have mattered, but in this case, it did not – so the key disadvantage really didn’t matter.

The biggest advantage of the front-drive Cherokee is that in lacking four-wheel-drive, it also lacks all of the components of that system. This means that the vehicle weighs less, but there is also less drivetrain loss, thus more of the power goes to the drive wheels. In the case of my test vehicle with the 2.4-liter MultiAir, the lack of 4WD means that the 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque is distributed to two wheels rather than four while the vehicle is lighter in general – all of which leads to improved performance.

The power is sent to the front wheels by means of a 9-speed automatic transmission and even though this is the “base” engine, the combination of the aggressively-geared transmission and the front-wheel-drive layout makes this mid-sized SUV quicker than you would expect. On a hard launch, it will even spin the front tires a bit, but having driven the entire 2019 Cherokee lineup for short periods, the FWD model definitely feels quicker than its 4WD counterpart.

Along the same lines, the front-drive Cherokee sits a bit lower than the four-wheel-drive models, so when you combine the difference in the stance with the lower curb weight, this Jeep handles a touch better than the trail rated models. This model also has a slightly softer suspension setup, so if you somehow takes offense to the ride of the 4WD Cherokee – you are more likely to enjoy the smoother ride of the front-drive model.

Mind you, I’m not saying that getting rid of four-wheel-drive makes the new Cherokee a great choice for making an entry into your local autocross club, but as affordable, mid-sized SUVs go – the Cherokee Latitude with front-wheel-drive feels quicker and more nimble than the four-wheel-drive models.

Finally, in addition to feeling a bit quicker and more nimble, the front-drive model is more fuel-friendly. Based on EPA ratings, the FWD model with the 2.4-liter engine should yield 22 miles per gallon around town, 31 on the highway and 25 combined while the 4WD model with the same engine receives ratings of 21 around town, 29 on the highway and 24 combined. Again, a small margin, but for a small family buying a new SUV on a budget, every little bit counts.

More importantly, in my own tests, I found that on a long highway drive with speeds staying right around the 70 mile per hour limit, the Cherokee got slightly better than 31mpg, averaging closer to 33 on a 60-mile highway drive and over the course of a full tank with a slight highway bias – I averaged 27.1 miles per gallon. I would consider that to be a good number for a vehicle of this size with this drivetrain, and with so many people around the country opting for the front-drive Cherokee, I imagine that I am not the only person who is impressed with the fuel economy numbers.

The Cost

The other big advantage with the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude with front-wheel-drive is the cost. Latitude is the current base trim level, the 2.4-liter engine is the standard powerplant and front-drive is standard – making my test vehicle the least-expensive 2019 Cherokee that you can buy right now. The MSRP is just $23,995 and when you add in the extras added onto my test vehicle – the Cold Weather Package and destination – the price rises to $26,665.

For that price you get the smaller 7-inch UConnect system with 6 speakers, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capabilities, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped-and-heated steering wheel with audio controls, remove start, heated exterior mirrors and a long list of safety gadgets that are standard on all Cherokee models.

Is This for You?

If you never go off-roading, if you live somewhere that rarely gets snowfall or icy conditions and if you are in the market for a mid-sized SUV on a tight budget, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude might be your ideal daily driver. Its comes nicely equipped with a price tag under $27,000 and for those who truly don’t need four-wheel-drive – going without makes for a better on-road driver.

(As a side note, my apologies for the drab stock photos. The memory card with my images of this Jeep was destroyed by a four-legged friend and FCA doesn’t have many images of the Cherokee Latitude.)

Patrick Rall was raised a Mopar boy, spending years racing a Dodge Mirada while working his way through college. After spending a few years post-college in the tax accounting field, Patrick made the jump to the world of journalism and his work has been published in magazines and websites around the world.

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