2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4X4

2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4X4 Review

Its namesake was the original crossover. This is just another one.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: March 4th, 2015

Jeep used to be the brand for outdoor enthusiasts, adventurers, and rugged survivalists, but then the 1990s happened, and Jeep, like every other automaker in the world, began to eagerly cater to the nation's growing desire for ever cars.

Thus, Jeep went from making off-road vehicles that could also be driven in the suburbs, to making suburban vehicles that can also go off-road, even if they seldom do.

The Jeep Cherokee began its life as the "sporty" version of Jeep's Wagoneer, but it remained a bona fide station wagon until the Great Station Wagon Purge of the late 1980s, when the roots of the SUV revolution were sown.

The Cherokee went a long way toward starting that revolution. It's considered the first SUV, but it was really the first crossover. Then it was replaced with the regrettable and short-lived Liberty before being given back its original name, if not its original greatness.

  • Exterior

    Unfortunately, the return to the Cherokee name did not bring about a return to wagon-hood. No, the new Cherokee isn't your grandfather's Cherokee, it's your Aunt Wanda's Liberty, only restyled to look more like the Cherokee.

    Essentially, the Cherokee is meant to be the choice for Jeep buyers who don't need all the utility of the Grand Cherokee, and the exterior looks very much like the Grand Cherokee (and is only marginally smaller than the Grand Cherokee), except for that still controversial new grille, which is very un-Jeep-like.

    However, that is by design. Jeep wants the Cherokee to appeal to that elusive younger demographic that no one can seem to reach (probably because they want something totally different and they're too savvy to be fooled by minor cosmetic changes), and the pinched-nose look is apparently what all the kids like (assuming they're fooled by minor cosmetic changes).

    The Cherokee really is just a Grand Cherokee lite, and that's exactly what it looks like. The softened front end is fitting considering that the Cherokee has almost identical dimensions to the Grand Cherokee, yet is smaller in terms of storage space, passenger room, towing capacity, and performance.

  • Interior

    Being taken over by Fiat may prove to be a boon for Jeep, and nowhere is this more apparent than the interior, which looks much less a collection of Chrysler part bin pieces than a collection of Fiat part bin pieces. You might not think that's much better, but trust us, it is.

    The Latitude trim line doesn't offer much in the way of luxuries, but it does have heated everything and a remote start, which helped us make it through a particularly bitter-cold week in Chicago.

    There's also no GPS and no satellite radio in the base Latitude, but both are optional, should you wish to not depend on your smartphone for finding your way around town or listening to Howard Stern.

    Space is well utilized; the Cherokee doesn't just seat five, it seats five rather large people, all of whom can stretch out to their heart's content. One minor quibble is that for a car that seats five, two USB outlets seems woefully negligent, especially if this is supposed to be a family car, which, given its size, it sure better be.

    All in all, Jeep has done a commendable job making an interior that strikes a delicate balance between trail-smashing toughness and butt-massaging luxury, while still needing to be durable enough to handle whatever the kids are going to spill on the back seats.

  • On the Road

    Our Cherokee Latitude tester came with Jeep's 2.4-liter Tigershark inline-four, which is plenty powerful enough to get you and the kids back and forth between work, school, and Pilates, but should you ever need to pack it full of stuff, or tow anything behind it, you'll want to upgrade that engine, because fast is one thing the Cherokee is not.

    That's fine with us, however, since Jeeps are not supposed to be built for speed. As for driving experience, the Cherokee, like other crossovers, struggles mightily to deliver a car-like feel, but there's only so much you can do to make something this big and heavy feel like anything other than a small van.

    Really, the less actually said about the Cherokee's driving dynamics the better; not because they're bad (they're easily as good as any other similarly-priced crossover) but because anyone buying this car isn't looking for a high-performance vehicle that can handle heavy g-forces whipping around "s" curves.

    Pulling in and out of traffic is a breeze, but if you don't opt for the V-6 engine configuration (a $1,700 option), you'll find climbing hills and sharp inclines to be slow going (the Cherokee's base engine is the same one that powers the Fiat 500X), and while the Cherokee's 9-speed automatic transmission may be a boon for fuel economy, it definitely keeps the going slow.

    But lest you think the Cherokee is just another grocer-gopher, we should point out that, in its optional 4X4 configuration, the Cherokee does have genuine off-road chops. There's a ridiculous amount of fun to be had with this car in places like Moab or Denali, but if don't see yourself doing any serious rock-hopping any time soon, you could save yourself $2,000 and forego the 4X4.

  • Conclusion

    The Cherokee is ridiculously capable vehicle; it can deliver five people and a whole lot of stuff over all manner of terrain in comfort and style. It's a vehicle built for people with an incredibly active lifestyle who interact with the natural world on a regular basis. If that doesn't sound like you, well, maybe you just like the way it looks (anything's possible), but you really should put this car through its paces in some form of off-road environment.

    Because the Cherokee is made to go over the river and through the woods, not just to Grandmother's house.

  • Specs & Prices

    Engine: 2.4-liter naturally aspirated inline-four

    Transmission: Nine-speed automatic

    Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, part-time four-wheel drive

    Power Output: 184 horsepower / 171 lb-ft

    Fuel Economy (mpg): 21 city / 28 highway

    Base Price: $26,695

    As Tested: $31,650 (incl. $995 destination)

    Available Features:

    Safety Tec Group:Park assist, blind spot and cross path detection, fold-away side mirrors with turn signals

    Cold Weather Group:Heated front seats, heated steering wheel, windshield wiper deicer, heated mirrors, engine block heater

    Comfort/Convenience Group:Power liftgate, remote start, keyless entry, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power 6-way driver's seat with lumbar adjust, security alarm, Sirius XM radio, universal garage door opener

    Optional features:Uconnect 8.4, remote USB port, navigation-capable, tonneau cover

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