Jeep celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016. A year earlier, the compact Jeep Cherokee replaced the Liberty in midseason. It continues the sport utility vehicle’s extended celebration and legacy as the modern version of the original WWII vehicle.
For 2017, the Cherokee remains primarily the same as last year’s model. It also had a midseason addition last year with the top-end of five trims, the Overland. It joins the Latitude, Limited, Sport and Trailhawk.
As the most powerful Jeep in the lineup, the Overland model I drove for a week featured a 3.2-liter, 24-valve V6 engine with 271 horsepower and matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission. The same engine is available as a $1,745 upgrade on other models.
The small SUV segment is chock-full of highly praised vehicles, most notably the Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester.
The Cherokee Overland joins a few others in the category emphasizing versatility and off-road capabilities. It’s offered with several option packages, included the Customer Preferred Package ($1,645) and the Heavy Duty Protection Group ($295). The former includes more than a half-dozen safety features such as Full Speed Collision Warning and a lane departure warning system called LaneSense. The latter package adds underbody skid plates and a full-size spare time.
A cushioned, confident ride prevails and bumps, divots and any other imperfections on the road are handled without issue. It’s what Jeep does best. Steering is accurate, and the Cherokee seating alignment provides good overall vision. There’s a mild body lean while cornering.
Standard features are plentiful: Nappa leather seats (heated and ventilated in front); a leather-covered instrument panel, power-adjustable driver and front passenger seats with four-way power lumbar adjust; a steering wheel with Zebrano high-gloss wood trim; bright doorsill plates and Berber floor mats.
Technology equipment is standard state of the art without gadgetry overland: An Alpine premium audio system with 8.4-inch monitor, Bluetooth, Navigation, satellite/HD radio, SiriusXM Travel and Traffic, and Uconnect Access Advantage; and memory for the driver’s seat, radio and exterior mirrors.
One feature requires patience, and it’s for a good reason. The Cherokee has hybrid-style stop-start technology. It automatically cuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. It restarts when the driver’s foot is lifted off the brake pedal. If a driver wants to disable the feature on off-road excursions, a switch on the dash complies. The towing capacity is 4,500 pounds.
Jeep’s utilitarian reputation still prevails. It’s the original SUV. With its sturdy, lightweight frame and original Ford-designed nine-slot grille (now seven) the Jeep became a unifying symbol of strength.
The first civilian Jeeps were introduced in 1945 and they’ve steadily modernized far beyond the original vehicle while maintaining a rugged design and personality. The iconic seven-slot grille remains, but it’s now a subtle presentation.
Quiet, comfortable ride.
Terrific overall vision.
Oversensitive side detection warnings.
Gas mileage averages need improvement.
Cargo space not as good as competitors
Facts & Figures: 2017 Jeep Cherokee
Acceleration: 0-60 mph: 8.0 seconds.
Fuel economy: 18 mpg (city), 26 mpg (highway), 21 mpg (combined) nine-speed automatic transmission.
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $37,695.00
Price As Tested: $41,975.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,00 miles; Powertrain, 6 years/60,000 miles; Corrosion, 7 years/unlimited miles.
What Others Say:
“If the 2017 Jeep Cherokee is going to stand out during your search for a small crossover SUV, its exceptional off-road ability is likely going to come to the fore. That’s what Jeeps are known for, after all.” — Edmunds.com.
“With high-quality, low-gloss, soft-touch surfaces and smooth-acting buttons and switches, the Cherokee’s interior materials are those of a more expensive vehicle.” — CarConnection.com.
The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:
“The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is a versatile compact SUV. It’s a competitive segment, but Jeep gets among the best off-road marks in the bunch and moves to the top of the list for buyers with rugged needs.”