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If they’d alleged it Liberty or Commander or akin Jeepster the KL could accept a little mediocrity. But Chrysler slapped on the KL’s fenders one of the best beloved, admired nameplates in the anointed halls of Jeep’s history. And akin admitting Cherokees of the accomplished weren’t crazy off-road-ready machines out the gate, they did acquire an inherent off-road capability, on-road versatility, and accepted do-all account that garnered account from enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike. In short, the name Cherokee elicits emotion, not aloof recognition. Therefore, the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee KL has to altercate with added than affair acrimonious EPA numbers, a arbitrary buyer’s market, and antagonism from beneath off-road-capable cute-utes. It has to prove to the Jeep enthusiast it’s not aloof accession pseudo-Jeep-on-car-chassis bite bandage to a joke…like Patriot or Compass. The name Cherokee? It has to acquire it.

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The administration is a bit like pond in algid water. At aboriginal it’s a absolute shock to the arrangement but eventually you go aloof and afore you apperceive it you’re aqueous about the basin afterwards a additional thought. Indeed, its looks are enigmatic; actualization at already the baby of an Isuzu Vehicross and a new Kia while at the aforementioned time appearing acquired of nothing. I’ve said in the accomplished I’m not actuality to altercate the styling: you ei-ther adulation it or abhorrence it. It’s growing on me, but I’ll accede to alarm its looks polarizing and move on aback the absolute meat of the amount to Jeep en-thusiasts is the use of the name, Cherokee.

So, the new Cherokee KL stands at the crossroads. Will it go bottomward the aisle of Liberty, Compass, and Patriot and be alone by the accurate Jeep enthusiast, or will it acquire its off-road stripes and accompany the loyal aggregation of models advised to be a accurate Jeep? Accuracy be told, it’s an important moment for the new Cherokee. And as Editor of the world’s bigger Jeep-only enthusiast publication, Jp magazine, it’s an important analysis which I now write. I appetite to basis for the home team. I appetite Jeep to pump out models which break accurate to the brand’s off-roading and commonsensical roots. I appetite the new Cherokee to succeed. But I charge to acquaint the truth…and as of this autograph I’m not so abiding which way the apprehension will blow.

ENGINES AND TRANSMISSION

Two agent choices are available. The 2.4L MultiAir2 Tigershark four-cylinder delivers 184hp and 171lb-ft and helps the Cherokee cheep forth the artery at 31 mpg, but the official EPA numbers are 21/28 mpg city/highway. The 3.2L Pentastar V-6 delivers 271hp and 239lb-ft and is acceptable for an estimated 19/28 mpg. Allotment of its adeptness to bear these breadth numbers, in accession to abounding aerodynamic administration cues, comes from the new ZF nine-speed auto transmission. The nine-speed not alone helps addition mileage, but and allows the agent to consistently acquisition its candied atom for active dispatch or towing up to the Cherokee’s 4,500-pound tow rating.

4WD SYSTEMS

The KL sits aloft a Fiat anatomy which Jeep engineers breathed heavily aloft to bear as abundant off-road achievement as possible. Three altered 4×4 systems are available: Active Drive I, Active Drive II, and Active Drive Lock. No amount which you get, there is no alteration case to breach adeptness appropriately to the advanced and rear differentials. Rather, the Cherokee operates in front-wheel-drive at all times and engages the rear driveshaft and, in about-face cogwheel and pop shafts via a clamp arrangement that sends capricious degrees of agent torque to the rear. The akin of torque breach depends on the 4×4 system, the system’s breadth settings, and sensed annoy slippage. In added words, there is no accurate 4×2 or 4×4 selection. The computer determines how abundant adeptness to accelerate to the rear auto and aback to accelerate it, which can prove arresting at times. But added on that later.

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Active Drive I is a single-speed arrangement that we accede an on-road arrangement absorbed added on authoritative understeer and oversteer or provid-ing a little added absorption in winter to accomplish it to the berth in time for the aftermost chairlift run. Active Drive II adds a absolute Neutral to the arrangement to acquiesce easier flat-towing, as able-bodied as accompanying 2.92:1 low-range all-embracing gearboxes; one at anniversary differential. Active Drive II offers altered 4WD modes of Auto, Snow, Sport, and Sand/Mud, with programming specific to anniversary terrain. Active Drive Lock adds a “Rock” access to those offered by Active Drive II as able-bodied as a accurate locking rear differential. Active Drive Lock is an accessible advantage on I-4 or V-6 Latitude and Limited models and is accepted on the Trailhawks.

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MODELS AND PRICING

There are four basal versions and anniversary can be optioned heavily. From the basal up, there’s the four-cylinder Sport (starting $22,995); Lati-tude (starting at $24,495); Limited (starting $27,995); and Trailhawk (starting $29,494). Obviously anniversary archetypal adds added trinkets and widgets as standard, but if you’re absorbed in off-road adequacy (and in our assessment abundant bigger looks) you’ll alone be because the Trailhawk.

INTERIOR

Even the banal Sport with bolt seats is a nice abode to be. Affection throughout the autogenous doesn’t feel lacking. Abundant anticipation was put into shapes, textures, colors, and actual quality. Non-plasticy surfaces, a quiet cabin, acceptable ergonomics, and bags of convenient appearance like USB ports, adaptive cruise control, and Chrysler’s accomplished Uconnect arrangement (entertainment, phone, navigation, WiFi, Bluetooth, and so on) are but a few of the high-end techno toys available. The new Cherokee can be had about as able-bodied appointed as its Grand Cherokee big brother. The seats, abnormally in the upper-end Limited and Trailhawk, are adequate and supportive, but the bend council wheel’s accession is actually Italian. Akin aback adapted all the way bottomward appear the driver’s lap it still feels like it’s too way high. It’s a awe-inspiring bend that we didn’t like and never got acclimated to. The rear-row basement slides advanced and astern on advance to access rear commuter legroom and the rear and passenger-front seats bend actually collapsed for acceptable autogenous accumulator accustomed ability…or sleeping in the bush. Accumulator amplitude abounds for such a almost baby vehicle. Every accessible alcove is taken advantage of, from a alcove beneath the passenger-front bench accessed via a flip-forward beanbag to a acceptable able-bodied beneath the rear burden breadth (Trailhawk models accept a full-size additional here).

TRAILHAWK

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The Trailhawk takes all the accepted appearance begin on the Latitude and again chucks a agglomeration of off-road specific genitalia at the exoteric and drivetrain. For starters, the clamber arrangement is a actual admirable 56:1 for the four-cylinder and 48:1 for six-cylinder models. The flat-black emphasis in the average of the sculpted awning offers a anatomic aspect to abate blaze while off-roading and the advanced and rear fascia are different to the Trailhawk to access access and abandonment angles. The undercar-riage employs skidplating over all the basic $.25 and there’s able agent cooling and an abetting manual acknowledgment to advice advance temps. The abeyance is 1-inch college than the accepted Cherokee and the clue is 2 inches wider. Anatomic red powdercoated tow hooks weren’t accessible to architect with attention to aboveboard blast regulations while application the all-important “twice the rated accommodation of the vehicle’s GVW” but there they are, regardless. Abeyance biking from the IFS/IRS abeyance is 6.5 inches in the advanced and 7.5 inches in the rear and the tires are chunkier Firestone Destination A/Ts army on appropriate 17-inch “spider monkey” Trailhawk-only auto with administration acquired from the SRT Grand Cherokee. Off-Road fender flares, Selec-Terrain drive access selector, acropolis coast and ascendance control, and Active Drive Lock are all accepted on the Trailhawk, but what isn’t is some anatomy of rocker protection. We’d actually like some anatomy of failing aluminum bedrock balustrade to be allotment of the Trailhawk package, but for now Jeep suggests activity through its aftermarket Mopar analysis for animate rockers aback available.

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ON-ROAD

We collection both the I-4 and V-6 Trailhawk and Latitude models through the LaSalle mountains alfresco of Moab, Utah at elevations alignment amid 5,000-6,000 feet. Accumulate in mind, at 6,000 anxiety the 184hp four-cylinder is bottomward almost 33hp and the 271hp six-cylinder is bottomward ap-proximately 48hp. Conceivably that’s why dispatch in both acquainted adequately disappointing. Dispatch in the 3.2L Pentastar-equipped Cherokee was appropriate about area we anticipation the 2.4L should be. And the 2.4L acquainted adequately affecting for how aerial the agent rpms were ambagious and the babble it was making. Accession achievability for the rather blah dispatch may accept been that the cartage we were active all had preproduction manual programming, so our up- and downshifts weren’t optimized. We’ll be accepting aback into both I-4 and V-6 Cherokees (hopefully with bigger tranny calibrations) afterpiece to sea akin and will address aback on how able-bodied both new engines move the (roughly) 3,800lb Cherokee.

On the administration front, both the Latitude and Trailhawk delivered a actual adventurous ride afterwards harshness. Both exuded aplomb in the twisties and had awfully acceptable braking and council control. Surprisingly, the Trailhawk delivered a acutely smoother ride than the Latitude, which could be from the taller-aspect off-road tires or conceivably the taller suspension. Either way, we’d booty the Trailhawk over the Latitude any ‘ol day of the week.

OFF-ROAD

We anchored the Latitudes and Limiteds at the balloon arch and stepped in-to four- and six-cylinder Trailhawks to accouterment Moab’s Hell’s Revenge trail. We’ve taken a dead-stock ’99 XJ Cherokee on artery tires and accessible diffs through Hell’s Revenge afterwards drama, so we had a acceptable baseline for comparison. It isn’t a actually hardcore trail, but it does accept some alternative sections that you can use to analysis the banned of a vehicle’s abilities.

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The Good: Trailhawk delivers a acceptable ride over the asperous stuff. There’s little arch bung and akin with the tires at artery burden we didn’t feel like we were accepting baffled up. Ground approval beneath the centermost of the anatomy is bigger than you’d apprehend and with accurate annoy adjustment we didn’t blow one of the skidplates or scrape a bonanza fascia all day long. We were boring the rear bonanza and tow block of our ’99 Cherokee in abundant places and our T-case crossmember kissed added than one bedrock acknowledgment to the XJ’s best breakover angle. Although we acquisition it contemporary and alone acclimated it for analysis purposes, the acropolis appropriate and acropolis ascendance ascendancy does assignment actual able-bodied and allows the agent to steadily ascend or alight at a connected acceleration automatically. Anticipate of it as off-road cruise control. Also, the rear locker actually locks. Lift a advanced or rear tire…or a advanced and rear tire…and you’ll accumulate affairs forward.

The Bad: Acknowledgment to its abridgement of articulation, the Cherokee drives like a allotment of plywood through off-camber sections of the trail, so accede advantage for that rear locker. Again, it may accept been the altitude, but the 2.4L Trailhawk acquainted bottomward on power, acute added burke than you’d anticipate to accomplish assertive climbs and in the beach accepting ashore consistently acquainted like a connected and approaching possibility. The V-6 Trailhawk did abundant bigger through the sand, powering up and over berms with no agitation and breeding abundant annoy acceleration to accumulate activity with no worry. We did run into a discharge with the V-6 archetypal aggravating to ascend one decidedly adamantine obstacle. Despite actuality in low ambit with the rear locker affianced and the absorption ascendancy off, it kept chopping adeptness as annoy acceleration was actuality generated. The bedrock was covered in apart beach and as anon as the rear would alpha to ascend the computer cut burke and the agent would cycle aback a basal or so to the bottom.

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The Ugly: We actually didn’t like the 4×4 system. Akin in low range, Bedrock mode, and with the rear animosity bound the Active Drive arrangement alone sends adeptness to the rear auto aback it senses annoy slippage. The aftereffect is a actual audible disability to drive elegantly. You bandage up at an obstacle and alpha to ascend and the rear bliss in alone afterwards the advanced tires alpha to spin. In a sense, you drive the Active Drive Lock arrangement like you would an old GM auto with a Gov-Lok rear differential: accomplish a lot of caster circuit and again – Bam – the added ancillary starts pulling. It was accomplished for the amateur drivers in the accumulation who were aloof ham-fisting up hills adamantine on the gas, but for accomplished off-roaders like us acclimated to active elegantly, it was counterintuitive and not enjoyable.

BOTTOM LINE

Can the Cherokee go off-roading? Yes. Is it aces of the Jeep name? Yes. Is it aces of the Cherokee moniker? I’m still not so sure. As is, it’s affectionate of like activity to a concert and aback the blind drops instead of Led Zeppelin there’s a awning bandage continuing in their place. Sure, the guitarist may be arena a Les Paul through a Marshall amp and the accompanist is hitting all of Plant’s notes, but it’s still a anemic facsimile of the absolute thing. I’m not awash on the backbone of the Cherokee’s car-derived anatomy yet. Alone time will acquaint on that.

And while I accede the accouterments for appropriate off-road abeyant is there (low-range planetaries and a accurate rear locker), as it stands the programming of the 4WD arrangement lets this agent down. If you’re in low ambit with the rear animosity locked, the advanced and rear diffs should breach adeptness equally. I apprehend there’s no accurate T-case with a centermost animosity lock, but affairs the abuse affair to act like there is. Do that and it aloof may alive up to the name. There’s still time for Chrysler to fix these preproduction bugs. But as it stands now, it’s in crisis of accepting its account afraid abutting to Compass and Patriot on the bank of shame.

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