After a makeover for 2019, the Jeep Cherokee is what the little SUV should've looked like from the start. I remember seeing a sneak preview of the 2014 model at the Chrysler Technology Center's design dome under a sheet with just its odd headlights illuminated through the sheer fabric. When the sheet was lifted, the stunned silence of the assembled automotive journalists was telling.
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It was different, to be sure, but it was not pretty. It looked like an odd Japanese or Korean SUV, a Jeep only in the shape of the wheel wells and the seven-slot grille. All of that has been remedied for 2019.
Again we walked into the room to meet a Cherokee under a sheet. Again the sheet was pulled away with dramatic flourish — but unlike last time, you could hear the relief ripple through the crowd.
The styling is much more appealing, and while it does ape the bigger Grand Cherokee and smaller Compass, those are two very attractive SUVs to begin with. Down the sides and in back, not much is new aside from the shape of the taillights and the composition of the tailgate. It's still distinctive as a Jeep, but its more conventional styling should be a boon to its sales prospects versus the controversial older model, which sold more on the deal than on the appeal.
Inside, the new Cherokee feels much like the outgoing model. Attention was focused mostly on powertrain upgrades, improved usability and new multimedia systems. Comfort and visibility are unchanged, although the interior materials do feel a shade nicer (the previous Cherokee was not lacking a nice interior, however).
FCA's Uconnect system remains one of the easiest systems, and the new one delivers better screen resolution for prettier pictures and sharper icons. Backseat space remains adequate, but cargo room is improved thanks to Jeep's efforts to "shrink-wrap" the structural components of the Cherokee's rear compartment, allowing for more room in back.
I'm looking forward to driving the new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder model, as I've tried this Used Engine in the new Wrangler and it's quite good. The optional V-6 is also plenty powerful in the current version, and the nine-speed pairs quite nicely with the torquey motor. The four-cylinder/nine-speed combo in the current version has improved over its lifespan, but it isn't our preferred choice. We're also anxious to see the new fuel-economy numbers with the lighter weight of the Cherokee and its new turbo motor. Stay tuned for a full drive report.
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