Jeep’s controversially styled Cherokee compact SUV has been reinvigorated for the upcoming model year. Toned-down styling, fresh features, and a new turbocharged engine are a few of its highlights.
Debuting at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, this new Cherokee’s front end is much more conventional looking. Gone are the narrow, alligator-like headlamps found on today’s version. Available bi-LED projector lights are encapsulated in larger housings that look similar to what’s found on other Jeeps. Additionally, the front fascia is new, as is the hood, which is made of lightweight aluminum.
The vehicle’s rear has also been restyled. The hands-free power-operated liftgate is made of a composite material and can be opened by waving a leg under the back bumper.
With the hatch open, drivers are sure to appreciate the enhanced cargo capacity. This Jeep’s luggage compartment has been made more than three inches wider and now exceeds 27 cubic feet in volume.
Giving customers more choice, there are 12 different exterior colors and five new wheel designs, with rims running up to 19 inches. Five models will be offered including Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and the most capable (and trail-rated), Trailhawk.
Power to the People
Three engines will are on the docket for 2019 including a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.2-liter V6. But the big powertrain news is the availability of a 2.0-liter turbo. With direct fuel injection, this little dynamo delivers 270 horsepower along with 295 foot-pounds of torque.
Reducing fuel consumption, it features stop-start technology, with shuts combustion down when sitting in traffic or at a red light. Additionally, this four-banger is fitted with a twin-scroll turbocharger and an electrically operated wastegate. Premium features like piston-cooling oil jets, plasma-coated rings, sodium-filled exhaust valves and a two-stage oil pump should make it feel very refined. Hollow, fabricated camshafts save 3.5 pounds over similar cast units.
SEE ALSO: 2018 Detroit Auto Show Coverage
As for the other engines, the smooth-running Pentastar V6 is rated at 271 horsepower and 239 foot-pounds. Curiously, despite having a lot less torque than the 2.0-liter engine, this powerplant gives the Cherokee its best-in-class tow rating of 4,500 pounds.
Serving base duty is a 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir2 engine. It’s good for an adequate 180 horsepower and 170 foot-pounds of twist. As before, a nine-speed automatic transmission is standard across the board, but it’s been enhanced for 2019. New control software should result in better shift quality, a well-publicized issue with this gearbox. A capless fuel-filler is also new.
Three Off-Road Options
Three different four-by-four systems are available in the updated Jeep Cherokee, underscoring its off-road credentials.
The most basic one is called Active Drive I. It features a next-generation rear-drive module that’s fully automatic, shifting into and out of four-wheel drive as conditions require. It’s also about 17 pounds lighter and has about 50 percent less low-speed drag for enhanced fuel economy.
Next is Jeep Active Drive II, which throws a two-speed power transfer unit into the mix along with low-range gearing. This should make the Cherokee even more capable in the dirt.
Finally, the pièce de résistance is Jeep Active Drive Lock. This adds a mechanically locking rear differential into the mix for severe off-road situations.
The Cherokee also offers the Jeep Selec-Terrain system with five different drive modes that adjust how to the vehicle responds to different situations. The available settings include Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock. This gives just a small taste of what this normally mild-mannered SUV is capable of doing.
The Cherokee’s interior has, naturally, been spruced up as well. There are new piano-black and satin-chrome accents and, as before, plenty of soft materials.
FCA’s easy-to-use and responsive Uconnect infotainment system is offered in three different flavors. One sports a 7.0-inch screen, another an 8.4-inch display, while the final option adds navigation to that larger screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported along with intuitive gestures like pinch-to-zoom.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee will continue to be built in Belvidere, Illinois. Pricing and fuel-economy data has not been released but this vehicle is slated to go on sale in the first quarter of the year, which means you should start seeing it at dealerships very soon.