2019 Jeep Cherokee

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee gets a new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and manages to shed 150 pounds, both of which help improve performance and fuel economy. The Cherokee also gets new exterior styling but loses none of its legendary off-road prowess.

Manufactured in Illinois, the new Cherokee will begin arriving in dealerships in the next 30 days.

“It’s a striking new appearance, but we’ve kept all of the Cherokee’s capability,” said Scott Tallon, director of the Jeep brand. Speaking to automotive journalists gathered for the west coast launch of the Cherokee, Tallon said 2017 Jeep sales in the U.S. were down slightly, so, “We’ve worked really hard to improve the value proposition.”

The new Cherokee, which comes in five trims, will start at $23,995 and top out at $37,775.

Cherokee trims available include Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and Trailhawk. All are available in 4WD. The Trailhawk is the trail-rated version, which means the vehicle meets strict Jeep guidelines for off-road performance.

Engineers working on the new Cherokee were told to change some elements, but not to sacrifice any of the vehicle’s performance on or off-road. “We weren’t going to change the true essence of the car,” said Jeep Cherokee Vehicle Line Executive Mike Downey.

New for 2019, the Chereokee will have all LED headlights and fog lights, a capless fuel filler, more cargo room and a hands-free liftgate that can be operated with a foot tap at the bottom.

But the biggest change is the new available engine. The 2.0-liter direct-injection turbocharged Inline 4-cylinder develops 270 horsepower and an impressive 295 lb.-ft. of torque, giving the Cherokee the “fuel efficiency of a 4-cylinder with the power of a 6-cylinder,” Downey said. (EPA fuel economy estimates are not yet available, but the turbo four should be the leader)

The standard engine in the Cherokee is a 2.4-liter naturally-aspirated Tigershark engine that delivers 180 horsepower and 170 lb.-ft. of torque. A 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 that kicks out 271 horses and 239 lb.-ft. of torque is also available. The engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission.

Jeep keeps its off-road drive systems: Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active drive with lockers. There’s also a neutral position for flat towing. Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system also remains with five settings for auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock. Selec-Terrain also includes Selec-Speed Control with Hill-descent control, both of which are like cruise control for off-roading.

The Trailhawk model delivers unmatched 4x4 capability with a 29.9-degree approach angle, a 22.9-degree breakover angle and a 32.2-degree departure angle. The Trailhawk can ford water up to 20 inches deep and can tow up to 4,500 pounds.

Inside the cabin, the Cherokee gets the fourth-generation Uconnect infotainment system, which supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Uconnect is one of the most intuitive connectivity systems on the market today, with crisp and clear graphics on either a 7-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen. The larger touchscreens offer pinch, tap and swipe capability.

During my half-day test drive in a 4WD Latitude Plus with the new 2.0-liter engine, the Cherokee had spirited acceleration and surefootedness in the twisting mountain roads outside of Los Angeles. The vehicle remained relatively flat when diving into sharp curves and had precise, linear steering.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee has not yet been safety tested, but comes equipped with eight standard airbags and a host of standard and available safety technology systems like forward collision warning, a lane departure warning system, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic detection.

The previous generation of the Jeep Cherokee has done very well since it replaced the Jeep Liberty, tripling its market share. Jeep is looking for the new Cherokee to build on that progress, and from initial appearances, it should.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Plus 4X4

Engine:

2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque:

270/295 lb.-ft.

Transmission:

9-speed automatic

Base price:

$30,240 ($35,015 as tested)

EPA mileage estimates:

Pending