The bosses at Jeep decided to refresh the Cherokee for 2019 but told designers and engineers they weren’t to mess with the mid-size SUV’s legendary off-road performance. With those marching orders, the engineers came up with some really nice styling changes that give the new Cherokee a sleek, athletic look.

And the new Cherokee now has the muscle to back up the look; there’s a new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine choice that outruns even the 6-cylinder option.

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

But the most significant change is the new 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. The turbo four is EPA-rated at 21 miles per gallon in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

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. It is rated at up to 22 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Finally, the 6-cylinder option is a 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 that kicks out 271 horses and 239 lb.-ft. of torque. That engine promises to take you up to 20 city miles and 29 highway miles down the road on a single gallon of gas.

All the engines are mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. Maximum towing for the V6 is 4,500 pounds and for the turbocharged four-cylinder it’s 4,000 pounds.

Manufactured in Illinois, the new Cherokee comes in five trims starting around $25,000 and topping out around $37,000. 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 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. My test Cherokee Latitude Plus handled well, with linear and responsive steering. The vehicle remained fairly flat in hard cornering. And with the turbo-four, my test Cherokee had power to spare.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to take the Cherokee off the beaten path to try its off-road drive systems during this test week, but I’ve tried them before, and they are the best around. Jeep offers three systems, Active Drive I, Active Drive II and Active drive with lockers. 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 terrific 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.

Inside the cabin, the new 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.

When it comes to safety, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Cherokee its highest score of “good” in every crash test category except the passenger-side small overlap test, which hasn’t been completed. The Cherokee gets a “superior” score in front crash prevention. The government, however, has completed just one test – the rollover test – and gave the Cherokee four stars.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee comes 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.

2019 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Plus 4x4

Engine: 2.0-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder

Horsepower/Torque: 270/295 lb.-ft.

Transmission: 9-speed automatic

Price: $27,995 ($34,220 with options & freight)

EPA mileage estimates: 21 mpg city/29 mpg highway/24 mpg combined

Estimated Highway Range: 461 miles

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