2014 Jeep Cherokee Reminds Us: Sometimes, Dead is Better

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited

Ah, the Cherokee. Once upon a time, the XJ-series Jeep Cherokee showed the world that a unibody “crossover” type vehicle could go almost anywhere the Wrangler could. That same Jeep also proved that there was a mass market for rugged, off-road capable vehicles that could carry people and things to places and spaces that you just can’t get to in a “regular” station wagon. In many parts of the world, all SUVs are still referred to as “Jeeps”, and that is down to the XJ Cherokee. Built between 1984 and 2001 (2005, in China), the XJ Cherokee was deeply loved by millions of Gen-Xers, and its death was widely mourned. Now, however, the Cherokee, for better or worse, is back from the grave.

Fair warning going forward: I did not like the new Cherokee. It wasn’t bad, functionally, but it really, Really, REALLY wasn’t for me. This article, then, is full of what you might call “biased reporting”, but give it a chance. You might enjoy it.

 

2014 Jeep Cherokee | Looks


As you can see, the exterior of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited is full of hideous slots and grilles and chrome-ringed fish mouths polarizing design details. Some people might argue that Jeep needed to stir things up with its new Cherokee in a bid to get attention in what is, today, a crowded field of unibody SUVs. Even the most ardent supporters of the Cherokee’s new, reptilian snout have to admit, however, that the 2014 version conveys none of the honest and purposeful vibe of the boxy XJ.

Even more polarizing than the curvy flanks and lizard snout, though, are the new Cherokee’s split headlights. “Which ones are the headlights?” was the single most common question I heard from people while I was showing them the new Cherokee.

That said, the few people I met who liked the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s look really seemed to like it- and, bizarrely, they all drove Subarus. That probably means that Jeep’s design team is on the right track, market-wise, but even the guys and gals who liked the new Cherokee told me that “it doesn’t look like a Cherokee”.

 

2014 Jeep Cherokee | Hardware


Like the Jeeps of old, the new-age Cherokee Limited will go just about anywhere you point it. Of this, I have no doubt, especially in the face of some first-hand “experimentations” I performed in a wooded area I should not have been performing off-road experimentations in. Just, trust me: it’ll do what you need it to.

Under the hood of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee I drove was a 3.2 Liter VVT version of Chrysler’s “Pentastar” V6 engine, good for 271 HP and 239 lb-ft of torque. The new Jeep is a lot heavier than the old XJ, however, and the new V6 struggled to deliver the same sense of quickness that the old 4.0 Liter AMC-derived six did.

That’s not to say the new Cherokee is slow. It’s just that, if you’re expecting to be able to surprise people with how fast your Jeep is (something I used to do often in the 90s), you won’t. It doesn’t feel any faster than the BIL’s Outback, for example- and it certainly didn’t feel as quick as the (much pricier) Volvo XC60 T6 I test drove a while back. A lot of that “wheezy” feeling, though, might be down to the 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s ZF 9HP, nine-speed automatic transmission.

That’s right. Nine speeds.

ZF_9HP_Animated_Schematic_Drive_Line_&_Nomogram

AND THEY ARE ALWAYS DOING THAT

I get the purpose of the new 9-speed. I really do. More gears, in theory, leads to better MPG (I didn’t dip below 20 MPG in city driving, and 31 MPG highway seems do-able). More gears also can lead to a smoother ride, and more torque multiplication available at low and middle speeds. In practice, however, the Jeep felt like it was shifting all the motherf***ing time. It got so bad, in fact, that I pulled the shift knob into manual mode to try that- but there was almost no difference between the gears. The manual shift down from 4 to 3 was barely perceptible. Even a shift to 2, in a bid to initiate some engine braking, didn’t give me the sort of response I expected.

This is, without a doubt, the wrong transmission for this Jeep. It needs either fewer gears (to make the engine feel a bit less gutless), or a CVT.

2014 Jeep Cherokee V6

 

2014 Jeep Cherokee | Interior


As much as I didn’t like the looks of the new-for-2014 Jeep Cherokee, and as much as I didn’t like the way it felt driving in and around Oak Park, I’d still be willing to give the new Cherokee the benefit of the doubt. All of the negatives I’ve described so far are just opinions, after all- and maybe, just maybe, my lenses get a bit rose-colored when I think of the old XJ Cherokee. I accept that. All the same, the interior of the new Cherokee seems to be an exercise in objectively bad decision-making.

Let’s start with the color choice, shall we? Despite having a well-thought out interior with informative screens, an intuitive infotainment system, and an attractive instrument cluster, my 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited tester was saddled with what Jeep calls the “Vesuvio” interior. This is a shame, because that interior palette pairs “Indigo Blue” with “Jeep Brown”. In Jeep’s company press photos, it looks like this …

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior

… in real life, it doesn’t look blue at all. It tracks black and brown, and even the pimply kids selling $99 suit separates in the menswear department at Sears know you don’t wear black with brown.

As a result of the unfortunate color choices, the Jeep’s interior is ghastly.

The poor choices don’t stop there, however. The cabin of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is packed with them. For example, my tester was equipped with an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated seats, dual-zone climate controls, and even a heated steering wheel … but the passenger seat was only manually adjustable.

It was a weird contrast.

Weirder still were all the plastic interior bits painted to look like metal and the awful wood. I think it was fake, but the wood was so awful-looking that, if I’m honest, I’m not even sure was fake. That’s because, if you’re gonna go to the trouble of making fake wood, why would you make fake wood that looked like awful wood? The “wood” and “metal” look wasn’t convincing like, at all, and made the whole car feel like it was trying way, way too hard to be something that it wasn’t. Which is too bad, because the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is still a Jeep. It’ll still take you and your family anywhere you want to go, and let you experience things that no other car can.

 

2014 Jeep Cherokee | Final Thoughts


Like I said, this new Jeep is still a Jeep- and that’s high praise around these parts. It’s still a Jeep, then, but maybe it shouldn’t go around calling itself Cherokee. That simple, honest thing never tried to be something that it wasn’t, and it has been dead for nearly than a decade.

As Stephen King told us in Pet Sematary, “sometimes, dead is better“.

 

Original content from Gas 2.

 

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.