Plenty of controversy surrounded the revival of Jeep’s legendary Cherokee name for a car-based crossover with polarizing styling when this model made its debut as a 2014 model. But the haters have quieted down. Anyway, they seem not to have much influence with the buying public: Cherokee was the bestselling Jeep nameplate in 2015. The Cherokee lineup offers more variety than most competitors have: You can choose among two engines, front-wheel drive or two different four-wheel-drive systems, and seven trim levels that range from the spartan base model to pricey upper trims that rival luxury SUVs in equipment. For this review, we drove the most off-road-oriented Cherokee, the Trailhawk four-by-four, equipped with the optional 3.2-liter V-6 engine.
What’s New: The only mechanical update to the Cherokee since its debut came in the 2015 model year, when Jeep added an engine start-stop (ESS) system to V-6 models; this improved EPA city fuel-economy numbers by 1 to 2 mpg on most versions. It operates mostly unobtrusively in normal driving, but those bothered by the engine’s shutting down at stoplights can easily find the console button to turn off the system. That’s a choice you’ll have to make on each outing. ESS returns to “on” as the default, but at the first stop of each drive, a reminder light on the dash asks if the driver wants to turn it off.
A luxurious Overland trim level was added to the top of the Cherokee range for 2016, offering a more polished exterior appearance, plenty of standard features, and plusher interior materials in exchange for its high price (loaded V-6 4×4 Overland models can top $40,000). A 75th Anniversary model also joined the lineup earlier this year, based on the mid-level Latitude trim, with some visual tweaks including different wheels, bronze trim pieces, and an available exterior color, Recon Green, that’s exclusive to the special edition.