The 2021 Cherokee – the urban Jeep
As the average consumer knows, there are a lot of SUVs out there to choose from. Some are huge, tackling the duties of transporting large families and their luggage, off-roading, or to tow a boat or a trailer. While other SUVs tend to be more tame – being smaller and easier to live with and drive. The 2021 Jeep Cherokee definitely falls into the latter group.
But it wasn’t always that way. The initial Cherokee was a large body-on-frame vehicle made from 1974 through 1983 and known to purest as the SJ and its excellent off-road capabilities. In 1984, the Cherokee was downsized some, and moved to a unibody platform, but still sticking to its roots. Known as the XJ, it lasted through 2001. From that point, the Cherokee was replaced by the Liberty. The Liberty was a good seller for Jeep but was noticeably softer than any Cherokee before it. In 2014, the Cherokee returned, staying simple and appearing to be made more for the streets rather than the trails, one can think of it as the urban Jeep.
Today’s Cherokee, aside from a receiving a new front end a few years ago, continues on in the same form as when it arrived seven years ago. Like all Jeeps, the Cherokee front end has the traditional seven-slat grill.
Built on the front-wheel drive now defunct Dodge Dart platform, the Cherokee appears surprisingly small. But step inside and you’ll find plenty of room for front and rear passengers. The cabin is nicely done and caters more towards style and function than rough and rugged. Every seat provides plenty of room for its occupant with the back seats having the ability to slide fore and aft up to six inches. Take note though, the smallness of the Cherokee catches up to it when you look at cargo room – there really isn’t much of it.
All Cherokees are fitted with one of three engines, depending on trim level. The base Latitude gets a 2.4 liter four-cylinder (180 hp / 171 lb-ft of torque) along with 17-inch wheels and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. The Latitude Plus uses the same engine, but adds foglights, keyless entry and push-button start along with heated front seats and remote start. The Latitude Lux, which is new for 2021, gets 3.2-liter V6 (271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque) along with leather interior. A turbocharged 2.0 liter four-cylinder (270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque) is an option on the Lux. An off-road oriented version of the Cherokee, called the Trailhawk, gets the V6 engine, all-terrain tires and Jeep Active Drive Lock with rock mode and locking rear axle. Finally, the Limited, comes standard with the V6 but the turbo engine is optional, 18-wheels, power liftgate and a dual-zone automatic climate control system. All Cherokees use a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Cherokee that I was in was the new Latitude Lux with Jeep’s light-duty 4WD system which they call Active Drive I. Basically an all-wheel drive system, it is ideal for providing traction when the weather takes a turn for the worst. For those that plan to take the Cherokee off-road, the Active Drive II adds low-range gearing.
On my initial drive in the Cherokee, I felt it delivered a nice, soft ride with more than adequate power from the V6 engine and nine gears. The Jeep does feel a little heavy and soft when taking it into corners. The layout of the controls are nicely done and the cabin quickly becomes a nice inviting place. If you are familiar with Jeeps most famous vehicle, the Wrangler, the Cherokee may just catch you by surprise.
The Jeep Cherokee is a great alternative for those wanting a small, comfortable crossover SUV. Basically, you can be like everyone else and drive a Honda CR-V to Toyota RAV-4 – or you can be in a Jeep. Prices for the Jeep Cherokee start at $26,290.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude Lux 4×4
Base Price: $31,625.00
Price as Tested: $36,334.00
Layout: front-engine / four-wheel drive
Engine: 3.2 liter V6
Transmission: 9 – speed automatic
Horsepower: 271 hp
Torque: 239 ft/lb
EPA Fuel Economy: 19 city / 27 highway mpg
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