Jeep took a big chance when resurrecting the Cherokee name in 2014. The original Cherokee is an icon and one of the most influential designs of the 20th century. And because of the Cherokee’s legendary durability, a lot of them are still roaming the streets today despite the newest one being 14 years old.
The new Cherokee deviates from the old one by being a car-based crossover, in this case sharing the same platform as the Dodge Dart. While Jeep did their best to make the new Cherokee as off-road worthy as they could, it will never be the darling of rock crawlers like the old one.
2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 4×4
|Engine||Power||Torque||Transmission||MSRP||As Tested||TFL Rating|
|3-2 liter V-6||271 hp @6,500 rpm||239 lb-ft @1,300-4,400 rpm||9-speed automatic||$27,095||$33,825||Lease It|
So the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 4×4 tested here already has one strike against it, but how does it fare otherwise?
The new Cherokee’s styling is a radical departure from the old, with insect-like turn signals and separate headlights set between an angular application of the familiar Jeep slat grill. It’s distinctive and it looks better in person than in pictures.
From the front quarter panel back, though, the styling is pure 21st-century crossover. It’s attractive but not especially distinctive. In fact, the Jeep logo could be replaced with almost any other marque and the styling would fit. The new Cherokee just doesn’t look like a Cherokee.
Perhaps that’s the problem. Had Jeep given the new Cherokee a different name, it could have made its own styling statement, as it’s not an unattractive car. But since it does have the Cherokee name, it will forever be compared to its classic ancestor and will never quite match up.
One thing that helps this 2015 Cherokee’s appearance is the Altitude paint and trim package. The metallic dark gray paint, officially named Granite Crystal Metallic, is paired with a trim package that blacks out all chrome trim, including the wheels. Along with the black plastic cladding around the bottom of the car, it looks mean and menacing. Even the controversial front end looks better with the grill trim blacked out. The new Cherokee never looked so good.
Inside, the Cherokee has an attractive dash panel that’s well laid out, with the 8.4-inch Uconnect touch screen dominating the center. The trim around the gauges and screen is a bronze metallic color and is extended to the steering wheel spokes. The steering wheel itself is clad in soft leather and the upper dash and door panels are covered in either leather or leather-like vinyl, complete with white stitching on the dash.
Jeep threw in a few Easter eggs, too. At the bottom-center of the windshield is an icon of a classic Jeep on top of a hill, and on the bottom spoke of the steering wheel the phrase “Since 1941” is embossed in a military stencil font.
The Cherokee’s seats are covered in a grippy, heavy duty nylon material that looks like it will wear well. The front seats are supportive and comfortable and the eight-way power adjuster on the driver’s seat ensures most drivers will find a suitable driving position. The seats are lacking a bit in side bolstering, but since the Cherokee is no sports car, most drivers won’t miss it.
In the back, the sliding rear seats offer plenty of headroom, but legroom is limited for taller passengers if the front seat occupants are anywhere near six feet tall. The rear seats fold down in a 60/40 split to almost flat, allowing more cargo space. With the seats up, the rear cargo area is large if not outstanding. There’s a usable amount of space back there, including hidden cubbies above the compact spare tire.
Ergonomically, the Cherokee offers little surprises. The Uconnect system is easy to operate, either with the touch screen or the redundant buttons beneath. Climate control is operated by similar knobs and buttons.
All is not perfect, though. One odd curiosity about the Uconnect system is that there is no way to turn off the audio. The volume knob includes a mute button, but there is no actual power button to be found. When the car is turned on, it will automatically start playing whatever was playing last, even if the car was shut off with the volume muted. It’s a rather annoying trait that could easily be fixed with a simple on/off button.
Also, the steering wheel controls could be better. The right side has buttons for cruise control which are simple enough, but the left side buttons only control what’s on the small screen between the gauges. The buttons should also be able to control the Uconnect system. But to turn the volume up and down and to change songs, the driver needs to use two rocker switches on the back of the wheel.
But those are minor flaws in what is actually a pretty nice place to spend some time. Everything is tight with no rattles or squeaks. Hard plastic is kept to a minimum, being used mainly on the lower portions of the dash and console and on the B-pillars.
Under the hood, this 2015 Cherokee has the optional 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 making 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission and is rated at 20 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 23 combined. During the testing period, it returned 20.5 mpg in mixed driving.
The V-6 makes decent power, but the Cherokee feels slower than it is because of the transmission. It’s unwilling to kick down, even from a standing start, and when it does the shifts are hard, causing the car to jerk forward. The same behavior happens when accelerating for passing maneuvers or exiting a turn. The transmission also hunts for gears at times and acts as if it’s confused and doesn’t know which gear to be in. Activating sport mode somewhat alleviates this behavior, but it’s still a frustrating transmission.
The chassis and suspension are tuned more for comfort than sport, with the car exhibiting some body roll on sharp turns, even in sport mode. But in return, it provides a stellar highway ride and soaks up most bumps without drama. Steering is light and accurate, but like most electronic systems it doesn’t provide a lot of feedback.
This Cherokee is equipped with Jeep’s Active Drive I 4×4 system. It’s not the trail-rated Active Drive II system found on the Trailhawk model, but it does come with four drive modes:
- Auto mode is just that, automatic. It senses what’s going on and does what it needs to do to provide traction. It’s the mode that most people will use most often.
- In Snow mode, the torque is split 60/40 front/rear and standing starts are done in second gear for more traction.
- In Sport mode, the torque is split 40/60 front/rear and the transmission is set for more aggressive shift points. Steering also feels heavier and the dash indicates that the traction control is turned off.
- In Snow/Mud mode, the system can send as much as 100 percent of the torque to either the front or rear depending on what end needs more traction.
The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 4×4 has a base price of $27,095, with an as-tested price of $33,825, putting it right in the ballpark of its competition. While the Cherokee does have some off-road credentials, it’s worth it to add on the Active Drive II system for even more off-road worthiness.
The Cherokee competes in a crowded segment. The Honda CR-V is the perennial leader of the segment. The Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape continue to sell well despite be older designs than the Cherokee. The Nissan Rogue is all new and provides a near-Infiniti level of comfort. The Toyota RAV4 is the one that started it all and the Mazda CX-5 is the sports car of the group. Subaru’s Forester is another older design but provides off-road worthiness second to only the Cherokee, which is by far the most capable off-road compact crossover.
On the TFL Car scale of:
- Buy it!
- Lease it!
- Rent it!
- … or Forget it!
The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 4×4 gets a Lease It!
The color scheme alone is nearly enough to give this car a Buy It rating, but unfortunately it doesn’t look quite as good with the standard chrome trim.
And even forgetting the fact that the Cherokee doesn’t look like a Cherokee, that 9-speed automatic transmission takes too much away from the driving experience. It’s unwillingness to downshift is infuriating. Nine speeds might just be too many – a six- or seven-speed automatic would work better. Heck, even a well-engineered CVT would be a better option. Jeep needs to either overhaul or completely replace the transmission. If they did, it would improve the driving experience significantly and would bump the rating up to a Buy It.
Watch the 2014 Jeep Cherokee take on some of its rivals in this TFLcar video: