Monday, October 13, 2014

First Drive--2015 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 4X4

By Ben Aghajanian, UpShift Contributing Editor
Jeep’s new Cherokee represents a rethinking of the SUV concept from the brand that practically invented the segment during World War II. It is a drastic departure from the Cherokee of old—no longer slab-sided and boxy, but sleek and aerodynamic. No longer old-school, but instead giving the option of three different 4-wheel-drive systems. Last week, I had the opportunity to drive a Cherokee Latitude 4x4, with the 2.4L “Tigershark” inline-4 and Chrysler’s industry first 9-speed automatic. Let’s take a closer look.

            The design of the new Cherokee has been the subject of much debate, acclaimed by some and scorned by a number of hardcore Jeep purists. Frankly, a “square Cherokee” would just be competing with the (square) Wrangler Unlimited (the 4-door model) for sales in the current Jeep lineup. The 4-door Wrangler was never offered during the rather long production run for the previous Cherokee, 1984-2001. Jeep wanted to compete within the high-volume small and mid-size crossover segment—and based on sales through the first model year, they’ve done quite well. This is an area where the Liberty, which the Cherokee replaced, never excelled. To the mainstream customer, the new Cherokee represents a compelling alternative to a sea of silver Honda CR-Vs and Toyota RAV-4s.