The 2019 Jeep Cherokee might just be the next great mid-size overland rig
After five years on the road, Jeep has finally given the Cherokee a much-needed facelift.
This controversial Jeep made waves when it was reintroduced in late 2013, with many, including myself, skeptical it would ever live up to its predecessor, the venerable XJ.
The Cherokee KL also suffered from a polarizing design, which I described as the most “angry-alligator looking mean-mugging SUVs on the market today,” during a review in 2017.
With the 2019 model-year, Jeep seems to have addressed some of the Cherokee’s biggest criticisms.
Better yet, Jeep did a lot than just change out a few body panels. The new Cherokee will be offered with a torquey turbocharged four-banger and some serious off-road goodies, including a new electronically locking differential.
Thanks to its size, power and sheer capability, I can easily see the new Cherokee Trailhawk becoming a popular platform for overland expeditions.
In this post, I’ll be digging a little deeper into to the biggest improvements to the Cherokee and why I think, with a few modifications, this Jeep could be a great adventuremobile.
A new look
It’s hard to talk about the new Cherokee without mentioning the new look.
The previous model’s controversial daylight-running lamps have been moved into headlight assembly and its snout has been pushed in, giving the Jeep a much less reptilian appearance. Instead, the Cherokee now resembles a cross between the 2017 Compass and Grand Cherokee. I think it’s a big improvement.
Jeep also reworked the rear hatch, cutting weight and giving the vehicle a more refined look all around. All of these changes give the vehicle a much more balanced appearance.
More power, less compromise
The biggest improvement is hiding under the hood of the Cherokee. For the 2019-model-year, the Cherokee will be offered with a 2-liter turbocharged four-banger promising V6-like power without taking a hit to fuel economy.
Jeep claims the new engine will produce an impressive 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. While I think anyone will appreciate the gobs of torque afforded by this engine, I think most overlanders will appreciate the better fuel economy compared to the naturally aspirated V6.
While Jeep has yet to announce fuel economy figures for the new engine, my guess is the real-world figures will be much less than claimed. When I drove the 2017 Cherokee last year, I struggled to get the 20 City/27 Highway advertised on the window sticker from the 3.2-liter baby Pentastar V6.
The new Cherokee will still be offered with the base 2.4-liter four-cylinder, but it’ll come equipped with the same stop-start feature already standard on the V6 and presumably the 2-liter turbo. Whether this does anything meaningful to improve real-world fuel economy, I’m not so sure, but at least it’s pretty easily disabled if you don’t like it.
Lockable rear diff and crawl control
Ground clearance: 8.7 inches
Approach: 29.9 degrees
Breakover: 22.9 degrees
Departure: 32.3 degrees
Wheelbase: 106.4 inches
Water fording: 20 inches
Crawl ratio: 52:1 with 2-liter
Payload: 1,000 pounds
Fuel: 15.9 gallons
Tires: Firestone Destination A/T 245/65R17
The 2019 Cherokee is more than a handsome face; it’s a Jeep with some serious off-road underpinnings.
Last year’s Cherokee Trailhawk boasted low-range gearing, hill descent and an automatic locking differential for added grip on even the most difficult trails.
The new model year takes this to the next level by swapping the automatic locker for a user-selectable electronic one and adding a new feature called Selec-Speed, which works like cruise control for off-roading. I’m particularly happy to see the Jeep kept the locking rear diff in the Cherokee, which should make lifting a tire much less problematic in the tough stuff.
Together with a new more aggressive front bumper, 8.7-inches of ground clearance and 29-inch all-terrain tires, the Trailhawk remains one of the most capable 4x4s in its segment.
A true overland? Not quite
Despite what the Overland badge and shiny chrome tow-hooks might have you believe, Jeep’s top trim Cherokee Overland is just an appearance package, a homage to when the company was owned by Willy’s Overland.
The Cherokee Trailhawk, on the other hand, could make a great platform for a light-duty overland rig. The Trailhawk’s great approach, departure and break over angles, full-size spare tire, and factory locking differential and bash plates make it a great contender.
For most people, the Trailhawk’s Firestone Destination tires and 8.7-inches of ground clearance should be more than enough to make it through any obstacle they can throw at it. Remember, not every overlander needs a solid front axle and 10-inches of ground clearance to make it to their destination.
If there is anything holding the Cherokee back, it would be its pathetically small fuel tank, which at 15.9 gallons, doesn’t afford it much range. You’ll either have to plan for frequent stops or strap a few jerry cans to a roof basket.
Who is it for?
Overall, I think the 2019 Cherokee is a fantastic option any overlander looking to buy new should definitely consider.
It’s not going to be the perfect rig for everyone, but for the person trying to pick between a Subaru Crosstrek or Outback and a Cherokee Trailhawk, all those off-road features really start to add up.
Disagree? Tell me why in the comments.
Looking for more?
If you want to learn more about the new Cherokee I recommend checking out The Fast Lane Car’s latest video on the newly refreshed Jeep.