Jeep has revealed full details on its upcoming Cherokee mid-size SUV, which will be the first offering from the famous off-road brand using a Fiat-derived unit body platform. When it goes on sale this fall, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee debuts three different four-wheel-drive systems, a new 9-speed automatic transmission and a new 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 engine with 4,600 pounds of towing capacity. There is also 2.4-liter “Tigershark” MultiAir four-cylinder that will deliver a 45% fuel economy improvement compared to the outgoing and slow selling Liberty model. Cherokee will also offer two front-wheel-drive models, unlike the 4wd only Liberty, which was part of its sales problem.
Since this is a crucial product for the Fiat-owned brand, Jeep marketers are loudly proclaiming that this is a true Jeep even if it uses what some conservatives consider out of place LED headlights and an expressive new look that does however retain the familiar seven-port grille. Underneath is the compact U.S. wide or CUS-wide platform, a variant of which debuted on the Dodge Dart.
The proof of this real Jeep assertion is in the Trailhawk model that includes a one-inch factory lift, Jeep Active Drive Lock with a locking rear differential, skid plates and tow hooks. The locking rear differential is selectable in any low range terrain mode, but will lock automatically when in other modes, such as “Rock,” to maximize traction at any tire patch that can support it. Trailhawk has an approach angle of 29.8 degrees, a departure angle of 32.1 degrees and a breakover angle of 23.3 degrees. Running ground clearance is 8.7 inches.
Jeep Cherokee is the first mid-size SUV to have rear-axle disconnect, resulting in reduced energy loss when 4×4 drive is not needed, thereby improving fuel efficiency, a long-standing Jeep problem. The rear-axle disconnect switches between two- and four-wheel drive for full-time torque management and does not require input from the driver.
Optional on the Cherokee Sport, Latitude and Limited models, Active Drive I has a single power transfer unit that is fully automatic switching in and out of four-wheel drive at any speed. The system does not require any driver intervention or feedback, and has yaw correction during dynamic events and is said to improve both understeer and oversteer.
Jeep Active Drive II is a step-up that includes a two-speed PTU with torque management and low range. The 4-low mode locks the front and rear driveshafts for low-speed power or towing. Low range provides a 2.92:1 gear reduction, which allows for climbing ability as well outstanding crawl ratios for severe off-road conditions. Ride height is increased by an inch, and there is a crawl ratio of 56:1 when powered by the 2.4-liter I4 engine or 47.8:1 with the 3.2-liter V6 engine.
A so-called Active Drive Lock includes all Active Drive II, plus a locking rear differential for superior low-speed power for severe off-road conditions. Jeep Active Drive Lock is standard on all Trailhawk models.
All 4×4 systems have a traction control system that allows the driver to choose the on- and off-road setting for optimum performance with Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock modes. With algorithms that enable control and capability, the traction control electronically coordinates and up to 12 systems on any terrain with the drivetrain control module, electronic brake controller, electronic stability control, transmission controller, powertrain controller and hill-ascent and hill-descent Control.
The 16-valve, 2.4-liter Tigershark MultiAir 2 I4 engine is standard and is rated at 184 horsepower and 171 lb.-ft. of torque. Jeep claimed it offers up to an estimated 31 mpg highway fuel economy and a driving range on a tank of gasoline of nearly 500 miles.
Optional is a 3.2-liter V6 engine is the first derivative of the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and is rated at 271 horsepower, 239 lb.-ft. of torque with a claimed best-in-class V6 towing of 4,500 pounds.
The front independent suspension is comprised of MacPherson struts, while the rear is an independent multi-link design. The front suspension provides 6.7 inches of travel while the rear suspension provides up to 7.8 inches of travel for better articulation. The isolated rear cradle, aluminum front cross member and what’s said to be superior torsional rigidity all contribute to a claimed quiet ride and good handling characteristics.