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Jeep Cherokee gets new front end, engine choice

2019 Jeep® Cherokee Overland

The Jeep Cherokee is one of the more capable SUVs in its segment as it delivers impressive towing and off-roading capabilities. When properly equipped, the Cherokee possesses superior off-road prowess compared to others in this segment.

However, Cherokee has received criticism for its controversial front end styling and problematic 9-speed automatic transmission. Those issues have been addressed for 2019. Plus, there have been additional improvements.

The 2019 Jeep Cherokee now sports enhanced front end styling that lends to a more premium and authentic Jeep look. Cherokee now looks more akin to the larger Grand Cherokee. That is a good thing.

Thankfully, operation of the 9-speed automatic transmission has been improved. There is an all-new available turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The infotainment system has been upgraded with new capabilities. And more.

Built at the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Belvidere, Illinois, the Jeep Cherokee is available in five different trim levels; Latitude ($25,490), Latitude Plus ($27,145), Limited ($31,200), range-topping Overland ($36,745) and the rugged Trail Rated Trailhawk ($33,945).

Powering the lower trims is a naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine rated for 180 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque.

Optional in lower trims, and standard in upper trims, is a 3.2-liter V6 engine rated at 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque.

An all-new turbocharged 2.0-liter engine rated at 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque is optional in all trims except the Latitude.

All models feature a 9-speed automatic transmission and its software has been improved to deliver refined drivability and ensure the unit is always in the appropriate gear.

I did experience the improved and more refined operation. I also experienced the new turbo-four and found it to be quite potent and fairly fuel efficient. The only complaint is that some engine noise did enter the cabin when accelerating hard.

Regardless of which Cherokee you choose, one of the big surprises is how well-mannered it performs on the road. That is also true of 4×4 models.

Off-road enthusiasts will enjoy the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. It comes standard with Cherokee’s top-rated four-wheel drive (4WD) system and specific off-road hardware.

All other Cherokee models can be had with either front-wheel drive (FWD) or 4WD.

Cherokee’s base 4WD system (available in all trims except Trailhawk) is called Active Drive I. It features a single-speed automatic Power Transfer Unit (PTU) to direct torque to the rear wheels as needed. It is now lighter and offers improved fuel efficiency and performance.

The more capable Active Drive II system (available in all trims except Latitude) features a two-speed PTU with a low range for serious off-roading, and a neutral switch to allow Cherokee to be flat-towed behind a motorhome.

Trailhawk models build upon Active Drive II by adding Active Drive Lock, which includes a rear locking differential for enhanced off-road traction.

Trailhawk models also offer higher ground clearance, all-terrain tires, protective skid plates, Selec-Speed Control, Hill-Ascent Control and specific exterior and interior trim.

All Cherokee models with 4WD include a Selec-Terrain system that features a rotary switch with settings for Auto, Snow, Sport, and Sand/Mud.

Cherokee’s interior has been updated for 2019 to give it a fresh and more elegant tone. The rear cargo area has been increased slightly and a new hands-free power liftgate is available.

The 2019 Cherokee receives the fourth-generation Uconnect system (with either a 7-inch or 8.4-inch touchscreen) and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included.

Driver assistance technologies like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking and park assist are only available in upper trim levels, not in Latitude or Latitude Plus trims.

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication