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On- & off-road capability make Jeep Cherokee standout

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The Jeep Cherokee is a one-of-a-kind compact crossover SUV with sporty exterior styling, a comfortable cabin, pleasing on-road driving characteristics, and when properly equipped, amazing off-road capabilities.

While Jeep Cherokee offers a more car-like driving experience, the surprise comes when you experience the ruggedness and off-road prowess of a Trail Rated version of the Jeep Cherokee. Visually speaking, the planted look comes from the new 19-inch polished aluminum wheels, which also manage to elevate the refined aspect of Cherokee.

While it’s true that Jeep Cherokee’s competitors offer slightly more refined or sporty on-road manners, none come close to being as off-road ready. Having said that, I decree (after driving the Overland 4×4) that the 2018 Cherokee feels well-mannered, even in Trail Rated form. Pricing for the 2018 Jeep Cherokee begins at $23,995 and it is offered in five trim levels: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Trailhawk and top-line Overland.

4WD

The Trailhawk is built for off-road enthusiasts and comes standard with four-wheel drive (4WD) 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 and Overland) is called Active Drive I. It features a single-speed automatic Power Transfer Unit (PTU) to direct torque to the rear wheels as needed.

The more capable Active Drive II system 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 feature a specific 4WD system (Active Drive Lock) that builds upon the Active Drive II system and 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 feature a Selec-Terrain system that includes a rotary switch with settings for Auto, Snow, Sport, and Sand/Mud. Trailhawk models add a “Rock” setting for its Selec-Terrain system.

Power

A 184-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine comes standard in all Cherokee models except top-of-the-line Overland models. My tester featured a 271-horsepower 3.2-L V6 engine standard in Overland, and is available in all other trim levels. Having driven both engines, I’d be hard pressed not to opt for the more powerful V6. Both engines are paired to 9-speed automatic transmissions.

Cabin

Inside, Cherokee offers attractive styling, comfortable accommodations for four adults or a family of five, and loads of available amenities. The 60/40 split folding rear seats recline and include fore/aft adjustment.

Cherokee’s cargo area is a bit smaller than competitive models, but on the plus side, Cherokee’s cabin feels more upscale than others in the segment. My tester featured the top-end Nappa leather-trimmed seating and Zebrano wood-accented steering wheel to easily raise the bar inside.

I like the available Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen display and the optional 506-watt 10-speaker Alpine audio system will attract audiophiles with its incredible sound quality – but it also manages to win over big crowds at tailgating gatherings.

Final decision

All the extra refinement like the leather-wrapped instrument panel, high-gloss wood trim, heated and cooled power front seats, continue to raise Cherokee’s bar. Cherokee offers many advanced technologies like adaptive cruise control with stop and go, full speed collision warning and crash mitigation.

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