Hamish Macaulay is ready to say good-bye to his nine-year-old Jeep Cherokee. He and his wife will soon be proud parents of a baby girl, which means the family’s 1999 Cherokee is “getting a little old and it’s time to upgrade.”

The Cherokee does the chores of an everyday family wagon, but underneath you'll find the robust running gear of a serious off-roader.

The Cherokee does the chores of an everyday family wagon, but underneath you’ll find the robust running gear of a serious off-roader.

The aged Cherokee has been a good rig, so good Macaulay is “looking at the 2016 Jeep Cherokee Limited.” It’s big enough for family chores and the latest safety gear appeals to the new dad side of him. My suggestion, however, is to be cautious.

The Cherokee is, for sure, a handsome crossover SUV (sport-utility vehicle). It’s capable of handling all sorts of weird and wonderful terrain and the infotainment interface is among the most user-friendly sold anywhere. But the quality piece worries me.

The Jeep brand as a whole scored dead last in the most recent Consumer Reports brand study. CR is not alone in sanctioning Jeep. J.D. Power and Associates’ latest three-year Vehicle Dependability Study ranks Jeep fifth from the bottom. Jeep is third from the bottom in J.D. Power’s short-term Initial Quality Study, too. You won’t find the Cherokee on anyone’s list of super reliable.

The cabin is a triumph of interior car design.

The cabin is a triumph of interior car design.

“I have to admit though, I like the look of the Jeep and am leaning heavily towards it,” says Macaulay.

Here, then, is the classic left brain vs. right brain struggle. Macalualy’s left hemisphere quite logically is seeking a sensible family rig. Safety, reliability and functionality figure heavily in his calculations.

However, the right hemisphere is drawn to the artistic excellence of the Cherokee. Macaulay likes the looks and he will like the drive – comfortable and car-like, yet the chassis and body structure are robust enough for energetic off-roading. At highway speeds the Cherokee can feel a little floaty and the steering is light, but some interpret that as a comfortable, soft ride with easy-to-manage steering.

No car company offers a more user-friendly infotainment interface.

No car company offers a more user-friendly infotainment interface.

As right-brains go, the Cherokee is a smash. The exterior design is rugged yet clean and modern. There’s enough of its Willy’s heritage in the grille and headlights to make it recognizable as a Jeep, yet the softer corners, rounder edges, balanced proportions and subtle creases and lines entertain the eye.

Inside, the seats are superb – supportive and rich-feeling. The cabin is filled with soft-touch materials and the touch-screen to control your gizmos (and the Jeep’s) has big read-outs and is intuitive in operation. Outstanding.

Very comfortable seats.

Very comfortable seats.

Second-row space is also generous and the tall ride height makes loading and unloading child seats and little children very easy. The cargo area is big enough to hold a mobile playpen or a shopping-cart-sized stroller – folded, of course.

As a family vehicle for Millennials, the Cherokee ticks the functionality boxes. This explains why the latest Cherokee has been flying off dealer lots without the help of massive sales sweeteners. If you want a grand deal on a Cherokee, be ready to drive a hard bargain.

For all the good, however, there is the bad, too. The Cherokee is NOT a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It has not been a miserable failure in safety testing, but many rivals have scored higher, earning the Institute’s Top Safety Pick+ rating: Honda CR-V, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4.



As for quality, the third party research says Jeep has work to do. Recent recalls have flagged water leaks around the rear power liftgate. And there have been well-publicized vulnerabilities to software hacking, too. The big conclusion: Fiat Chrysler needs to roll up its sleeves and fix the quality of all its vehicles.

Fair enough. But Macaulay is looking to buy something new, which means the warranty is there for peace of mind. Yet the Cherokee comes standard – or should I say below standard – with a three-year/60,000 km bumper-to-bumper warranty, five years/100,000 km on the powertrain. A similarly priced 2017 Kia Sportage, an all-new design, comes standard with five-year/100,000 bumper-to-bumper coverage.

And pretty.

And pretty.

The Cherokee makes sense for a certain type of right-brain buyer. But if you’re a left-brainer, put the Forester and the RAV4 at the top of your shopping list.


THE LOOK: Love it. Jeep’s heritage styling cues are there, but they don’t dominate. Instead, this is a 21st century design without unnecessary flourishes.

THE DRIVE: Quiet and comfy at highway speeds, though it can feel a little floaty, with light steering. The 2.4-litre gas engine is strong enough, but not quite in the league of today-s best direct-injection four-bangers.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS: Fiat Chrysler’s quality issues have been well documented. Time for FCA to fix these matters. Key rivals have also scored higher in IIHS rating.

THE CABIN/STORAGE: Comfortable and extremely well done, both visually and functionally. No one offers a more user-friendly infotainment interface.

THE BRAND: The Jeep brand is extremely powerful, with a great heritage behind it. Jeeps are hip.

WHO BUYS? This is a family rig for Millennials or a fun choice for empty-nesters.

Price: $36,095.

Engine: 2.4-litre four-cylinder (184 hp/171 lb-ft of torque).

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.8 city/8.3 highway using regular fuel.

Comparables: Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Volkswagen Tiguan, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain.


Comments are closed.