•   Engine
    3.2L V6
  •   Power
    271 HP / 239 LB-FT
  •   Transmission
    9-Speed Automatic
  •   Drivetrain
    All-Wheel Drive
  •   Engine Placement
    Front
  •   Curb Weight
    4,106 LBS
  •   Seating
    2+3
  •   Cargo
    54.9 CU-FT (max)
  •   MPG
    18 City / 25 HWY
  •   As Tested Price
    $38,059
  •  
Sorry, Sweet Brown. Your place in Autoblog history as the most highly demanded long-term car has come to an end. We just finished a one-year test of a 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, and after 27,000 miles of hard use, one thing is very clear: this is one of the best all-rounders we've ever tested.

The Jeep Cherokee isn't perfect, and our long-term tester proved that. But no compact crossover is. Still, the Trailhawk oozed personality where other small CUVs seem bland, and the Jeep felt more like a trusty companion than just another test car. For road trips, the requests weren't, "Can I have a long-term car this weekend?" They were specific: "I'd like the Cherokee, please." No matter the season, the driver, or the situation, the Jeep was always a sure fit.

Fiat Chrysler bet big with this one. It had a global platform, a new engine, and one heck of a funny face. The end result was a CUV that we'd gladly welcome back into our fleet any day.

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Our car carried a sticker price of $38,059, but that's without goodies like HID headlamps, a sunroof, or even full leather seats.

Lots To Like

Admittedly, we picked the Trailhawk trim for cosmetic reasons (more on it's off-road capability in a second). To this day, many of us still think the Cherokee is a homely little thing, but its inherent weirdness doesn't stand out as much when you add the black accents and big, knobby tires of the Trailhawk model. The butched-up look really works here, and we wouldn't have wanted the Jeep any other way. Of course, opting for Trailhawk package meant getting one of Jeep's more expensive Cherokees. Our car carried a sticker price of $38,059, but that's without goodies like HID headlamps (which we could have used – the halogens were pretty weak), a sunroof, or even full leather seats.

This car genuinely felt premium, though. Right off the bat, the Cherokee received compliments for its comfortable, supportive seats, not to mention the high quality of interior materials and the general fit and finish. Specifically, the interior packaging won us over early on. We appreciated things like the higher-end stereo, smart layout of the center console, and ample storage, including a bin under the front passenger seat cushion. (That said, we also found that this bin becomes a catch-all for wrappers, french fries, and anything else that might get dropped on the seat.) The Uconnect infotainment system was a joy to use, never giving us any finicky problems or usability issues. And man, were those seats comfortable. Even after 365 days of heavy butts, that front seat was an incredibly lovely place to spend time.

We had no problem packing up the Cherokee with people and things, hitting the road for long trips. Brandon Turkus packed four other guys and all their stuff into the Cherokee for a bro-down weekend in Nashville. Chris McGraw took the Jeep to northern Michigan more times than we can count. Our Trailhawk was the vehicle of choice for Autoblog alum Sharon Carty during her runs between Michigan and New Jersey. It was even the car-du-jour of Erin Marquis' super adorable dog, Hank. Still, all of us (well, except Hank) had the same complaints.

Jeep CherokeeJeep Cherokee
Jeep CherokeeJeep Cherokee

Some of us found it best to use the manual shift mode to force the Cherokee to stay in eighth, just so the transmission would settle down.

Nine Wasn't Fine

"I've decided that, as an industry, we don't need more than eight speeds." Your author noted this in the Cherokee's logbook after a weekend jaunt to Chicago. It's not just the nine-speed automatic transmission in the Cherokee that's bad, it's all 9AT units. Simply put, the transmission hunts around far too much to truly be a smooth operator. Everyone on our staff agreed.

With the Jeep, the nine-speed was clearly geared for economy above all, and it meant that the CUV often felt sluggish, even with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque from the 3.2-liter V6. (We can't imagine how it'd do with the smaller, four-cylinder option.) Because the Jeep's first instinct was to shift to the highest gear as soon as possible, this meant ninth was quickly selected during highway cruising. But the moment even the smallest smidge of power was demanded, the transmission would jump back to eighth. Then seventh. Then eighth. Then seventh. Then sixth. Then seventh. Then eighth. Then ninth. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Some of us found it best to use the manual shift mode to force the Cherokee to stay in eighth, just so the transmission would settle down.

However, the nine-speed did work as advertised to achieve decent fuel economy on these long runs. "Loaded up with guys and their gear, we recorded just under 26 miles per gallon, which is actually above the 25-mpg highway rating listed by the EPA," Turkus noted after his trip to Tennessee. All in, after 27,483 miles, we saw an average of an even 22 mpg – a good combined number, considering the 18/25/20 city/highway/combined fuel economy rating.

Jeep Cherokee
Jeep CherokeeJeep Cherokee

In terms of overall quality, the Cherokee held up better than many of our other long-term testers.

Wear And Tear

We drove the Cherokee through all four seasons in southeast Michigan, including an incredibly harsh winter. The Jeep was used and abused, and yet remained solid through it all. At the end of our loan, there were no rattles or squeaks to speak of inside. The interior materials looked and felt new. We never had to make mechanical repairs or replace broken components. In terms of overall quality, the Cherokee held up better than many of our other long-term testers.

Regrettably, we never pushed the Cherokee to its limits off road. Sure, a few of us took the Jeep on some rough trails, and many of us plowed through huge amounts of snow and slush, not to mention crappy Detroit streets, but we never crawled rocks or anything like that. We don't imagine that most Cherokee owners will do this stuff, either, especially those who don't opt for the Trailhawk. Instead, we appreciated the relatively nice ride quality, good steering feel, and overall easy-to-use dynamics.

Aside from scheduled maintenance, our only repair involved a broken windshield – something completely out of our (and the Jeep's) control. Because it happened early on in our testing and dealers had no windshield supply, FCA actually replaced the windshield for us, noting the repair cost $361.84. The only other money spent on our Cherokee was for routine oil changes, car washes, fuel fill-ups, and the occasional interior detail.

Jeep Cherokee

It may not be the cheapest – or prettiest – compact crossover in the class, but it's the one we'd welcome into our driveways every single time.

One Year Later

The Cherokee was in high demand up until the very end. Everyone wanted one last hurrah in the Jeep prior to its departure, and we never grew tired of spending time with our trusty red Trailhawk. Some long-term cars tend to feel a little long in the tooth by the time Month 12 hits, but not the Jeep.

When FCA boss Sergio Marchionne presented the company's five-year plan in 2014, he said that on a global scale, he considers Jeep as the company's flagship brand. Jeep vehicles need to represent the best of what Fiat-Chrysler can do, and this Cherokee is a good example of that. From our testing, we found this crossover to be a total Jeep, especially in Trailhawk trim – rugged, versatile, and well built. It may not be the cheapest – or prettiest – compact crossover in the class, but it's the one we'd welcome into our driveways every single time.

Have a look at all our 2014 Jeep Cherokee videos in the slideshow below, and click here for our other long-term updates.

Hank the Autodog Goes for a Ride in the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk


The Numbers

Odometer at arrival: 99
Odometer at departure: 27,483

Scheduled maintenance visits: 4
Non-scheduled maintenance visits: 1
Days out of service: 1
Out-of-pocket repair/maintenance cost: $361.84 (paid by FCA)

EPA estimated fuel economy: 18 city / 25 highway / 20 combined mpg
Observed average fuel economy: 22 mpg

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