Compact crossover SUV
The latest Jeep Cherokee originally hit the road for 2014 and quickly became a staple in the popular small SUV segment.
With class-leading levels of capability and customization, the Cherokee was often sought after by shoppers looking for a product with stable on-road driving dynamics and increased capability for use on roads less traveled.
With available V6 power, a trio of four-wheel drive systems to choose from, and towing capacity up to 2,041 kg (4,500 lb), the Cherokee was built to operate comfortably in all weather conditions, as well as in both on and off-road settings.
The available Trailhawk model met Jeep’s requirements to carry “Trail rated” designation, a stamp of approval for maximum off-road capability within the brand. This high capacity model has a range of upgrades and improvements that cater to the needs of the most adventurous riders who plan to use their machines frequently in an off-road environment. Multiple selectable driving modes optimize up to 12 vehicle systems for maximum performance in virtually any terrain.
Look for two rows of seating, available navigation, climate-controlled leather seats, high-performance lighting, sunroof, heated steering wheel, remote start, premium audio, adaptive cruise control and more.
A nine-speed automatic transmission was mated to both four- and six-cylinder engine options. Look for a 2.4L four-cylinder engine with 184 hp or a 3.2L V6 with a powerful 271 hp.
A major update for 2019 brought a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine to the lineup, delivering 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 2019 Jeep Cherokee also featured revised design and materials inside, as well as an exterior refresh. The transmission was also improved with new software to allow for smoother and more consistent operation.
Here we will focus on later models from this generation of Cherokee models – specifically 2017 and beyond. Based on research, a 2017 or newer Jeep Cherokee is your best bet to avoid potential problem areas that are more commonly reported by owners of earlier units.
What owners like
Cherokee owners tend to be most impressed with the performance of the available V6 engine, a supple suspension, a powerful and simple touchscreen interface, and push-button access to numerous grip-enhancing tools for use in a variety of challenging driving conditions. A flexible and handy cabin, as well as a relatively quiet highway, help round out the package. Here is a machine built to explore new trails and terrain, while providing a comfortable and compliant ride on road and highway.
What owners dislike
Common complaints include the desire for more power and stronger acceleration on models with four-cylinder power, and lower-than-average cargo capacity compared to other crossovers in its size range. Other owner complaints include a sometimes clumsy gearbox that can hesitate to engage the appropriate gear for the situation, and extensive use of “buttons” that remind owners of lower quality models of the features and functions they didn’t choose.
Problem with the tailgate
Some owners have reported problems with the motorized tailgate on their Jeep Cherokees. Most have not. On your test drive, determine if the Cherokee you’re considering has a motorized tailgate, and be sure to drive it fully, several times and in several different places on your test drive.
Check that the tailgate responds to all of its switches, including the one on the remote, inside the cargo area, and the buttons on the tailgate itself. If it won’t open or close completely, gets stuck in the way, or won’t latch and lock into place, have a technician examine it before you buy.
In many cases, owners have fixed wonky tailgates by resetting or rebooting the system’s electronics, by removing and reinstalling a fuse, or by adjusting the position of the catch/latch that physically holds it closed.
Tailgate problems can also be a sign of a weak or dying battery. In some cases, fixing this problem has required installing new hardware, which can be expensive out of warranty. If the tailgate on the used Cherokee you’re considering isn’t working properly, you’ll want to know about it before you buy. Here’s some more reading.
Having a used vehicle undergo a lift inspection by a licensed technician is an excellent idea before purchasing any used vehicle, and can be especially beneficial when considering a used vehicle like the Cherokee that is designed for off-road use. environment.
When a technician performs a Pre-Purchase Inspection (PPI) of the vehicle’s underside, a technician can quickly spot a host of signs of failure and potential problems, while revealing potential damage that may have been incurred in an off-road environment at the hands of a previous owner.
If the Cherokee you are considering has been abused or damaged in an off-road environment in the past, its remaining warranty coverage may be compromised or voided. The same applies if the previous owner failed to take care of or maintain the vehicle properly as described in the owner’s manual.
A PPI that includes a full underbody inspection is highly recommended before your purchase to help you confirm that the model you’re considering isn’t hiding any potentially nasty surprises for your warranty – or your wallet.
The nine-speed automatic transmission used in the Jeep Cherokee has been at the center of numerous owner complaints for years, and has also been the subject of a class action lawsuit.
Information and reports from the owner community seem to indicate that earlier models of this generation were the most likely to experience problems, and more owners of newer machines (2017 and up) are reporting trouble-free operation, indicating that major issues were addressed at the factory level. Specifically, transmission-related complaints documented online appear to be decreasing from 2015, with even fewer reports from 2017 onwards.
Still, with reports of transmission problems, rebuilds and swaps fairly common in ownership discussions, test drive shoppers are advised to take some steps to protect themselves.
First, confirm that the transmission is running the latest available software updates and that all service, maintenance and inspections are up to date. Only have the transmission serviced in a dealer environment to reduce the risk of using the wrong fluid or drain-and-fill, which could cause further damage. If it’s within your budget, it’s also a good idea to add an extended powertrain warranty package that covers the transmission.
Jerky or rough shifts, a failure to engage drive or reverse, an inexplicable shift into neutral, and general jerky or unwelcome transmission behavior on your test drive are strong indicators that you should move to another unit. Flashing lights on the gear selector, as well as warning messages in the cluster, are other warning signs.
For best results, stick to a 2016 or newer model, maintain the transmission religiously, and add any extended warranty coverage.
Rear differential module
Some owners have reported unwelcome grinding, clunking, or scraping noises from the rear of their vehicles, possibly accompanied by a warning message or error light with “service 4×4” or similar message. Most have not.
On your test drive, silence the vehicle’s cab and find an open space to perform a small test. Stop the vehicle and then accelerate several times from different points between a standing start and about 60 km/h. Steer the vehicle at different angles for some of your tests, including at a sharp angle.
Listen closely for unwanted sounds from the rear underside of the Cherokee. In some cases, drivers may also feel unwanted feedback; for example, a clunking, binding or dragging sensation from the vehicle’s wheels.
These are potential symptoms of problems that could cost you a lot of money, up to and including replacing the four wheel drive hardware which will be expensive out of warranty. A warning message in the instrument cluster is another reason to proceed with caution.
Buying a used Cherokee with an unexplained noise, unwanted feedback, or an undiagnosed warning light is not recommended.
Engine oil loss
Several owners of Jeep Cherokees powered by the 2.4L non-turbocharged four-cylinder engine have complained of oil consumption issues. Many have not.
Oil consumption is a well-documented problem in many modern vehicles from many brands, and the Cherokee’s 2.4L engine is no exception. The owner community has documented the issue, with some owners reporting that engine oil levels drop sufficiently to cause the engine to stall randomly.
This reinforces the need to check and adjust oil levels regularly. In the process, if you notice engine oil levels dropping too much, ask a dealer to document your problems as soon as possible. Some owners have had dealers perform oil consumption tests (read more here) to determine the best course of action. Choose a V6-powered model if possible to avoid this potential problem.
A long list of recalls for the 2017-2021 Jeep Cherokee can be found here.
IIHS: results here
NHTSA: 4/5 stars (2019)