Just two years ago, Jeep brought back its iconic Cherokee SUV line, replacing the Liberty that had been on the market since 2002. Now there’s a new top-end version called the Overland.
The Overland with four-wheel drive is the most-expensive of the Cherokee lineup for 2017, with a base price of $37,695 (plus $995 freight), but there’s also a front-wheel-drive version that starts at $34,895. If you’re an off-road driving aficionado like me, though, you’ll definitely want to choose the four-wheel-drive version.
Jeep introduced the Overland model midway through the 2016 model year, and it carries over into 2017 with no changes except for two new options packages -- the Heavy Duty Protection Group ($295), which adds underbody skid plates and a full-size spare tire; and a Trailer Tow Prep Package ($345), which brings a tow wiring harness, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, heavy-duty engine cooling (3.2-liter engine) and also a full-size spare.
Standard on all Cherokee models except the Overland four-wheel-drive is a 2.4-liter Tigershark Multi-Air inline four-cylinder engine, producing 184 horsepower and 171 foot-pounds of torque.
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It’s connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission, and has EPA ratings of 21 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined for front-drive models, and 21/28/23 with the base Active Drive I four-wheel drive system.
Our Overland four-wheel-drive tester, however, came with the 3.2-liter V-6, which is in included in the base price. This engine is offered as an upgrade on all other models for an additional $1,745.
It cranks out 271 horsepower and 239 foot-pounds of torque. Also coupled with a nine-speed automatic, the 3.2 engine has fuel-economy ratings of 21/29/24 with front drive, and 18/26/21 when paired with the Overland’s Active Drive II four-wheel drive system.
Overall Cherokee prices for 2017 begin at $23,595 for the entry-level Sport front-wheel-drive model. Other front-drive trims include the Sport Altitude ($24,590); Latitude ($25,545), 75th Anniversary Edition ($28,325); Limited ($29,495), and High Altitude ($30,490).
There are two special off-road models called the Trailhawk ($31,195) and the Trailhawk L Plus ($35,195), which come with the best of the four-wheel-drive systems, including Active Drive Lock. No two-wheel-drive versions of the Trailhawk are available.
Upgrading to the basic Active Drive I four-wheel-drive system adds $2,000 to the price of Sport, Sport Altitude, Latitude, High Altitude, 75th Anniversary, and Limited models.
For 2017, high-intensity discharge headlights are now standard on all trim levels except the Sport. They were already included on the Overland.
Other key features of the Overland include Nappa leather seats (heated and ventilated in front); a leather-covered instrument panel, power-adjustable driver and front passenger seats with four-way power lumbar adjust; a special steering wheel with Zebrano high-gloss wood trim; bright doorsill plates; Berber floor mats; an Alpine premium audio system with 8.4-inch monitor, Bluetooth, Navigation, satellite/HD radio, SiriusXM Travel and Traffic, and Uconnect Access Advantage; and memory for the driver’s seat, radio and exterior mirrors.
There is a personalization feature for the 8.4-inch touch-screen controls, and a Do Not Disturb feature that keeps out phone calls and text messages with the push of a button.
The 3.2-liter engine has hybrid-style stop-start technology that automatically cuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. It then automatically restarts when the driver’s foot is lifted off of the brake pedal. Unlike other vehicles’ stop-start systems, the Cherokee’s has a switch on the dash that lets the driver turn it off, mostly to accommodate off-road operation where you wouldn’t want the engine to stop automatically.
Also available for the Overland (and included on our tester) is the Technology Group ($1,645), an entire suite of modern safety features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning with Crash Mitigation and Advanced Brake Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Lane Keep Assist, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high/low beam headlights, outside mirror turn signals, and parallel and perpendicular parking assist.
Standard are Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection, and Rear Park Assist.
There was plenty of power from the 3.2-liter engine in our Overland test vehicle, both during highway and country road driving, and on some limited off-road courses we checked out.
Unlike the Liberty or previous Cherokee models, the new Cherokee generation comes standard with front-wheel drive rather than rear-wheel. That’s part of its European heritage – it’s designed on a front-drive chassis developed with Chrysler parent Fiat (now Fiat Chrysler Automotive) of Italy. It’s still built in Toledo, Ohio, however.
The Cherokee has a combined body and frame setup known as a unibody, and it competes in the growing compact crossover class that includes the Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Kia Sportage and more.
The four-wheel-drive option on the Sport, Latitude, Altitude, 75th anniversary, and Limited versions brings only the basic Jeep Active Drive I system, which does not include low-range, two-speed gearing for serious off-road driving. Nor do these versions get a locking differential.
Cherokee models with this system don’t come with the brand’s “Trail Rated” designation, and those of us who buy Jeeps for their off-road abilities probably would not be satisfied with this setup.
But our Overland 4WD model – the most expensive in the lineup – came with Active Drive II, which has a two-speed “PTU,” or power transfer unit, hill-descent control and an off-road suspension. It has 8.2 inches of ground clearance – not enough for serious trail driving.
Not included on the Overland 4WD models, however, is the Active Drive Lock four-wheel-drive system that comes on the Trailhawk. It brings a locking rear differential that is of great help during serious off-road driving.
Because of that, the Trailhawk is the only one of the Cherokee models that carries the Jeep “Trail Rated” designation and badging. The Trailhawk also includes more-aggressive exterior styling, higher approach and departure angles, more ground clearance, underbody skid plates and red tow hooks.
With all of the Cherokee four-wheel-drive models, you’ll get Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction-control system. Using a dial on the center console, the driver can choose among four modes on the Active Drive I system – Automatic, Sand, Sport or Sand/Mud -- or five on the Active Drive II and the Trailhawk’s system, which adds a Rock mode.
Inside, the Cherokee seats up to five. The middle rear position is a tight fit for adults, though, if the outer positions are also occupied by adults.
With no one in the middle, a pull-down armrest brings a pair of cupholders. There are single bottle holders in all four doors, and a map pocket in the back of the driver’s seat.
The front center console includes an enclosed compartment/armrest, with a USB port and 12-volt outlet inside. Rear AC vents and a 115-volt outlet were at the rear of the console, accessible only to backseat passengers.
There are two cupholders and a slot for a cellphone in front of the console box (behind the shifter), and another small storage area in front of the shifter that includes a second USB port, another 12-volt outlet and an auxiliary input jack.
The audio system includes Bluetooth for smartphones, with both phone and audio streaming functions so you can make calls or listen to your own music through the onboard speakers.
Front bucket seats are standard, and are quite comfortable. They come with eight-way power adjustment on the driver’s side, along with the four-way lumbar. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated.
Our vehicle also came with standard 18-inch polished-aluminum wheels, hill-start assist, remote start, and four-wheel antilock disc brakes. There are driver and passenger knee air bags, front seat-mounted side air bags, and roof-mounted side-curtain air bags with rollover mitigation for both rows.
Other standard features include a backup camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, power windows/mirrors/door lock with remote and pushbutton start, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise and audio controls, and a leather-wrapped shift knob.
The cargo area has 24.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seatback in place, and 54.9 cubic feet with the seatback folded. The front passenger seatback can be folded down to accommodate longer cargo items.
Standard is a temporary spare under the rear cargo floor, covered with a cargo tray that can keep small items out of sight under the lift-up cargo floor. There are bag hooks on the left side, and our vehicle included a cargo net and cover. Our tester had the optional full-size spare, however,
A single-piece liftgate that swings up is standard, and on our vehicle it was power-operated from a button on the remote or on the dash.
Five exterior colors are offered on the Overland, including the new Light Brownstone Pearl and Billet Silver Metallic. The two interior choices are Black and Brown/Pearl.
Our vehicle also had the CommandView Dual Pane Panoramic Sunroof, which added $1,755.
Cherokee models with the 3.2-liter engine can tow trailers weighing up to 4,500 pounds. With the four-cylinder, 2,000 pounds is the maximum.
Total sticker price for our Overland 4WD was $41,835, including freight and $3,145 in options.
The automotive columns of G. Chambers Williams III have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 1994. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @gchambers3.
2017 Jeep Cherokee
The package: Compact, five-door, five-passenger, four-cylinder or V-6 powered, front- or four-wheel-drive crossover utility vehicle.
Highlights: The newest generation of the Liberty has a new design and name, returning to the Cherokee designation of the past. Built on a new Fiat-developed chassis, the newest Cherokee has improved fuel economy and technology.
Negatives: No third seat offered – some in this class do have that option.
Engine: 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder (standard); 3.2-liter V-6 (standard on Overland 4WD; available on all other models).
Transmissions: Nine-speed automatic.
Power/torque: 184 HP/171 foot-pounds (I-4); 271 HP./239 foot-pounds (V-6).
Length: 182 inches.
Curb weight: 3,655-4,108 pounds.
Cargo volume: 24.6 cubic feet (behind rear seat); 54.9 cubic feet (rear seat folded).
Trailer towing capacity: Maximum 2,000 pounds with four-cylinder engine; 4,500 pounds with V-6 and optional towing package.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Side air bags: Seat-mounted side, front; side-curtain, both rows.
Fuel capacity/type: 15.9 gallons/unleaded regular.
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined (I-4, 2WD); 21/28/23 (I-4, Active Drive I, 4WD); 21/27/23 (I-4, Active Drive II); 19/25/22 (I-4, Active Drive Lock); 21/29/24 (V-6, 2WD); 20/27/23 (V-6, Active Drive I); 18/26/21 (V-6, Active Drive II); 18/24/21 (V-6, Active Drive Lock).
Major competitors: Toyota RAV4, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson, Ford Escape, Chevrolet Equinox, GMC Terrain, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Subaru Forester, Nissan Rogue, Nissan Xterra.
Base price range: $23,595-$37,695, plus $995 freight.
Price as tested: $41,835, including freight and options (Overland 4WD, V-6).
On the Road rating: 8.7 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.