Since I will be out of the country for a few weeks, here is the final installment of my review. I was also going to include some concluding remarks but, since I do not have time, I will make it simple - I love my Cherokee Limited and am thoroughly enjoying driving it!
Engine and Transmission
Since my last five cars were all 6 cylinder models, I had no dilemma what I would choose, when picking the engine, for the Cherokee. I never drove the I4 so I can’t comment on it, but I can safely say that I like the V6 Pentastar and find it powerful, quiet and an effective powerplant, in combination with the 9 speed transmission. The acceleration is quick and the powerplant combo provides enough cruising, passing and acceleration power to manage the nearly 4,000 lbs of the Cherokee. Inadvertently I had a chance to go head to head with other cars and test the acceleration. For some reason (maybe it is the red color
) my Cherokee seems to attract a lot of wanna-be street racers at traffic light intersections! The few times I engaged in this (shame on me for doing so
), I beat a Mustang, a CRV and a BMW X1, so I do know that this car can go!
If the transmission was initially the Achilles’ heel of the Cherokee, my post-May 5th built seemed to have that issue licked completely (knock on wood
). Initially I was worried and didn’t know what to expect. As I wrote in other threads, my prior experiences with software fixes in adaptive transmissions gave me the “courage“ to go ahead with this purchase, and I have no regrets so far. For the past 2,000 Miles, the transmission has been shifting seamlessly and giving me absolutely no trouble (with one small exception and one gripe, described below). When I recently asked some passengers for their opinions of the transmission shifts (to ensure no bias on my part), I first had to specify what types of issues they should even look for, and there was unreserved praise for the way the transmission worked.
Since I spent the better part of the first 1,000 Miles driving with the EVIC tuned to the fuel efficiency gauge, and constantly shifting to manual to view which gear the Jeep was in, I will provide some further insight, in the next two sections. For now, suffice it to say that the transmission on my Cherokee is very quick to shift to, and stay in, the 7th and 8th gears. I reach the 7th at speeds as low as 40-45 mph and 8th at speeds around 55 mph. I even hit the “elusive” 9th gear relatively easily and frequently, at around 80-85 mph on level highways, and at 75-80 mph going downhill. This is obviously different from some earlier experiences on this forum. I am not sure what the engineers tuned after May 5th, but whatever it was, it is working well on my Cherokee!
My one (very minor) concern is the 2nd gear operation. Very rarely, both upshifts into and downshifts from the 2nd gear are audible and somewhat harsher than others (although I don’t have the jerking, wobble, etc. that others have seen). To be fair, if I wasn’t alerted through this forum about the 2nd gear issues, , I would probably not even be noting this. I will monitor the situation and report back if it gets any worse but currently it is not really an issue. My one gripe regarding the transmission is the almost total inability to use the transmission for braking. The software likes a very narrow RPM range for individual gears, which makes braking through manual downshifts to a complete stop almost totally impossible. I am not sure why this is so – broadening the RPM range, allowed on individual gears, would make the drive more sporty and allow for engine braking. Note to Jeep - a minor future adjustment on this would be appreciated and could help with fuel efficiency! Of course, I realize that this is a relatively minor item, and overall, I am very pleased with the transmission and time will tell if it is as durable as it looks now.
Ride and Handling
My preference is for a softer pavement ride (hence the ADI) and this Cherokee doesn’t disappoint. It has been very smooth on both highways and city streets. While you may feel some of the bumps and potholes in your feet (and I blame the tires - see below), the rest of your body is blissfully isolated. The ride is quiet (the 9 speed transmission helps a lot there, as does good sound attenuation) and there is very little fatigue or stress on the driver, even on longer trips.
The feeling of solidity really helps, as the Cherokee looks like a much bigger and robust SUV, behind the wheel. The V6 engine is more than adequate and the driver always has the feeling that he/she is in control. At the same time, if you are looking for a sporty light SUV handling (aka Mazda CX-5) or a sports-SUV-type handling (aka Infiniti FX or BMW X6), this is not it. At the same time, you never feel that the car will not handle the tasks asked of it – it’s just a “quick but laid-back” feeling. Think of the Cherokee as a top NFL tight end - you know that he is very fast but heft, not speed, will be the first thing you associate with him
! I personally enjoy it but, to be fair, there was a time (20 years ago) when I would have preferred a more sporty handling. Coming from 6 cylinder X3 and Q5, probably also colors my comments on the handling, but I never once thought that this was somehow inferior, just different.
Once again, I have to stress that, when optioned with the Tech group, the Cherokee will take the accolades if there is ever a contest for the best highway cruiser SUV. I am rarely out of 7th or 8th gear on the highways and regularly get 26-29 mpg (more on that below).
Putting the Selecterrain into Sport mode quickens the pace, but plays havoc with the fuel efficiency. However if you are driving on windy roads, Sport mode is the one to go to, for sheer fun and excitement. Since I have done limited off-roading, I can only report that the Jeep performed great in the Sand/Mud mode on a beach and on a few dirt roads, which serious off-roaders wouldn't even count. I haven’t really tested the Snow mode yet, although I am sure that it will be very handy in a few months.
So in short, I am very pleased with the ride and handling. If there is one issue I have, it is the tires. The 18” Continentals are generally fine, but sometimes too loud, especially when driving across the Kabul-like potholes in my metro area. I have gone from 36 psi to 40 psi and now down to 32 psi and am still searching for the best combination to get the quietest ride (any constructive suggestions would be appreciated).
I have consistently stuck to the 89 Octane gas for the V6 and my average consumption over the 2,000 Miles is about 19.5 mpg. I have also had as much as 365 Mile range squeezed out of one tank. However, this summary is only the tip of the iceberg and comes with a big caveat!!!
This Cherokee is designed in a very interesting way, making fuel efficiency even more dependent on your driving routes and dynamics, than other competitors. To put it in perspective (since I have had the fuel efficiency on the EVIC, constantly on), my average highway mileage is between 26 and 29 mpg (my best 90 Mile trip was 29.3 mpg) while the city driving in stop and go traffic is in the 13-16 mpg range, or even less. Regular city driving is roughly 18-19 mpg. My best fuel tank was around 25 mpg (nearly all highways) and my worst was 13.9 mpg!
What does this all mean practically? It probably explains why some members here have been consistently getting high 20s and some others are happy to just reach 18 mpg! And the average mpg, can change really quickly, especially if you vary your routine. Until two weeks ago, my average was 22.5 mpg (in 50:50 city highway driving), but just a few hundred miles of city stop and go traffic shaved 3 mpg off the average (not to worry, I have a trip coming up so I will jack the average up again
The other interesting thing is that “babying” the Cherokee is actually detrimental to fuel consumption. The 9 speed transmission has a mind of its own and too many gears for the driver to modulate the acceleration, and invariably uses more fuel for long, rather than short accelerations. A lead foot actually works best here. So, for example, if you are accelerating from 10 mph to 45 mph, try to do it in the minimum amount of time possible, if you want the best fuel efficiency! If you are doing it gradually, you will be only wasting fuel! Since this is counter-intuitive to the way I have been driving for many years, I am still struggling with this concept but, if the EVIC is correct, that is the way to do it!
Overall, the 19.5 mpg (if it holds
) is still better than my past 17 mpg average in the German 6 cylinder cars, so I am not complaining. I agree with most here that the fuel tank could have been larger but c'est la vie
Once again, in conclusion, I really like this Cherokee Limited and feel that I am driving a luxury SUV which is unique (I am getting tired of wiping finger smudges from the windows wherever I park ), which suits my needs and which was a steal (compared to other luxury SUVs)! I have been frank in listing many suggestions for improvements here, but overall I am extremely pleased. Since coming to this forum, I have received many helpful suggestions so I think of this review as a way of giving back to the community and helping other current and future owners of the Cherokee!