The 2018 Jeep Cherokee performs its crossover chores as asked, but loves the off-road tasks more.
The 2018 Jeep Cherokee applies off-road skills to a crossover body, and does it with mixed results. Its Trailhawk edition keeps the SUV part of “crossover SUV” relevant, but it doesn’t look much like a Jeep. And though it looks like a modern crossover, its crash-test scores lag behind rivals.
With the Cherokee, Jeep offers a wide range of trim levels. It starts with Latitude and ascends to Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland, and Trailhawk hardware. A rearview camera was made standard for 2018.
We give it at 5.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Cherokee represented a clean break from Jeep’s past when it was new in 2014. Its oddly tiered front end, thin-slatted grille and bland crossover rear end were supposed to predict Jeeps of the future—but then came Renegade, and Compass. The Cherokee’s wan styling is a big blemish, but the cabin gets extra credit for its neatly organized space and myriad clever touches, as well as lovely colors and textures.
The Cherokee draws power from either a 184-horsepower inline-4 or a 271-hp V-6. The 4-cylinder’s fine for commuters, provided there aren’t too many of them on board. The torquey V-6 means even with more passengers and available all-wheel drive, brisk highway passes are never more than a gear or two away. That said, the Cherokee’s 9-speed automatic sometimes judders through shifts, and doesn’t grant direct control over gear changes.
Equipped with available tow packages, the Cherokee can pull up to 4,500 pounds. It handles with the predictable mien of a crossover. It steers numbly but quickly, and the well-damped ride doesn’t suffer on even the big 18-inch wheels. Gas mileage lingers in the low 20-mpg range with all-wheel drive, markedly lower than some of its competition.
No competitor can promise the off-road capability of the Cherokee Trailhawk, though. With knobbier tires, more ground clearance, driver-selectable traction programs, and a simulated low range, the Trailhawk doesn’t leave much territory out of reach.
Interior space measures up well on the spec sheet, but the five-seat Cherokee’s space is narrow and long. Shoulder room for three adults in back is questionable, but leg room abounds thanks to a sliding second-row seat. Cargo space is good, and there’s ample small-item storage in the cabin.
Crash-test scores aren’t great, but all Cherokees now have a rearview camera, and some come with forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
Power features are standard, as is Bluetooth with audio streaming. Upmarket models have an excellent infotainment system with a sharp 8.4-inch touchscreen. Luxe options can trim out the Cherokee with nice touches like nappa leather, ventilated front seats, and a configurable LED gauge screen.