Compact Crossover SUV
The latest Jeep Cherokee originally hit the road for 2014, and quickly went on to become a staple in the popular small SUV segment.
With leading levels of capability and customization, the Cherokee was commonly sought after by shoppers after a product with solid on-road driving dynamics, and extended capability for use on roads less travelled.
With available V6 power, a trio of four-wheel drive systems to choose from, and towing capacity of up to 2,041 kg (4,500 lb), the Cherokee was built to work comfortably in all weather conditions, as well as in both on- and off-road settings.
The available Trailhawk model met Jeep’s requirements to wear the “Trail Rated” designation, a seal of approval of maximum off-road capability within the brand. This high-capability model features a slew of upgrades and enhancements that cater to the needs of the most adventurous drivers who plan to use their machines frequently in an off-road setting. Multiple selectable drive modes optimize up to 12 vehicle systems for maximum performance on virtually any terrain.
Look for two seating rows, available navigation, climate-controlled leather seating, high-performance lighting provisions, a sunroof, heated steering wheel, remote start, premium audio, adaptive cruise control, and more.
A nine-speed automatic transmission was mated to both four- or six-cylinder engine options. Look for a 2.4L four-cylinder engine with 184 hp or a 3.2L V6 with a punchy 271 hp.
A major update for 2019 brought a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine option to the roster, delivering 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. The 2019 Jeep Cherokee also featured revised designs and materials inside, as well as an exterior refresh. The transmission was also enhanced with new software to help enable smoother and more consistent operation.
Here, we’ll focus on later models from this generation of Cherokee models – specifically, 2017 and onwards. Based on research, a 2017 or newer Jeep Cherokee is your best bet to avoid potential trouble areas reported more frequently by owners of earlier units.
What Owners Like
Cherokee owners tend to be most impressed with the performance of the available V6 engine, a smooth-riding suspension, a powerful and straightforward touchscreen interface, and push-button access to numerous traction-enhancing tools for use in a variety of challenging driving conditions. A flexible and handy cabin, as well as a relatively quiet highway drive, help round out the package. Here’s a machine that’s built to explore new trails and terrain, while providing a comfortable and compliant ride on the road and highway.
What Owners Dislike
Common complaints include the wish 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 gripes include a sometimes-clumsy transmission that may hesitate to engage the appropriate gear for the situation, and extensive use of button “blanks” that remind owners of lower-grade models of the features and functions they didn’t opt for.
Some owners have reported trouble with the motorized tailgates on their Jeep Cherokees. Most have not. On your test drive, determine whether the Cherokee you’re considering has a motorized tailgate, and be sure to work it fully, several times, and at several different points on your test drive.
Confirm that the tailgate responds to all of its switches, including the one on the keyfob, the inside of the cargo area, and the buttons on the tailgate itself. If it fails to open or close fully, gets stuck part way, or fails to latch and lock into place, have a technician investigate before you buy.
In many cases, owners have remedied wonky power tailgates by resetting or rebooting the system’s electronics by removing and re-installing a fuse, or by adjusting the position of the latch/striker that physically holds it shut.
Tailgate trouble could also be a sign of a weak or dying battery. In some cases, fixing this issue has required the installation of new hardware, which can be expensive outside 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 subjected to an on-the-hoist inspection by a licenced technician is a great idea before buying any used vehicle, and may be especially beneficial when considering a used vehicle like the Cherokee that’s designed to be used in an off-road setting.
While conducting a pre-purchase inspection (PPI) of the vehicle underside, a technician can quickly spot a multitude of trouble signs and potential issues, while revealing potential damage that may have been suffered in an off-road setting at the hands of a previous owner.
If the Cherokee you’re considering was formerly abused or damaged in an off-road setting, it’s remaining warranty coverage may be compromised or void. The same holds true if past owner(s) failed to properly care for or maintain the vehicle as outlined in the owner’s manual.
A PPI that includes a full underbody inspection is highly advised ahead of your purchase to help confirm that the model you’re considering isn’t concealing any potentially nasty surprises for your warranty – or your wallet.
The nine-speed automatic transmission used in the Jeep Cherokee has been at the centre of numerous owner complaints for years, and has also been the subject of a class action lawsuit.
Information and reports from within the owner’s community seem to indicate that earlier models from this generation were the most likely to experience trouble, and more owners of newer machines (2017 and up) report trouble-free operation, suggesting that major issues were remedied at the factory level. Specifically, transmission-related complaints documented online seem to drop off from 2015, with even fewer reports from 2017 and on.
Still, with reports of transmission problems, rebuilds, and replacements being fairly prevalent in owner discussions, test-driving shoppers are advised to take a few steps to protect themselves.
First, confirm that the transmission is running the most current software updates available, and that all servicing, maintenance, and inspections are up to date. Have the transmission serviced only in a dealer setting to mitigate the risks of using improper fluid or drain-and-fill procedures, which can cause further damage. If it’s in your budget, adding an extended powertrain warranty package which covers the transmission is a good idea, too.
Jerky or rough shifting, a failure to engage drive or reverse, an unexplained shift into neutral, and generally wonky or unwelcomed transmission behaviour on your test drive are strong indicators that you should move to another unit. Blinking 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 available.
Rear Differential Module
Some owners have reported unwelcomed grinding, clunking, or scraping sounds from the rear of their vehicles, possibly accompanied by a warning message or error light with “service 4x4” or a similar message. Most have not.
On your test drive, quiet the vehicle’s cabin and find an open space to perform a little test. Stop the vehicle, then accelerate numerous times from various points between a standing start and about 60 km/h. Steer the vehicle at various angles for some of your testing, including at a sharp angle.
Listen closely for unwanted noises from the rear underside of the Cherokee. In some cases, drivers may also feel unwanted feedback; for instance, a clunking, binding, or dragging sensation from the wheels of the vehicle.
These are potential symptoms of trouble that could cost you a lot of money, up to and including replacement of four-wheel drive system hardware that will be pricey 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 advised.
Engine Oil Loss
Numerous 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 across many modern vehicles from many brands, and the Cherokee’s 2.4L engine is no exception. The owner’s community has documented the issue, with some owners reporting engine oil levels dropping severely enough 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 excessively, have a dealer document your concerns as soon as possible. Some owners have had dealers perform oil consumption tests (more reading here) to determine the best course of action. Opt for a V6-powered model if possible, to avoid this potential issue.
A lengthy list of recalls for the 2017–2021 Jeep Cherokee can be found here.
IIHS: results here
NHTSA: 4/5 stars (2019)