2019 Jeep Cherokee gets a better-looking face for Detroit

Jeep does away with the squinty headlights and adds a new powertrain option to its popular compact SUV.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
3 min read

Today at the Detroit Auto Show, Jeep unveiled the latest iteration of the Cherokee, a compact SUV for folks who want the option of off-road prowess to go with their family-hauling duties. While it's not fully reinvented for 2019, the Cherokee gets a third engine option and a refined front fascia that's far less polarizing than its forbearer.

Available in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, Overland and Trailhawk trims, the Cherokee will come standard with the 2.4-liter Tigershark engine with 180 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque, while the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 will be available with 271 ponies and 239 pound-feet of twist. Both power plants are carryovers from the previous generation. However, in a bid to increase overall fuel economy, a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four cylinder with start/stop technology is also available, pumping out 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Yep, the little turbo pretty much bests the larger Pentastar engine.

Presumably this is the same 2.0-liter turbo found in the new Jeep Wrangler, although with out the eTorque mild hybrid system. We got some time with that power plant and found it to be lag-free and fairly zippy, although in the case of the Wrangler, it's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. For the Cherokee, the same nine-speed automatic carries over from last year, although Jeep says it has been upgraded with new software to improve driveability.

The controversial face of the previous Cherokee has gotten a bit of a makeover. It's almost as if designers took the headlights of the latest Compass and combined them with those of the 2018 Cherokee. The result is bi-LED headlamps that are not nearly as squinty as previous years, and in general, a much more traditional face. The top-of-the-line Overland trim gets new chrome steel tow hooks, while the Trailhawk says with the traditional red.

The rear of the Cherokee gets a more modern update, too, thanks to a taillight redesign and an available hands-free liftgate. A simple kick under the bumper opens the rear door. Behind the rear seats, cargo capacity has climbed from 24.6 cubic feet to 25.8 cubes, although overall cargo space remains the same.

Jeep shows a refreshed Cherokee at the Detroit Auto Show

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Driver's aids remain the same as last year. Blind-spot monitoring is standard on higher level trims, and available as part of a package in lower trims. Lane departure warning, park assist, adaptive cruise control with start-stop and forward collision warning and braking are all part of the optional technology package on higher trims.

Jeep's 4x4 systems get a bit of a tweak for the 2019 Cherokee. Active Drive I is standard on four-wheel-drive Cherokees and functions as an automatic system, engaging the rear wheels when necessary. For 2019, the overall weight of the system is reduced by 17 pounds and low-speed drag torque is reduced by 50 percent, both contributing to fuel savings.

Taking things a step further, Active Drive II, Jeep's optional 4x4 system, has been recalibrated and comes with a two-speed power transfer unit which includes torque management and low range. The 4-Low mode locks the front and rear driveshafts and provides a crawl ratio of up to 51.2:1 for low-speed rock crawling. All Cherokees with the Active Drive II systems receive a one-inch lift.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

Choose the Cherokee Trailhawk to get you to your secluded cabin in the woods.


For the ultimate off-road Cherokee, stick with the Trailhawk, where Active Drive II is enhanced with a locking rear differential and skid plates. Unique front and rear fascias improve approach and departure angles while ground clearance increases to 8.7 inches.

Regardless of 4x4 system, all Cherokees feature the Selec-Terrain management system, offering parameters for Snow, Sand/Mud and Rock as well as functions for Auto and Sport.

No word on pricing yet, but the 2019 Jeep Cherokee will be available in the first quarter of 2018.