Jeep celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016. A year earlier, the compact Jeep Cherokee replaced the Liberty in midseason. It continues the sport utility vehicle’s extended celebration and its legacy as the modern version of the original WWII vehicle.
For 2017, the Cherokee remains primarily the same as last year. It also had a midseason addition last year with the top-line of five trims, the Overland.
Jeep’s utilitarian reputation prevails. It’s the original SUV. With its sturdy, lightweight frame and original nine-slot grille (now seven) the Jeep became a symbol of military strength.
The first civilian Jeeps were introduced in 1945. They’ve modernized far beyond the original vehicle while maintaining a rugged personality. The iconic grille remains, but it’s now a subtler presentation.
The most powerful Jeep, the Overland model I drove for a week, featured a 3.2- liter, 24-valve, all-wheel drive V6 engine with 271 horsepower. It was matched with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The Overland joins a few others in the small SUV category emphasizing versatility and off-road capabilities. It’s offered with several option packages, included the Customer Preferred Package ($1,645) and the Heavy Duty Protection Group ($295). The former includes more than a half-dozen safety features; the latter adds underbody skid plates and a full-size spare tire.
A cushioned, confident ride is enhanced when road imperfections are handled without issue. It’s what Jeep does best. Steering is accurate; the seating alignment provides good overall vision. The drive is quiet, but there’s mild body lean while cornering.
Standard features are plentiful: 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. The steering wheel has high-gloss wood trim.
Technology is state of the art without gadgetry overload: An Alpine premium audio system with 8.4-inch monitor, Bluetooth, navigation, satellite/ HD radio, SiriusXM Travel and Traffic, and Uconnect Access Advantage.
One feature requires patience, and it’s for a good reason. The Cherokee has hybrid-style, stop-start technology. It automatically cuts off the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. It restarts when the driver’s foot is lifted off the brake pedal.
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is in tough company with some of the country’s top-selling vehicles. It gets the best off-road marks in the bunch and is comfortable on the road. It’s the jack of all trades in the SUV community.
James Raia, a freelance writer based in Sacramento, California, is the editor and publisher of the weeklydriver.com and the automotive columnist for the Bay Area News Group. Contact him via email: email@example.com