75 Years Young | 2016 Jeep Cherokee

November 2016 View more

nmag1116_fortheroad_jeepcherokee16_03_800pxIt doesn’t take an MBA to know that “new” products are often easier to sell than old, familiar ones. If you’re “new,” you are automatically perceived as somehow unique. Better. But at some point in a product’s lifespan, age magically turns into an asset. You aren’t old in a pejorative sense—you are special because you have a long, storied past. You have heritage.

Enter the Jeep Cherokee 75th Anniversary Edition. The model itself hasn’t been around for all those years—it took a hiatus around the turn of the millennium, and came back last year as the curvier, stylishly futuristic conveyance you see here. But Jeep has been around for three-quarters of a century now, and it has applied all of its experience to this SUV.

Like an all-American version of the Range Rover Evoque—a crossover from a European brand that knows all about using “heritage” to move vehicles—the Cherokee delivers a sophisticated interior, a fresh-looking exterior design, and eminently comfortable road manners. The Cherokee even matches the Evoque with its full-length glass sunroof.

nmag1116_fortheroad_jeepcherokee16_02_800pxLike the Evoque, too, the Cherokee is immensely off-road capable—opening up a world of opportunity for owners who want to find adventure, and promising less adventurous owners that they can handle any winter snowstorm or spring rainstorm that might threaten their plans.

Indeed, if you’re ready to order a Cherokee and you aren’t sticking with the standard front-wheel-drive layout, plan to spend some time at the dealership deciding among the Cherokee’s three different four-wheel-drive systems. Before you’re finished, you’ll be talking about crawl ratios, locking rear differentials, and approach and departure angles. Even if you never use half of the Cherokee’s rock-climbing capabilities, just knowing that you could is part of the allure of buying a Jeep. Heritage is a powerful force, after all.

Built in Toledo, Ohio, the Cherokee is a competitor to all of the soft-roaders that offer four doors and four-wheel drive. The Cherokee can be ordered with either a four- or six-cylinder engine; despite the fuel economy penalty, the larger engine is more likely to please most drivers. As an environmental olive branch, the six-cylinder comes with a seamless automatic start-stop feature that cuts the engine at stoplights and during other extended stops. The Cherokee is no lightweight, so the nearly 100-horespower difference between the 3.2-liter V6 and the 2.4-liter four-cylinder is significant. With either engine, the transmission is a standout nine-speed automatic.

nmag1116_fortheroad_jeepcherokee16_01_800pxAnd then there are the Cherokee’s standard and optional features, which rival just about any vehicle available at comparable prices. The list is long, and includes many of the must-haves, both in terms of comfort and safety. Adaptive cruise control and front collision warning? Check. Blind spot detection, rear “cross-path” detection, and crisp rear camera? Check. Parallel and perpendicular parking assist? Kiss your manual parking days goodbye.

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee starts at $23,395 but base pricing escalates to the $30,000 range and higher for many of the more highly optioned models. Dealers will be happy to sell you a 2017 model if their allotments of 75th Anniversary Editions have all found new homes; Jeep made only minor changes for the next model year.

With many trim levels and the numerous aforementioned drivetrain and engine options—not to mention options packages—choosing just the right Cherokee will be an enjoyable challenge for prospective buyers. As winter weather looms, one option box that deserves a check is the well-priced “cold weather group,” which bundles a heated steering wheel, heated front seats, easy-to-clean rubber floor mats, and a windshield wiper de-icer for about $650.