The Jeep Cherokee has faded into the background in the highly competitive compact SUV segment. Mostly, this is due to the crossover’s age and Jeep’s 2019 restyling of the front end from its radical initial look from 2014—with distinctive eyebrow-like running lamps hovering above low-mounted headlights disguised as fog lamps—into something approximating a scaled-down Grand Cherokee or a scaled-up Compass.
For better or worse, that original version of today’s Cherokee stood out. In taking an eraser to the Cherokee’s nose—rubbing away the distinction and revealing a more conventional headlight setup and grille—Jeep left its compact SUV looking, well, boring. This has been offset by continuous improvement to the Cherokee’s feature content and trim level structure.
Enter the Latitude Lux model reviewed here. Jeep realized that most Cherokee customers hewed to the soft middle of the SUV’s lineup, and recently expanded the mid-level Latitude trim to include three variants, this Lux included, while killing off the basic Sport trim. Having not yet experienced this model, a quick road trip from Dallas to Austin, Texas, to drive the new Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid offered the perfect opportunity to get acquainted.
Finding the Coordinates to Value
The Latitude Lux version of the Cherokee is nicely equipped, if slightly pricey for the segment at $33,120 to start in all-wheel-drive guise. (A front-drive Latitude Lux is $1,500 cheaper.) In reality—pandemic-driven supply issues aside—you should be able to find incentives and other price reductions at the dealer level for nearly any new Cherokee, which should drag the rich pricing down to competitive levels. After all, the Lux is only the midpoint in the Cherokee family; the Limited, High Altitude, and off-road-oriented Trailhawk versions cost even more.
For that $33,120, Latitude Lux buyers get a standard 271-hp 3.2-liter V-6 engine—a rarity in this class. All of the Cherokee’s competitors have dropped V-6 options in favor of turbocharged four-cylinder engines making similar (if not more) power while delivering better fuel economy on the EPA’s test cycle.
Interestingly, a 2.0-liter turbo I-4 engine is available for $695 (and is claimed to be quicker than the V-6), as is an off-road package with a different suspension and Jeep’s Active Drive II all-wheel-drive system that also requires adding the $895 towing package. Our test Cherokee lacked these options.
Other standard equipment includes leather seats, the front row of which are heated and power adjustable; a heated steering wheel; a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; rain-sensing windshield wipers; LED headlights; blind-spot monitoring; forward collision warning; and lane departure warning. That’s pretty much everything one might want in a small SUV, plus or minus a few things (namely, adaptive cruise control, which our test vehicle lacked).
The total cost for our Cherokee came to $36,355, including the $1,995 Sun and Sound Group (panoramic sunroof and Alpine audio system), $995 Customer Preferred package (dual-zone automatic climate control, 7.0-inch color gauge cluster display, power liftgate, 115-volt household power outlet, 8.4-inch touchscreen upgrade, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror), and $245 Slate Blue paint. That’s upper-crust Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V, and Toyota RAV4 territory—but remember, the Latitude Lux ain’t even the top of the Jeep Cherokee heap.
So, What’s This Wallflower Like?
The Cherokee hasn’t changed mechanically in years, save for the adoption of that turbo 2.0-liter I-4 engine for 2019. Of course, our Cherokee came with a 3.2-liter V-6, which mates to a ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission. This SUV was born from a car platform, namely the chopped-up compact Alfa Romeo-sourced bones that once sat beneath the (now discontinued) Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 sedans.
You can almost detect those European Alfa roots in the way the street-oriented Cherokee Latitude Lux drives. The body feels solid and heavy—it’s also actually heavy—and the suspension supports it down the road with a firm yet controlled ride. Highway tracking is strong, and you can motor along at more than 80 mph with few steering corrections.
With that big V-6 up front, the nose has plenty of weight on it, so the Cherokee isn’t a very willing partner on a fast, curvy road. That said, it doesn’t fall flat on its face, either. Every primary control, from the accelerator pedal to the brakes to the steering works with a weighty firmness, again reinforcing the Jeep’s sense of heft. The V-6 plays along, mostly because it doesn’t produce much torque until higher in the rev range, which combined with the stiff throttle pedal gives it a recalcitrant, weighed-down sensation.
Cruising is more the Cherokee’s bag. With a windshield that stretches way out in front of you, as well as side windows that dip toward the middle of the car, sitting in the Cherokee feels like sitting in a long, low-slung bathtub. This is a pleasant sensation, especially with our test vehicle’s panoramic sunroof opening things up further. However, the windshield pillars are thick and can block visibility to the sides when, say, trying to spot a pedestrian crossing the street in front of the Jeep. Look carefully.
The svelte body shape is probably worth crediting for our Latitude Lux’s relative quietude on the high-speed, pressed-concrete freeways of Texas. Rubbery trim on the doors and atop the dashboard both feels nice to the touch and likely absorbs some noise, though the Cherokee’s aging interior design overall is best described as “functional.”
Key controls are an easy reach for either front-seat occupant, and the touchscreen is joined by large volume and tuning knobs. Beneath those are simple fan controls and temperature buttons for the climate control system. Everything is displayed neatly in the Uconnect infotainment system, which even in its previous-generation (Uconnect 4) iteration is a model of functionality and intuitive layouts. Space in the second row is generous, as is the door opening, although the seat cushion feels slightly low. The cargo area also is roomy.
Insomuch as this Latitude Lux is among the versions of the Cherokee most people are buying, there’s relatively little to criticize. It’s a compact SUV with almost no visceral appeal, but also one largely without vice. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the V-6, and, well, it offers a V-6, which is something no similar vehicle does.
If you have your heart set on a Cherokee, and you’re also among the large contingent that just eats up these Latitude trims, the Lux is the fanciest and best. Just do yourself a favor and shop the deals on one, because the manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing is a bit expensive given what the Cherokee offers and there are a plethora of newer, less expensive competitors that are every bit as nice, if not more so.
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