2020 Jeep Cherokee Review
  • Car Review

2020 Jeep Cherokee Review

By Zac Estrada | August 20, 2020

Quick Facts:

Pros:

  • Several engine and all-wheel-drive options.
  • Available off-road capability.
  • Extensive available vehicle technology.
  • Easy-to-use interior controls.

Cons:

  • Common options quickly escalate price tag.
  • Lacks fuel efficiency of even some larger SUVs.
  • The base engine is underpowered.
  • Less cargo space than other compact SUVs.

Vehicle Type: A four-door, five-seat compact SUV.

Price Range: From $27,335, including a $1,495 destination fee, to $39,445.

Powertrain:
A 180-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder is standard, with front-wheel-drive and a 9-speed automatic transmission and automatic stop/start.

A 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 is optional.

A 270-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder is also optional.

Also available is an all-wheel-drive system and a selectable four-wheel-drive drivetrain.

More Photos: See more 2020 Jeep Cherokee photos here.


Overview:

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The Jeep Cherokee is a compact SUV that competes with models such as the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Honda CR-V, Jeep Compass, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Redesigned for 2014 and updated with new styling and powertrains for the 2019 model year, the Cherokee is a significant departure for the storied nameplate, as it’s based on a car-derived front-wheel-drive platform like most modern SUVs. In a bid to maintain some of Jeep’s renowned off-road capability, all models are available with one of two four-wheel-drive systems. But only the Trailhawk has a truly “Trail Rated” system.

However, Jeep knows most of its Cherokee customers don’t venture too far off of anything more than a snow-covered road. What the Jeep does have is an advantage over a typically four-cylinder class, as it offers a V6 engine that most rivals don’t. That aids in power, as well as towing capacity, giving Jeep customers some of the capabilities found in midsize SUVs but without as much bulk – or cost.

The Cherokee is available in four trim levels: Latitude, Latitude Plus, Limited, and Trailhawk.

For 2020, the Cherokee gains a new Advanced Safety Group with active lane-keeping assist, low-speed forward collision warning and braking, and rain-sensing wipers. Latitude models now get standard 17-inch alloy wheels, while Limited versions get 19s. And the top-level infotainment system now includes Amazon Alexa compatibility.

Overall Score: 6/10


Safety Features: 7/10

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the 2020 Cherokee four stars out of five in overall crash tests.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Cherokee its Top Safety Pick for 2019 (the agency’s second-highest rating), scoring well in all categories, including headlight performance.

The Cherokee lacks some standard driver assistance features that rivals include, but it makes active features such as automatic emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic assist available on all models.

Higher trims also offer adaptive cruise control with stop and go function and automatic high beam assist.


Value: 5/10

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The base 2.4-liter Cherokee models start around $27,000, which is competitive with other compact SUVs. But adding all-wheel-drive and driver assistance features pushes it over $30,000. It’s also underpowered, and most drivers will want the optional V6, which pushes the price even higher.

Engine options are expensive given how common they are, and even some trim packages add few substantial features, but several thousand dollars to the price. In some cases, they’re best avoided.

Top-level Limited and Trailhawk models with four-wheel-drive will easily exceed $40,000 with the numerous options they offer in terms of luxury and off-road features, placing it in the company of larger SUVs, and even Jeep’s own Grand Cherokee.

It also pushes it in the territory of more refined luxury SUVs from Audi and Volvo, or even Land Rover if off-road capability is an important quality. Discounts are typically generous, however, and best sought to get the price closer to more mainstream rivals.


Tech Features: 7/10

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Base Cherokee models get a seven-inch touchscreen UConnect infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

All but the Latitude model also adds two USB ports for rear-seat passengers. Latitude Plus and higher trims can also be equipped with a 115-volt household outlet, automatic climate control, power liftgate, and remote start, among other features.

Limited and higher versions get an 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen upgrade that also includes Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as a Wi-fi hotspot, and can be upgraded to include built-in navigation.

For 2020, all Cherokee UConnect infotainment systems have been upgraded with a faster processor and improved graphics, which were already considered among the best in the business. Even with all of its technology, the Cherokee’s systems are far more logical to use than those found in many mainstream rivals, let alone those found in premium SUVs.


Practicality: 7/10

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The Cherokee has a well-designed dashboard and front-seat area with generous storage areas. The rear seat is about average for the class, but the cargo space with the seats up and down is significantly smaller than models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. And the larger VW Tiguan offers a seven-seat option, whereas the Cherokee is strictly limited to five.

V6-equipped models can be equipped to tow up to 4,500 pounds when properly equipped. Turbocharged four-cylinder models can also tow 4,000 pounds, which is still higher than most compact SUVs. Base four-cylinder models are rated to tow 2,000 pounds.


Styling & Design: 6/10

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The Cherokee’s exterior is larger outside than numerous compact SUVs, giving it a little more road presence. But that doesn’t translate into a larger interior, so it offers little benefit for those inside.

There are numerous different exterior trim packages to individualize the car more, which is something some rivals can’t do. Limited and Overland models get more chrome and body-colored trim, while Trailhawk models are the most aggressive with lots of black cladding and chunkier off-road tires.

The dashboard is nicely designed, with partial digital gauges on some models and dominated by a large touchscreen and big knobs and buttons for commonly used functions.

But some materials lower down on the interior and door panels feel cheap, which is acceptable on lower trims, but harder to stomach at closer to $40,000. At least they feel durable and appropriate for muddy boots, kids, and pets.


Driving Experience: 6/10

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Latitude, Latitude Plus, and Limited models come standard with a 180-horsepower 2.4-liter four that’s underpowered for this vehicle and its size, despite rivals having similarly powerful standard engines.

The heft translates into some lazy reflexes more typical of truck-based SUVs, although the slow steering and floaty ride can be an asset on the off-road-oriented Trailhawk model – if it actually goes off-road.

And while some compact SUVs feel light on their feet or are even fun to drive – like a Mazda CX-5 – the Cherokee always feels heavy and at times ponderous. While it feels more substantial than the similarly priced Jeep Compass, it’s still not as quiet or smooth as the best compact SUVs. But those used to driving a larger SUV, or even an older Jeep, may like the Cherokee’s solid feel.

The optional 3.2-liter V6 (standard on Trailhawk) is much more refined and, while still not quick, is more satisfying to drive – especially when loaded.

The available 2.0-liter turbo-four is just as powerful as the V6, although no more fun to drive.


Fuel Efficiency: 6/10

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The 2020 Cherokee with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive is rated at 22 mpg city, 31 highway, and 25 combined by the EPA. Adding all-wheel-drive drops those ratings by 1-2 mpg in each category.

The 2.0-liter turbo is the most efficient option, rated at 23 mpg city, 31 highway, and 26 combined with front-wheel-drive.

The optional 3.2-liter V6 is rated at 20 mpg city, 29 highway, and 23 combined with front-drive. Adding one of the available four-wheel-drive models drops that to either 18 or 19 city, 24-27 mpg highway, and 21-22 combined.

Models such as the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V are rated as high as 30 mpg combined with their base engines, so the base Cherokee’s fuel economy doesn’t look that good by comparison, though it compares somewhat favorably with a VW Tiguan and even the smaller Jeep Compass. V6 models are as thirsty as much larger models like a Honda Pilot or even Jeep’s Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.


What’s it Going to Cost Me?

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The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Latitude starts from starts at $27,335 MSRP, including a $1,495 destination fee. It is available in four trim levels, most with certain option packages.

The Latitude comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 180 horsepower, 9-speed automatic, automatic stop/start, 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, air conditioning, a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, 6-speaker audio system, two USB ports, height-adjustable driver and front passenger seats, LED daytime running lights, and hill start assist.

All-wheel-drive is optional, as well as the 3.2-liter V6 engine.

The SafetyTec package includes blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, 1-touch power windows, exterior mirror courtesy lamps and turn signals, and manually folding exterior mirrors.

The Advanced Safety Group includes automatic emergency braking, full-speed forward collision warning, lane departure warning and assist, and rain-sensing wipers.

The Cold Weather Group includes heated front seats, heated steering wheel, remote start, wiper de-icer, all-season floor mats, and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

The Upland Appearance Group adds standard all-wheel-drive, V6 engine, black wheels and roof rails, all-terrain tires, and a revised exterior trim package.

A Trailer Tow Package is also optional, as is satellite radio and a compact spare tire.

The Cherokee Latitude Plus starts at $29,090 MSRP. It adds to the Latitude equipment satellite radio, special 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, cloth and vinyl upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

All-wheel-drive and the 2.0-liter turbo or V6 engines are options, as is a full-size spare or a compact-size one. Other standalone options include a panoramic power sunroof and the trailer tow package.

In addition to the Advanced Safety and Cold Weather packages, the Comfort/Convenience Group adds a power liftgate, dual-zone automatic climate control with humidity sensor, auto-dimming rearview mirror, alarm system, universal garage door opener, and a 115-volt household-style power outlet.

The Altitude Appearance Package includes black-painted 18-inch wheels and satin roof rails. The Latitude Lux package adds the V6 engine, heated front seats, leather upholstery, heated steering wheel, remote start, and the Advanced Safety Group.

The Cherokee Limited starts from $33,340 MSRP. Standard equipment in addition to the Latitude Plus’ features includes polished 18-inch wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Amazon Alexa compatibility, leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, power driver’s seat with memory settings, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a windshield wiper de-icer.

In addition to the Advanced Safety Group, the Technology Group adds adaptive cruise control with stop and go function, automatic high beam assist, side-distance alert, exterior mirrors with courtesy lamps and turn indicators, and active park assist. The Luxury Group adds a hands-free power liftgate, cargo cover, an adjustable rear bench seat, and ventilated front seats.

All-wheel-drive, the turbocharged engine, V6 engine, towing package, sunroof, and built-in navigation are standalone options.

The High Altitude edition adds to the Limited the V6 engine, 19-inch wheels, navigation, 9-speaker Alpine audio system, and body-colored exterior accents.

The Cherokee Trailhawk starts from $36,250 MSRP. It adds a special front-end design with a 1-inch suspension lift, skid plates, 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tires, V6 engine, advanced four-wheel-drive system, and a hood decal.

The Technology Group, Comfort/Convenience Group, and Cold Weather Group are options, as is the towing package, 2.0-liter turbo engine, power sunroof, built-in navigation, and 9-speaker audio system.

The Trailhawk Elite package includes a stop-start system, polished 17-inch wheels, infotainment system voice commands, leather upholstery with heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, windshield wiper de-icer, remote start, cargo cover, hands-free power tailgate, and memory settings for the power driver’s seat, exterior mirrors, and radio presets.

Fully equipped, a Trailhawk stickers for $46,915 MSRP.


More Photos

See more 2020 Jeep Cherokee photos here.