2019 Jeep Cherokee First Drive

Adapting to America’s growing interest in SUVs and crossovers has been a challenge for some automakers. Jeep, however, hasn’t really had that problem. Without a sedan in its lineup, vehicles such as the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee have cemented Jeep’s image as more than a brand that sells SUVs. It’s the SUV brand.

2019 Jeep Cherokee

But that long history of building off-roaders and growing demand for high-riding, all-wheel-drive vehicles hasn’t guaranteed success for Jeep in more mainstream segments including the one in which the newly refreshed 2019 Cherokee competes. So while the KL-generation Cherokee quickly blew Jeep Liberty sales out of the water, it’s never been as popular as segment sales leaders including the Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Toyota RAV4.

Designers also tweaked the rear end, updating the taillights and exhaust tips, as well as moving the rear license plate from the bumper to the liftgate. None of those changes are particularly drastic, but they do a good job of keeping the six-year-old design fresh. With the headlight issue taken care of, the new 2019 Cherokee is a legitimately good-looking crossover.

Unlike with the exterior, the interior didn’t have any particularly notable flaws that needed fixing. As we discovered with our long-term Cherokee Trailhawk, the Jeep’s cabin was very comfortable, with supportive seats, commendable ride quality, a nice stereo, and convenience features such as adaptive cruise control that made it an impressive road-tripper.

We didn’t get a chance to drive the 2.4, but both the turbo and the V-6 offered plenty of power for around-town driving. Regardless of the engine, the Cherokee never felt especially quick, though, and anyone looking for sporty handling should shop elsewhere. There’s too much body roll, not enough tire grip, and the brakes are too spongy to have much fun on a winding canyon road.

The challenge for Jeep will be convincing mainstream buyers to look at a crossover they might not normally consider. By eliminating the polarizing front end, introducing a new engine, smoothing out the transmission, and adding desirable features including Apple CarPlay, the 2019 refresh has done a great job of sanding off the Cherokee’s rough edges and improving its mass-market appeal.

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