When a friend’s German Shepherd tore apart my Reeboks in college, my Oboz hiking boots served as my sole footwear option for weeks. I wore them to class, to parties, even on dates. After stormy days, paths around Vanderbilt turned icy and I felt more secure in my boots, happily strutting through puddles while my girlfriend tiptoed around them in her Uggs.
But as campus dried under the clear Nashville skies, lacing up my heavy Oboz’ felt silly. In these all-terrain workhorses, I couldn’t play Ultimate, hit the gym, or even really go for a jog. As soon as I had the cash, I snagged some discount Nikes.
Piloting the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Edition evoked the same mixed feelings as my boots-only episode in college. Atlanta’s recent marathon of catastrophic weather created the perfect terrain for the midrange, trail-ready Jeep, but once the roads dried up, I questioned whether the Cherokee could offer the all-roundedness of its competitors.
Where does the Cherokee fall within the Jeep lineup?
Compared to the compact Compass, which was designed with global markets in mind, the Cherokee offers more space and was intended for Americans.
The Cherokee boasts many of the looks and amenities of its bigger brother, the Grand Cherokee, for around $10k less, and still features much of the Wrangler’s legendary off-road prowess.
Jeep offers the Cherokee in eight trims with too many differences to list here. But beyond the base, $23,695 Sport model, the two most interesting are the mud and rock-loving Cherokee Trailhawk and loaded Cherokee Overland, starting at $31,195 and $34,895 respectively.
With its heavily upgraded 4×4 capabilities, the Trailhawk evoked thoughts of my hiking boots while the Overland reminded me of my girlfriend’s Uggs-rugged endurance versus looks, comfort, and luxury.
The Cherokee comes with two engine options. If you value Jeeps for their style and heritage, you’ll probably be happier with the base, four-cylinder Tigershark engine. It’s slow, but economical, and fine for tooling around town.
If you want your Jeep to grunt and pull things, you’ll want to opt for the V6 for $1,745, which adds 68 ft-lbs of torque and cuts the 0-60 time down to a more capable 7.5 seconds. Both get respectable MPG for their class, with 21/30 for the four-banger and 18/26 for the six.
Inside is classic Jeep: sparse but utilitarian. Jeep still proudly engraves “Since 1941” in the steering wheel, and only a few may ever notice the little Willy’s Jeep scaling the edge of the windshield. All trims feature Fiat-Chrysler’s excellent Uconnect infotainment system, and the base audio system surprised me with solid highs and lows. Seats are supple and comfy, but could certainly use more lateral support.
The Jeep Cherokee, especially in Trailhawk form, can overcome almost anything, but how about the fiercest competition?
Jeep vs. Honda
The handsomely-restyled Honda CR-V offers more interior refinement and better fuel economy, while the Mazda CX-5 boasts better handling. Both cars will likely be more dependable, too-Jeeps have long suffered from mixed reliability scores.
Fully-loaded CR-Vs and CX-5s roll off the lot for several grand cheaper than a loaded Cherokee in either Overland or Trailhawk forms.
But nobody offers budget off-roading quite like Jeep. The next best 4×4 likely comes in the form of a Land Rover for double the cost and half the patriotism.
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is like a good pair of hiking boots. You’ll be glad to have it when the trail beckons or the weather threatens, but the average commuter may prefer more casual options.
Still, those shopping for an SUV in the $30k or $300/mo lease range, should at least hop in a Jeep for a test drive. Who knows? You may just fall for the brand, as many happy loyalists have.