If the Cherokee’s friendly fascia looks familiar that’s because Jeep’s compact crossover hasn’t changed much since it debuted in 2014. That’s Social Security-eligible in car years. While 2023 marks the last year of the Cherokee’s current KL generation, the newest old Cherokee gets some fresh equipment under its aged sheet metal. As Jeep prepares to move past the aging Cherokee, it’s left with two trim levels and a fresh powertrain. All-wheel drive is standard for this year across Altitude Lux and Trailhawk offerings. Without a barebones base-level trim, the Cherokee’s starting price is now wildly more expensive than competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and Kia Sportage, but Jeep at least makes up for some of that with standard niceties. The new 270-hp turbocharged four-cylinder, offered exclusively for Trailhawk, replaces the defunct V-6 and gets a better fuel economy rating. The Cherokee’s smooth ride and plentiful driver assists aren’t enough to make it very competitive against its newer and more affordable competition, but it does offer credible off-road capability that the others don’t—along with one of the strongest brand names in the SUV market.
What’s New for 2023?
Jeep makes a serious shift in trim levels and powertrain to its Cherokee compact crossover for 2023. Now available in just two trims, Altitude Lux and Trailhawk, the Cherokee drops the previously standard front-wheel drive base Cherokee completely, which has had a significant effect on its starting price. The 271-hp V-6 is also gone, replaced by a 270-hp turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four, exclusively available for its off-road-ready Trailhawk trim. The Altitude Lux comes standard with leather seats, a heated steering wheel, and remote start. Production for the current Cherokee, which has been largely unchanged in its current KL generation since it debuted in 2014, ends in 2023.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While the Trailhawk model is the most expensive way to own a Cherokee, it’s also the best way. It’s powerful turbocharged four-cylinder not only has a higher towing capacity, it’s also earned a higher EPA rating than the naturally-aspirated 2.4-liter found in the Altitude Lux. The Trailhawk not only looks tougher but is, thanks to standard Jeep Active Drive Lock, which beefs-up the drivetrain with a locking rear differential and a special traction mode for climbing out of particularly muddy or rocky situations. The Trailhawk also has nearly an inch of additional ground clearance, more aggressive tires, and a larger infotainment screen.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Jeep Cherokee uses a 180-hp 2.4-liter inline-four engine for Altitude Lux trim, but gets a 270-hp 2.0-liter with 295 pound-feet of torque for its off-roady Trailhawk offering. Both pair with a nine-speed automatic transmission and come standard with all-wheel drive. While we’ve yet to test either powertrain, its rowdy 2.0-liter is a single horsepower shy of the V-6 offered in last year’s Cherokee. As you’d expect from a Jeep, the Cherokee drives with heftiness and solidity, making it feel larger than its rivals. Relatively firm suspension tuning controls body roll in corners without compromising the ride quality. Impacts are absorbed without much excess reverberation, and the Jeep never feels floaty on the highway. We wish the steering provided more feedback from the road, but it’s nicely weighted and accurate. A firm-feeling brake pedal engenders calm in panic-braking scenarios, and the Cherokee’s 70-mph-to-zero emergency-braking performance is average for its class.
Towing and Payload Capacity
The maximum towing capacity for the 2023 Jeep Cherokee is 4000 pounds for Trailhawk models with the optional Trailer Tow Group equipment package. This is 500 pounds less than last year’s Cherokee whose V-6 powertrain had a slight trailering advantage. It’s still a huge advantage over its competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and Volkswagen Tiguan. In fact, the Cherokee compact crossover has a higher tow rating than large SUVs such as the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Edge.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The Cherokee has among the worst fuel economy in its compact crossover-and-SUV segment, according to the EPA. The most fuel-efficient version is equipped with the 180-hp 2.4-liter inline-four; it gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg city and 29 highway. The Trailhawk’s more powerful 270-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four is rated less favorably, at 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. That’s 2 mpg better, for EPA city and highway, than the previously offered V-6-powered Trailhawk from last year. We’ve yet to subject either version to our 75-mph fuel-economy route. For more information about the Cherokee’s fuel economy, visit the EPA’s website.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
With supportive seats and easy-to-use controls, the Cherokee’s cabin is comfortable. However, given that the Cherokee is larger on the outside than many of its competitors, we’d expect it to feel more spacious on the inside. Small windows and high windowsills contribute to the feeling of confinement. The Cherokee’s cargo area is smaller than most vehicles this size, and interior cubby storage is average at best. It’s more difficult to load items into the rear than into some of its rivals due to the Jeep’s high lift-over height. In addition, its cargo area is significantly smaller than top rivals such as the Ford Escape (34 cubes) and the Honda CR-V (39).
The Car and Driver Difference
Infotainment and Connectivity
The Jeep’s available Uconnect infotainment system is among the best in the business, with well-organized menus and ample features. The standard touchscreen measures 8.4 inches. Starting on the Latitude Plus trim, every model adds two USB ports on the back of the center console for use by rear-seat passengers. Every Cherokee has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot is available.
How to Buy and Maintain a Car
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Jeep now provides an array of standard driver-assistance technology as well as several optional assists. For more information about the Cherokee’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites. Key safety features include:
- Standard forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Standard lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Standard blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
The Cherokee’s warranty coverage is average for its class. Competitors such as the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson are the only rivals that offer significantly longer powertrain warranties. However, all models do come with three years of free maintenance.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers five years or 60,000 miles
- Three years of complimentary maintenance is included
2021 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$42,525 (base price: $37,045)
DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection
198 in3, 3239 cm3
271 @ 6500 rpm
239 @ 4400 rpm
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 13.0-in vented disc/12.6-in disc
Tires: Firestone Destination A/T, P245/65R-17 105T M+S
Wheelbase: 107.1 in
Length: 182.9 in
Width: 74.9 in
Height: 67.8 in
Passenger volume: 101 ft3
Cargo volume: 26 ft3
Curb weight: 4377 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 7.6 sec
100 mph: 21.8 sec
110 mph: 33.2 sec
1/4 mile: 15.8 sec @ 88 mph
Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.9 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.8 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.6 sec
Top speed (governor limited): 114 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 183 ft
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 17 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 21/18/24 mpg
More Features and Specs