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Reaching Back...

2014 Jeep Cherokee

Now you’d think that last week’s blizzard would have afforded the perfect opportunity to test-drive the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited. And perhaps it would have been, if the folks at Northtown Jeep would have delivered it warmed-up to my driveway. As it was, when I showed up a few days later, sales manager Mike Hannon handed me the keys to just the vehicle I wanted—one with heated seats and a heated steering wheel.

Chrysler has decided to bring back the popular Cherokee nameplate for 2014, a moniker that first appeared in 1974 as a two-door version of the full-sized Jeep Wagoneer, which stayed in production until 1983. Then a totally new Cherokee debuted in 1984, a more compact (some would even say mid-sized) vehicle which helped usher in the whole SUV era, which we’re still in today.

The Cherokee name went away in 2002 with the introduction of the Jeep Liberty, which is still in production. The new Cherokee is being marketed as a mid-sized SUV, available, naturally, as a 4X4 or—horrors!—with front-wheel-drive. All Cherokees come standard with a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine rated at 184 horsepower, which is connected to a nine-speed automatic transmission. All but the Sport (base) model are also available with a 3.2-liter, 271-horsepower V-6. I do believe this is the first vehicle I’ve driven with nine forward speeds, and I guess it’s a high compliment when I say I never noticed it. You’d think with nine speeds that the thing would be constantly shifting up and down; if it was (and let’s face it—it had to be), I didn’t pay any attention to it at all.

Another thing I must say about the ride: Chrysler has certainly done their homework in the quietness department. A few miles into my drive I took notice of the lack of noise—both from the car itself and from the outside. At that point, driving down the 290, I shut down both the audio and HVAC systems and was quite taken aback by the (my new word for the week) unnoisiness of it all.

The interior as a whole was very comfortable, especially my top-of-the-line Limited with the aforementioned heated seats, which were clad in leather. Most controls are easy to manipulate, but I must take issue with the windshield wiper stalk, much of which is hidden behind one of the steering wheel spokes, necessitating a reach-around to turn it on or off. This being an SUV, don’t expect to slide in as easily as you would the family sedan—it is a bit a a step up, but not so much to be a problem to a majority of driver/passengers. Leg and head room are abundant, even with the Limited’s panoramic sunroof gobbling up part of the car’s ceiling. The back seat was just as roomy, and the power liftgate will be a godsend for those shorter of stature, as it would be a bit of a reach-up to pull the thing down.

I could use this whole space to list the features on the Cherokee Limited. Instead, head on over to the website for the full lowdown. The Sport model’s pricing starts at $22,995 for the FWD model; 4x4 top-line Limiteds begin at $29,995. The test car, which was loaded-up with extras, had a bottom line of $38,255—which definitely puts you in Grand Cherokee territory, but not top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee territory, which can run up into the 60s.

After driving the new Cherokee, I won’t be at all surprised to see it become one of Jeep’s best-selling models. The old name will get people to look, while the drive may just convince them to buy.

More info at jeep.com.

Read more of Jim Corbran's You Auto Know every other week in Artvoice, and more frequently on Artvoice Daily.

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