Our first drive of the new Jeep Cherokee was in Moab, Utah, on 4x4 trails that combined challenge and grandeur in equal measure. Clearly, Jeep felt it was important to demonstrate the Cherokee’s off-road chops, and indeed the new Cherokee acquitted itself admirably in its red-rock trial. More recently, we’ve had the opportunity to give the Cherokee a more mundane -- but far more realistic – workout on pavement, where most crossovers, even Jeeps, are consigned to spend their days. We first took a turn in the V-6 version. Now we’ve spent some time with the four-cylinder. How does it stack up?

The Cherokee four-banger is the same 2.4-liter Tigershark found in the Dodge Dart and the 2015 Chrysler 200. Here output is 184 horsepower and 171 pound-feet of torque.As in the 200, the engine is paired with Chrysler’s new nine-speed automatic transmission.

In the new 200 this powertrain performs well. It’s a different story, however, in the 500-pound-heavier Jeep. The Tigershark clearly labors moving the 4016-pound, four-wheel-drive Cherokee. With the engine’s torque peak coming at 4600 rpm, calls for acceleration regularly send the tach into its upper rev ranges, which is no aural delight. The transmission, which was pretty well behaved in the 200, is busier here and its shift quality isn’t as good. Also, throttle tip-in can be abrupt.

All this might be worth putting up with if the four-cylinder delivered stellar fuel economy, but it doesn’t. With four-wheel drive, the EPA ratings are 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, not much better than the V-6’s 19/27 mpg. In a week of suburban schlepping, I saw an indicated 20 mpg, rising to 23 mpg on a trip to New York City that was mostly parkway driving.

Size-wise and, even more so, weight-wise, the Cherokee doesn’t really line up against other compact crossovers. It’s not surprising, then, that a 184-hp four doesn’t cut it here. The 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 is the better option. Available on all but the base Sport, the V-6 adds $1495 to the price and an additional 87 ponies along with 68 pound-feet of torque (for totals of 271 hp and 239 lb-ft). It’s the clear choice over the four-cylinder.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Base price$30,490 (including destination)

Price as tested$37,215

Engine2.4-liter I-4

Power184 hp

Torque171 lb-ft

Transmission9-speed automatic


Cargo capacity (seats up/folded):24.6/54.9 cubic feet

Fuel economy21/28 mpg (city/highway)

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