New Hardcore Jeep Cherokee Overland
Ever since Fiat merged with Chrysler in late 2014, things have gotten a bit weird. Not in a terrible way, and they didn’t start making things smaller or more Italian as many feared when they heard the news. Just generally weird, in a kind of ‘the people who make Ferraris and the people who make Caravans work for the same company’ way. One company that did see a lot of change right after the merger was Jeep. The Grand Cherokee got a serious update and the Cherokee was brought back.
This was the cause for a bit of controversy. This is because the Cherokee always existed as some kind of halfway point between the Grand Cherokee and the Wrangler. Hardcore when it’s off of the pavement, comfortable-ish on the road. Eventually tastes changed and the Cherokee went the way of the buffalo. Now that it’s back, people have begun to wonder; why? And to be brought back by Fiat… suspicions grew rapidly that the good Cherokee name was being plastered onto nothing more than a spruced-up crossover aimed at suburban parents who want to fool themselves into thinking they never gave up on being fun.
To a degree, that is what we got. A small, not very trail-friendly Jeep. But there are a number of models sporting four-wheel drive, and the Trailhawk came from the factory with raised suspension, knobby tires, and some little exterior effects like tow hooks and extra lights. While it will never be what the old Cherokee was, it will always be better than an actual crossover. It actually reminds me of the Land Rover Freelander a bit, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
This model, the Overland edition, was unveiled at the New England Auto Show. The northeast is a good place for it, lots of populated areas with tight parking and lots of snow. The Overland is basically the Grand Cherokee Overland shrunk down. The interior is very well done and comes with embroidered seats and a leather dashboard. All of the electric options such as lane-change assist and parking sensors are included as well. Underneath, there are skid plates front to back and there’s a full-size spare for when things get too hectic (an optional extra, but c’mon, what’s the point of this without skid plates?).
The power options include Jeep’s 2.4 liter 4-cylinder and their 3.2 liter V6. Horsepower numbers are 184 and 271 respectively. The four-wheel drive system has a selector for different types of off-road terrain. Again, not optimal for the 4×4 crowd, but not the worst thing that could have been done.
On one hand, the new Cherokee is a good example of how Jeep is moving away from trail-worthiness and more towards practicality. On the other hand, the Cherokee Overland is a comfortable and adequately capable small SUV that starts at around $35,000. Not much to complain about there. I would love to see a really hardcore version of this new Cherokee. Locking differentials, on-board air, snorkel, and enough lift to fit some scary tires under it. I doubt it’ll ever happen, so for now the Overland is definitely the best option if you are going to buy a 2016 Cherokee.