By Derek Price
If you want a Jeep that’s grand, there’s an obvious place to turn. It’s even in the name: the Grand Cherokee.
While high-end versions of the Grand Cherokee can easily top $50,000, there’s a new luxury Jeep that’s considerably smaller but also doesn’t require such a grand bank account. It’s a fresh, premium trim level for the smaller Cherokee called the Overland.
The 2017 Cherokee Overland has two rows of seats — again, not to be confused with the roomy, three-row Grand Cherokee that shares nothing but its Native American name — and has a layer of polished, sumptuous luxury that’s usually reserved for more expensive vehicles.
Priced around $35,000, the Cherokee Overland costs nearly $11,000 more than the base Cherokee and $5,000 more than the entry-level Grand Cherokee. It’s not cheap. But it justifies that price with premium content, including soft Nappa leather seats that are both heated and ventilated, a dream-car feature in the South.
The interior refinement is better than any Cherokee I’ve driven before, both from how the materials feel and how quiet it sounds over the road.
Silver anodized finishes on trim pieces remind me of the sleek look of new Apple phones. Still, the modern bits are overpowered by soft leather on the dash, Berber floor mats under your feet, and a leather and wood steering wheel, all of which leave a hint of the old-world British luxury that Land Rover has long succeeded at leveraging in expensive off-roaders.
Acoustic glass in the windshield and front doors helps to keep the wind noise out, too, adding to the upscale impression over the road.
Granted, the Overland is not the kind of Jeep I’d pick for serious off-roading. The Trailhawk remains the only beefed-up, trail-ready version of the Cherokee that I’d want to actually take on an expedition through the deep woods. If you’d like, though, you can get your Overland fitted with an optional “heavy duty protection group” that includes skid plates and a full-size spare tire, a must-have item if a sharp rock gives you a puncture when crawling through the middle of nowhere.
You can also opt for a trailer tow prep package that lets you take advantage of its respectable 2,000-pound towing capacity.
Interestingly, the Cherokee Trailhawk also moves more upscale this year with many of the same features the Overland gets, including a power lift gate, remote start, and those sweet heated and ventilated leather seats.
What sets them apart, then? It’s the suspension and styling.
The Trailhawk is the bad boy of the Cherokee lineup, with aggressive black and red badging, beefy tow hooks and a taller, tougher, stiffer suspension designed for crawling over rocks. That makes it great for traversing out in the wilderness but also less comfortable and quiet on pavement.
The Overland, in contrast, feels much better on the road, with a soft, reasonably supple suspension and classier looking exterior bits, including 18-inch wheels, chrome trim and body-color moldings.
Yes, you can get an Overland with skid plates, but I think all that chrome would look out of place on the trails. It’s much better suited for looking suave in the bright city lights.
As a whole, if you’re looking for a luxury SUV but don’t want to spend a fortune, the Cherokee Overland could make sense. It’s the nicest, plushest Cherokee to date. And most importantly, compared to a traditional, full-size luxury ride, it’ll save you a few grand.
At a Glance
What was tested?
2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland ($34,695). Options: 3.2-liter V6 ($1,745). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $37,435
Wheelbase: 105.26 in.
Length: 182 in.
Width: 73.2 in.
Height: 66.2 in.
Engine: 3.2-liter V6 (271 hp, 239 ft. lbs.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel economy: 21 city, 29 highway
2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland
Why buy it?
The new Overland trim offers many of the same luxurious amenities and materials as upscale versions of the Grand Cherokee but in a smaller, more nimble and efficient package.