By Derek Price
Jeep has added a new trim level to the Cherokee that aims to satisfy bang-for-the-buck shoppers: the Latitude LUX.
Priced at $30,145, roughly in the middle of the lineup, this new trim combines some of the most popular Cherokee upgrades with a near-luxury feel.
It comes with Nappa leather seats and the latest UConnect infotainment system with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also has some of the most useful features for winter driving, including heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a windshield wiper de-icer and remote start.
For the price, it feels like one of the nicest SUVs I’ve driven in the past year.
Other than the new trim level, not a lot has changed for the Cherokee, which remains a visual and spiritual smaller sibling to the popular — and more expensive — Grand Cherokee.
It carries legitimate Jeep DNA, both in how it looks with its classic shape and purposeful stance, and in its off-road capability when you equip it for the job.
At its base level, the two-wheel-drive Cherokee is a comfortable family car like countless other crossovers on the market today. It has reasonable seating and cargo space, and it gets decent gas mileage of up to 31 mpg on the highway with a four-cylinder engine.
Where it stands out, though, is in serious off-road capability when you select the right options.
The Cherokee Trailhawk is built specifically for off-roading with skid plates, a taller suspension and spectacular 4×4 system that can tackle all sorts of terrain. A 51:1 crawl ratio lets it slowly creep over boulders, for example, while the Selec-Terrain traction control programming sets it up for driving in snow, sand or rocky conditions.
Three different engines are available, including the 3.2-liter V6 in my tester. It delivers meaty, truck-like grunt with 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque. It can also tow up to 4,500 pounds when you opt for the tow package.
A 180-horsepower, four-cylinder engine also is available, along with a smaller, 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine that makes a whopping 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.
With such a wide range of equipment choices, the way each Cherokee drives can feel dramatically different. The Trackhawk, with its stiffer, bouncier suspension tuned for off-roading, is the roughest and loudest of the pack, although still not too grating as an everyday driver.
The softer, more compliant ride of the other models feels more pleasant around town, and I thought the Latitude LUX tester was impressively quiet at highway speeds.
If you need the Jeep capability, the Cherokee stands apart from the seemingly endless sea of crossover and SUV competitors. It also has a heavier, more substantial, truck-like driving feel than most small crossovers, which is either a plus or a minus depending on what you prefer.
Pricing starts at $26,555 for the base 2×4 Latitude. Adding the 4×4 system, which I’d consider a “must” when buying a Jeep, is an extra $1,500.
The built-for-off-roading Trailhawk starts at $35,595, while the cool-looking High Altitude is priced from $36,985 for buyers who want to check all the luxury boxes.
At A Glance
What was tested? 2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude LUX ($30,145). Options: Premium paint ($245), comfort and convenience group ($995). Price as tested (including $1,495 destination charge): $32,880
Wheelbase: 107.1 in.
Length: 183.1 in.
Width: 74.9 in.
Height: 67.8 in.
Engine: 3.2-liter V6 (271 horsepower, 239 ft.-lbs.)
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy: 19 city, 27 highway
Why buy it?
It mixes Jeep 4×4 capability with on-road comfort and fuel efficiency. The new Latitude LUX trim is a great addition for value shoppers in 2021.