Detroit Auto Show: Jeep updates Cherokee compact SUV to compete in hot market

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Associated Press

DETROIT - Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep brand is giving the Cherokee compact SUV a major facelift so it can better compete in one of the hottest parts of the U.S. automotive market.

The 2019 Cherokee, to be unveiled Tuesday at the Detroit auto show, will get styling tweaks, a new engine, suspension improvements and engineering changes that save 200 pounds and improve gas mileage over the current model.

The updated version gets a new 2-liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 270 horsepower and technology that shuts it down at stoplights to save fuel. It’s similar to the engine in Alfa Romeo sports cars. A 3.2-liter V6 and 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine carry over from the current model. A polymer tailgate is among the changes that help save 200 pounds.

Jeep also redesigned the rear cargo area, adding 4 cubic feet of storage space by making it wider so golf clubs can fit in straight rather than at an angle.

All this is to better compete with new versions from the competition such as the Honda CR-V and Chevrolet Equinox.

When the latest-generation Cherokee came out in 2013, its curvy front grille departed from the normal flat Jeep front-end with round headlamps. That angered some Jeep purists who love the old look.

Jeep took a step toward the old front-end, giving the 2019 model a larger grille, combining LED headlamps and daytime running lights and adding a new hood and fender design. But the Cherokee still has its own look, appealing to the suburban driver who goes off-road less often than those in other Jeeps.

“This time around we’re trying to align it more to the rest of the Jeep family,” said Ralph Gilles, Fiat Chrysler’s design chief. “But by far it’s the most futuristic design on purpose because it’s a different audience than typically is attracted to the Jeep.”

Fiat Chrysler wouldn’t say the exact on-sale date for the revised Cherokee, to be built in Belvidere, Illinois. The company says it will release fuel mileage and pricing later.

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