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2017 Jeep Cherokee can commute on pavement and commit on dirt review

Jumping behind the wheel of the 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland is like putting on your gym shoes Saturday morning: you probably won’t work out, but those shoes sure are comfy and, gosh darn it, you’re prepared!

Like skipping a gym session, most folks probably won’t take the top-of-the-line Cherokee off-road unless a revolution goes down and the only thing standing between you and freedom is a snowy two-track to your off-the-grid cabin. More than likely you’ll spend your time in the Cherokee commuting to work and hauling the kids around, not exploiting its 4×4 prowess.


The Jeep Cherokee

Emme Hall/Roadshow

With a low range and drive settings for Snow, Sport, and Sand/Mud, the Cherokee beats anything in its class when it comes to off-pavement adventures. There’s also a 56:1 crawl ratio for precise driving at low speed, and an available heavy-duty package featuring skid plates and a full-size spare.

However, my test model in the Overland trim falls short of its Trailhawk trim sibling when it comes to offroad proficiency: It offers no locking rear differential or Rock mode among its Selec-Terrain drive settings. Nor does it have as good approach, departure and breakover angles as its Trail-Rated stablemate. The absence of a rear locking differential really puts it at a disadvantage when it comes to keeping traction in high-risk dirt driving situations, but then again, the Overland comes with touring tires wrapped around 18-inch polished aluminum wheels; a high-risk dirt driving vehicle it is not, but it should get you to most places without too much of a fuss.

The Cherokee is available in front-wheel or four-wheel drive, with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine standard. But getting a Jeep vehicle in front-wheel drive is like buying a steak dinner and only eating the baked potato. Spring for the 4×4 with the optional 3.2-liter V6. This motor puts out 271 horsepower and 239 pound-feet of torque, and is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission.

2017 Jeep Cherokee: The sleek four-wheeler
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I tested the Cherokee in the rolling hills outside of San Francisco. The transmission was well-behaved on flat roads and willingly downshifted two or more gears when asked, but it searched a bit on hill climbs. I found that shifting the Selec-Terrain from Auto to Sport helped the Cherokee hold gears longer and ascend the grades with ease.

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