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.
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 itswhen 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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