$15,827 - $24,161

2016 Jeep Cherokee Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Jeep Cherokee was new.


Performance: 7.7

The base engine in the 2016 Jeep Cherokee comes up short on power for highway passing and merging, according to critics. Test drivers are more bullish on the stronger acceleration of an available V6 engine. Although they like the Cherokee's comfortable ride quality, test drivers say the Cherokee's handling isn't very agile. They think its steering is precise but lacks feedback. Automotive journalists agree that the Jeep Cherokee, which can be equipped with one of three available four-wheel drive systems, is one of the most capable off-road SUVs in the class.

  • "… the really surprising thing is that despite its off-road capability - especially the Trailhawk - the 2015 Jeep Cherokee gives up nothing on-pavement, where most drivers will spend their time." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "The outlandish duds are underpinned by an Alfa-Romeo-sourced unibody platform that's shared with the Dodge Dart compact sedan. It helps keep weight down and provides a car-like driving experience that's optimized for the kind of excursions for which crossovers tend to be used these days - trips to the mall, journeys to Costco, etc." -- Left Lane News (2015)
  • The Cherokee's personality is more dependent on the drivetrain and option packages than perhaps any Jeep before." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)
  • "There are finally a few current crossovers, the Cherokee among them, that fulfill the first, idealized promise: it really does drive like a car. It sits on the same Compact US Wide platform as the Dodge Dart, and the architecture has given up nothing in the composure department when going from sedan to on- and off-roader." -- Autoblog (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The Jeep Cherokee’s base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produces 184 horsepower, and a 271-horsepower, 3.2-liter V6 engine is optional. A nine-speed automatic transmission comes standard in all models. According to the EPA, the base Cherokee earns 22/31 mpg city/highway, which is typical for a compact SUV. With the optional V6 engine, the Cherokee earns 21/29 mpg city/highway.

Although most automotive journalists think the Jeep Cherokee's base engine provides satisfactory acceleration, some think it's unrefined and feels sluggish when getting up to highway speeds. Still, they are impressed with the available V6 engine, which they agree provides more than enough power but takes a toll on fuel economy. The majority of reviewers think the Cherokee's nine-speed automatic transmission provides smooth, quick shifts. 

  • The Cherokee competes well with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. However, the Cherokee's 4-cylinder engine isn't as smooth or refined as the Honda's, nor is it as fuel-efficient. Fuel economy notwithstanding, the optional V6 is the best engine for on-road acceleration and off-road exploration." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Although the four-cylinder engine has as much horsepower as most rivals' base engines, the Cherokee is heavy for a small crossover SUV, which makes the engine feel sluggish when accelerating up to highway speeds. This engine also has a more raucous sound than other four-cylinders in this class." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Twisting through canyon roads near Los Angeles, the four proved itself lively enough, but the V6 clearly was stronger and quieter-even if it did give off a nice burble under acceleration. The 9-speed trans kicked down promptly and shifted smoothly." -- Consumer Guide (2014)
  • "The four-cylinder is certainly adequate, but the V-6 is downright fun." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

Handling and Braking

Most reviewers say the Jeep Cherokee has a cushioned, comfortable ride and agree that its softer suspension makes handling somewhat dull. They note that rivals like the Mazda CX-5 feel much more nimble through turns. The majority of auto writers report that while the Cherokee’s steering is precise, it could use more feedback through the steering wheel.

  • The Cherokee is exceptionally quiet at highway speeds. And over rough city streets, the Cherokee offers about as cushy a ride as you'll get in this class. The downside is that the Jeep feels heavy and soft when going around turns. Its steering is precise, but the new Cherokee isn't sporty like the Escape or CX-5." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "The electric-assist power steering is fairly direct and predictable, but it lacks the feel and feedback that can contribute to a fun driving character. Handling is typical of the class, with a slightly tall stance that creates some lean in turns and a tendency to understeer when driven hard through corners." -- MSN Autos (2014)
  • "The few bumps and dips we encountered in our on-pavement test drives were well damped and sideways body motions never got bad enough to make us break stride in the twisties. Steering inputs were promptly heeded, but feedback through the wheel was somewhat lacking." -- Consumer Guide (2014)
  • "The Cherokee Limited is light on its feet and easy to drive quickly on a rough and twisty road. The chassis seems to be calibrated more for flat handling than a cushy ride. The steering is light at low speed but the effort ramps up nicely as speed increases." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)


The 2016 Cherokee comes standard with front-wheel drive or can be equipped with one of three four-wheel drive systems. Active Drive I is a full-time system that includes a single-speed transfer case, and Active Drive II includes a two-speed transfer case with low-range gearing for better off-road capability. The Cherokee Trailhawk comes with Jeep Active Drive Lock, which has a locking rear differential for even stronger off-road prowess. All four-wheel drive models come with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain system, which maximizes traction with five driver-adjustable settings: auto (normal), snow, sport, sand/mud and rock. Reviewers praise the Cherokee’s extensive off-road capability, pointing out that the Cherokee Trailhawk model comes equipped with plenty of features that help the SUV navigate most types of terrain. However, test drivers say that for the ultimate off-road performance, the Jeep Wrangler remains the best option.

  • "Unlike the Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4, the 2016 Jeep Cherokee crossover SUV boasts genuine off-road credentials worthy of the Jeep name. Even in its most formidable trim level - that being the rugged Trailhawk - the Cherokee surrenders nothing in the way of comfort or handling. When the need arises, however, the Cherokee's low-range mode and three different 4-wheel-drive systems permit everything from light off-roading to rock crawling through passes unnavigable by most Cherokee rivals." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "All Cherokees have a bit more ground clearance than the norm, but it's the Cherokee Trailhawk, which earned an ‘A’ rating from our testing department, that stands out for off-road ability. If you have the inclination, the Trailhawk can take on some pretty serious trails, thanks to its advanced 4WD system and rear locking differential." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Remember, the Cherokee is designed for ‘Dreamers,’ and even the bit of off-roading we did would be a bad dream for most of them. If you know what you're doing, then you can go a lot of places with the new Cherokee. And if you're an expert at going off-road, then... perhaps Jeep can interest you in a Wrangler..." -- Autoblog (2014)
  • "On Moab's slickrock trails, the 'Hawk is probably the most capable Jeep in the family-aside from the Wrangler, of course." -- Popular Mechanics (2014)

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