High Street cred
THE GOOD
  • Ride and handling
  • Ergonomics
  • Off-road capability
THE BAD
  • Lazy throttle response
  • Cargo room stingy for this segment
  • Pricey
2020 Jeep Cherokee High Altitude Review

Following a refresh for 2019, we drive a 2020 Jeep Cherokee kitted out for luxurious street duty. Not the rough-and-ready Trailhawk, but the High Altitude 4x4 with top-tier 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder that kicks out 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. With all the tech, safety, and luxury boxes ticked, this Velvet Red Pearl specimen checks in at a pricey $49,265 before freight and taxes.

Styling: 8/10

Last year’s refresh addressed the most polarizing aspect of this latest-generation Cherokee by replacing the slit-eyed upper DRLs with proper LED headlights. Other visual tweaks include a new front fascia design, fresh wheels and a redesigned rump. This High Altitude appearance package – available on the Limited trim – bestows upscale touches like 19-inch Granite Crystal alloys, Granite Crystal exterior trim, and body-coloured wheel-arch flares, side sills, and fascia. It’s a nicely proportioned compact SUV that sports what some buyers covet most: The iconic seven-slat Jeep grille.

Safety: 8/10

Standard safety features aren’t exactly abundant, and are limited to a government-mandated rear-view camera, child seat anchors, and a host of airbags. The $500 Safety Tech Group adds blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert, while the full complement of safety features – forward collision mitigation, side distance warning, parallel and perpendicular parking assist, advanced brake assist, lane-departure warning with lane-keep assist, auto high-beam, rain-sensing wipers, adaptive cruise with stop-and-go – requires checking the $995 Technology Group box on the options list.

Practicality: 7/10

If you’re looking for ultimate cargo capacity in this compact crossover segment, you’ll do much better with the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or Ford Escape. Even the smaller Jeep Compass has more cargo room than the Cherokee. That said, for 2019 Jeep did manage to carve out some more space behind the Cherokee’s second row. By the numbers, it’s 730 L with the seats upright and 1,549 L with them down.

The front cabin has plenty of useful nooks, with a large storage cubby between the seats.

User Friendliness: 9/10

The Cherokee Limited benefits from FCA’s signature user-friendly ergonomics, highlighted here by the 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen interface. This system has been around for a while but still impresses as being one of the best of its ilk. The menu structure is clear and logical, and operation is surprisingly distraction-proof. Consistent upgrades have improved the graphics and reaction speed.

We love the large volume and tuning knob. HVAC controls are similarly well laid out, and the backlit gauge cluster is legible in all lighting conditions. About the only negative is the need to access seat heat/ventilation and steering wheel heat via the screen, but even that process is quick and easy.

Outward visibility is limited when compared to others in this class due to the Cherokee’s pinched greenhouse and thick pillars.

Features: 8/10

You’d hope a near-$50,000 compact crossover would be laden with features, and this Cherokee High Altitude mostly delivers on that count. In addition to the aforementioned comprehensive safety suite, this tester has a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, Nappa leather, ventilated/heated front seats, 8.4-inch Uconnect, navigation, Android Auto, Apple CarPay, Wi-Fi hotspot, heated steering wheel, five-year SiriusXM traffic and travel link subscription, handsfree power tailgate, trailer tow package (up to 4,000 lb with the 2.0L engine), and a very impressive Alpine audio system.

About the only glaring omission here is lack of heat for the second-row seats.

Power: 7/10

Is this 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder worth the extra $995 hit over the smooth and charismatic 3.2L Pentastar V6? While horsepower is pretty much a draw (270 vs 271 for the V6), the turbo-four wins on torque, generating 295 lb-ft from 3,000 rpm versus the V6’s 239 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. The nine-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly but is reluctant to kick down, so you really have to put your foot in it for all systems to come on board.

There is some lag when calling for quick acceleration, but past that this little SUV moves out smartly. Selecting Sport mode eliminates some of the lag, but then the engine is spinning at higher rpm, and for some reason in Sport mode the stability control is disabled, according to the light on the dash.

Comfort: 7/10

The Jeep Cherokee feels substantial and solidly built, and the suspension engineers have struck a fine balance between sporty handling and ride compliance. Even on these 19-inch wheels, the Cherokee exhibits pretty impressive composure, transmitting minimal shock and noise into the cabin even over rough pavement.

Highway cruising is a pretty serene affair, and the front seats offer decent comfort and support. Back-seat room is class competitive, and in this tester, said seats slide fore and aft.

Driving Feel: 7/10

The Cherokee is pleasant to drive, showing direct steering, good body control, and just the right degree of sportiness. If you’re feeling frisky on a back road, the Jeep is happy to play along with predictable no-surprise handling.

Fuel Economy: 7/10

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) rates the turbocharged 2020 Jeep Cherokee at 11.2 L/100 city, 8.0 highway, and 9.8 combined. My week of admittedly relaxed commuting netted an impressive 8.9 L/100 km. Helping here is the Jeep Active Drive I all-wheel drive that includes a rear-axle disconnect feature. And this turbo four-pot runs on regular grade fuel.

Value: 7/10

With an as-tested price sitting just shy of $50,000 we’re getting into entry-lux territory here. A similarly equipped Lexus NX will be a couple grand more; ditto for the Volvo XC40, and both look and feel a couple of rungs up from the Cherokee. But a Jeep is a Jeep, and this badge comes with its own cachet. When considering its level of equipment and the sophistication of the 2.0L turbo/nine-speed auto/four-wheel drive system, the price seems pretty spot-on.

The Verdict

All in all, this near top-spec Cherokee delivers on just about every count. The only question remains whether it’s worth the extra $995 for the turbo four-pot engine. The 3.2L V6 sounds better, has a more linear power delivery, and when properly equipped will tow more (4,500 lb versus 4,000 lb). What you don’t get with the V6 is the turbo’s midrange torque punch and better fuel mileage – assuming you can keep your foot out of the throttle.

High Street cred 2/27/2020 6:30:00 AM

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 2.0L
Engine Cylinders I4
Peak Horsepower 270 hp @ 5,250 rpm
Peak Torque 295 lb-ft @ 3,000–4,500 rpm
Fuel Economy 11.2/8.0/9.8 L/100 km city/hwy/comb
Cargo Space 730 / 1,549 L seats down