2016 Jeep Cherokee: Designed for Performance

May 17th, 2016 by

A red 2016 Jeep Cherokee parked in front of a modern building in Colorado Springs, CO.

There are many arguments about the 2016 Jeep Cherokee in Colorado Springs, CO. The main argument is about the design, and it started back in 2014 when the Cherokee name was slapped on an outlandish looking SUV. At this point in time, many people claimed that it tarnished the legendary look and reputation of the older Cherokee before it was discontinued. Even now in 2016, after the new Cherokee has proven itself time and time again to be just as capable as the older Cherokee, people are still saying the new design is awful. Does it look outlandish? Yes, but in a good way. It’s unique. It’s fresh. And the fact that when you look at the Trailhawk trim and can envision a pointed hawk beak is a nice aesthetic touch. Apart from being aesthetically pleasing, this unique design serves a different purpose, which is something people don’t understand. The Cherokee design is now catered towards on and off-road performance. It’s meant to be aerodynamic, but is still heavy and durable enough for off-roading.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the elements that make the Cherokee a successful vehicle both on and off-road.

Engine Options for Both

Front-view of a red 2016 Jeep Cherokee driving on a highway past a modern building.


But before we jump into the design, it’s important to look at the engines since they are direct contributors to the off-road capability and on-road efficiency.

The base engine found on the Cherokee is the 2.4-liter Tigershark I4 engine. While some say the 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of torque feel a little underwhelming on such a heavy vehicle, it’s important to remember this engine isn’t intended for off-road use. This is focused on on-road performance, and most engines found in 2016 will provide you with plenty of gusto to get on the highway. Therefore, what it lacks in power it definitely makes up for in fuel economy. After all, when was the last time you heard of an almost two-ton (yes, you read that right) 4×4 SUV rated at 22 mpg city/28 mpg highway? Even with the extra 300 pounds from the 4×4 system, this SUV is able to achieve fuel efficiency that inspires jealousy from the sedan segment. Without that extra weight, the Cherokee can get up to a surprisingly impressive 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway, traveling up to 489 miles on one tank of gas.

The next engine is the 3.2-liter Pentastar V6 engine, which bumps the horsepower and torque up to 271 and 239, respectively. This engine comes standard on the Overland, but is often paired with the Trailhawk. Therefore, it is best equipped when a power-boost is needed for conquering the off-road trails. As far as fuel-efficiency on the bigger engine, 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway is very respectable for an off-roader loaded with 400 extra pounds, thanks to a 4×4 system and off-roading components, which bumps the Trailhawk trim up to a curb weight of just over two tons.

How does it do it? The fuel saving technology is one way, but the design plays a major role in the Cherokee’s efficiency as well.

Designed for On-Road Performance

A white 2016 Jeep Cherokee driving on an empty city street.

Even with just a quick glance at the Cherokee, you can tell it was designed for aerodynamic perfection. The typical box design you used to know that’s about as aerodynamic as a square umbrella no longer exists, and is instead replaced with a front fascia that’s shaped like the beak of a hawk. The windshield and hood slope down at a steep angle, and meet a rigid line that runs the entire length of the front-fascia from underneath one headlight to the next. This rigid line creates a unique look, but also helps peel the wind up and over the front of the Cherokee. This line cuts through the center of the grille, which (on a side note) is a unique take on the traditional seven-slotted grille design that Jeep is known for. The sides of the Cherokee are chiseled out, and create valleys to trap the wind. At the last minute, just before the rear tire, those valleys are angled outward to prevent the wind from getting trapped inside the wheel wells in the back, creating unnecessary drag.

It might be a heavy SUV, but the shape of it is aerodynamic enough. Couple that with the fuel saving technology and overall refined performance of the engines, and it’s easy to see why this design makes for a good highway cruiser.

How it’s Designed for Off-Road Performance

A gray 2016 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk kicking up dirt in a field.

While the Cherokee Trailhawk is the trim that sports the Trail Rated badging, the design of the Cherokee didn’t change. The same basic shape and foundation are found across all trim levels, which means that same shape that provides such great aerodynamics for cruising down the highway, also gives the Cherokee the capability to be a perfectly capable off-roader.

Aside from the 18.9 degree approach angle, the new Cherokee has better off-roading dimensions compared to the old one. The breakover angle — which is essentially the wiggle room you have underneath the center of the Jeep when it’s sitting at the highest point of an incline — is 19.5 degrees, and the departure angle is 25 degrees. The increased departure angle and breakover angle is obviously thanks to the new design of the Cherokee, and the 106.3-inch wheel base provides plenty of grip for making it to the top of that hill. Also, the almost 50/50 split of weight distribution between the front and back is beneficial for keeping the Jeep balanced and stable on steep inclines.

A two-ton vehicle with weight that’s almost split 50/50, good-size wheelbase, excellent approach, breakover, and departure angles, along with a stock running ground clearance of almost 9” comes together to make a design that’s more than capable for traversing the off-road trails.

A Successful Combination

With a design that’s oriented towards preserving the Cherokee’s stellar off-roading reputation, along with providing the model a newfound sense of aerodynamics, it doesn’t make sense that the Jeep Cherokee is still catching fire in 2016 for its design. The new Cherokee offers drivers the best of both worlds, something that the older Cherokee could never do, and something that the competition still struggles with today.

Balancing efficiency and capability in a single design is a huge success for Jeep, and it’s time the brand got the credit it deserves for providing consumers with a well-rounded Jeep that’s just as comfortable taking the family on a long road trip as it is playing in the mud.