The 2016 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 75th Anniversary isn’t much changed over the 2015 model. The anniversary package may be new, but it’s still the same car – same styling, same interior, same powertrain. So what would make this one worth buying?
Last year, I tested a 2015-model Cherokee that earned a “Lease It” rating. Like the 2016 model, that Cherokee had an appearance package – the Altitude package – that dramatically improved its looks. In fact, I said that the Cherokee never looked so good.
What held it back from getting a “Buy It” was the transmission. Saying the nine-speed automatic was slow to downshift was an understatement. One time I counted seven seconds from the time I mashed the accelerator to the time it finally kicked down a few gears. There’s no way I could’ve recommended anyone to buy it with a transmission like that.
The 2016 tester also has an appearance package, this time the 75th Anniversary package. If the Altitude packaged looked good, the 75th looks positively stunning. The Recon Green paint matches perfectly with the bronze wheels and accents, and the orange highlights on the “Jeep” and “Cherokee” badges add just the right amount of contrast. It’s the best-looking new Cherokee since its re-release.
The 75th Anniversary package also adds in some options that aren’t available on any other Latitude-trim Cherokee, including power seats and 18-inch wheels. The package also bundles in the panoramic sunroof and the 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system.
The appearance tweaks and the extra options definitely make the 75th Anniversary package worth the money.
The tester also came with the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6 that makes 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque. The nine-speed automatic was enhanced with the Active Drive II system, which makes the Cherokee more off-road-worthy than a regular Latitude, but not quite as much as a Trailhawk. Last year’s tester had the lower-end Active Drive I system.
Active Drive II adds a hill descent and a four-wheel-drive lock. I wasn’t able to test it off road, but Jeep takes their off roading seriously, so this system should be a step up for light off-roading.
But the real question is, has Jeep fixed the glaring issue that held back the 2015 model? Have they finally fixed that confused transmission?
In a word, hellyeah.
That single word may be a stretch, but the sentiment is not. The first time I got behind the wheel and floored the throttle, I thought I was in a different car. I expected the confused transmission of old, but instead I was met with a solid downshift and smooth acceleration.
“Decisive” is the best word to describe the updated transmission. While the previous model’s tranny had to give any downshifts some serious consideration – possibly even building a pro/con list before deciding on the right gear – the new one had a James T. Kirk-level of decisiveness that was surprising and unexpected.
It’s still an uber-speed transmission, so it’s geared for economy and it does have a lot of gears to shift, but it’s more on par with the eight-speed found in the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Durango.
Without the distraction of the previously temperamental gearbox, the Cherokee’s strengths shine. That Pentastar V-6 is as good as ever, with a fantastic growl that’s audible but not too loud. Steering is pleasant, a little light but with decent feedback. The interior is first rate, with quality materials and a feeling of substance and heft. The seats are all-day comfortable, the driving position is excellent, and the cabin is quiet. This is an interstate burner. A cross-country trip would be child’s play in the Cherokee.
The Cherokee is rated at 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with 22 mpg combined. During the week I had it, the Cherokee pretty much hit the combined rating, ending up with 21.9 mpg in mostly city driving.
The as-tested price of the 75th Anniversary Cherokee was $36,765 including $995 destination. Along with the special package, it had the cold weather group that added heated seats and steering wheel, the safety and convenience that added parking and blind spot assist, and the comfort and convenience group that added options such as passive keyless entry, remote start, and a power liftgate.
The Honda CR-V and the Toyota RAV4 may be the safe choices in the compact crossover segment, but the Cherokee is a much more interesting choice that has some decent off-road cred. With the improved transmission, the 2016 Cherokee is now a viable option in the class and should be considered by anyone looking to buy a compact crossover.
On the TFLcar scale of…
- Buy It,
- Lease It,
- Rent It,
- or Forget It..
The 2016 Jeep Cherokee Latitude 75th Anniversary gets a Buy It!
With the improvements to the transmission and the stunning appearance package, the Cherokee becomes a top contender in the compact crossover segment.