Our long-term cars are used just like any car owners would treat their own vehicles. We drive them on the commute to work, runs to the grocery store and picking the kids up from school. They also serve duty on the all-American road trip, and we partook of many during the past few months in our long-term 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
Related: More Long Term Fleet Coverage
We've detailed a number of issues with the Jeep's nine-speed automatic transmission, but on the long haul there are many important factors that make a road trip a great road trip.
We threw Cars.com's long-term Jeep Cherokee test car in the ring with a segment heavyweight for the latest installment of "Cherokee Versus." The Toyota RAV4 is an originator of car-based SUVs and one of the top-selling vehicles of any kind month after month. The Cherokee returned to the Jeep lineup for 2014 as a front-wheel-drive-based crossover SUV after a 13-year hiatus, while the RAV4 was redesigned for 2013.
Related: We Bought a 2014 Jeep Cherokee
Unlike our multicar Challenges, these head-to-head comparisons take our long-term car and pit it against a competitor from a rotating fleet of test cars supplied by various manufacturers. The RAV4 in question is an XLE four-cylinder with all-wheel drive ($28,772 as tested, with destination) that we're comparing to our Cherokee Limited four-cylinder with all-wheel drive ($33,378).
The only out-of-pocket ownership costs for Cars.com's long-term 2014 Jeep Cherokee test car after six months and 11,413 miles have been fuel and the first scheduled oil change and tire rotation. The oil life indicator currently sits at 48 percent life left after 3,637 miles since the previous oil change, so we've still got a fair amount of time until the next scheduled maintenance.
Cost free doesn't mean trouble free, however. We're still battling erratic transmission behavior after the most recent transmission software update. Quality representatives from Jeep's parent company Chrysler read our latest transmission woes and put us in touch with a regional service advisor for a more in-depth diagnosis. We'll have more updates on the Cherokee's transmission after that appointment.
"Any transmission updates available?" is one of the first questions I ask when taking Cars.com's 2014 Jeep Cherokee long-term test car into the dealership for service. The nine-speed automatic transmission's operation has been an annoyance in an otherwise easygoing 12,000 miles. From the start, harsh upshifts have rocked the car from 2nd to 3rd gear, and the transmission sometimes struggles to find the right passing gear in our four-cylinder Cherokee with all-wheel drive.
Related: More on Cars.com's Long-Term Fleet
Last month, we had Jeep technicians plug in the latest transmission control module update, "68241129AB," while we were at the dealership having a second-row power outlet replaced. It had been inadvertently yanked out of place somehow. Chrysler spokeswoman Wendy Orthman said in an email about the transmission update, "It is to enhance throttle responsiveness and shifting smoothness across all nine gears. Some customers may notice the improvements, to others it may be seamless."
Our staff piloted the Cherokee for three weeks with the latest transmission programming. Did it do the trick? Read our staff's impressions below.
Most significant changes: Stop-start now standard on V-6-equipped models
Price change: Prices increase $100 on all models except the Sport trim
On sale: Since late July
Which you should buy, 2014 or 2015? 2015
Jeep's all-new Cherokee managed to make a big splash in the crowded compact SUV field with a combination of distinctive styling, commendable on-road performance and off-road capability, a choice of three four-wheel-drive systems and a roomy, well-finished interior. That helped its appeal with Jeep loyalists who value off-road prowess as well as those who drive only on smooth pavement but want the versatility of a small SUV.
Jeep delayed the launch of the 2014 Cherokee for a couple of months while it tried to fix shift quality issues with the also-new nine-speed automatic transmission, and we aren't convinced it is fully sorted out based on our long-term Cherokee test vehicle.
Aside from the transmission, though, there is much to like about the Cherokee, which offers a broad portfolio of safety features, a voice-operated infotainment system, interior furnishings that are a cut above and family-friendly utility. Because it was all-new for 2014, there are few changes to the 2015, which just recently went on sale.
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