It's winter in the Northeast, and last week's Polar Vortex luckily came along just as our weekend test car was a 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
This is the all-new compact crossover that replaces the old truck-like Jeep Liberty, going head-to-head with popular compact crossover utilities like the Chevy Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and Toyota RAV4.
After the Dodge Dart launched for 2013, it's the second new vehicle from Fiat Chrysler to use front-wheel-drive underpinnings adapted from Italian Fiat and Alfa Romeo models.
2014 Jeep Cherokee FWD 4-door Sport DashboardEnlarge Photo
Adding all-wheel drive
The 2014 Cherokee, however, has a brand-new all-wheel-drive system that is designed to be as fuel-efficient as possible while still providing all the durability and off-road prowess that Jeep is known for.
On that front, we can only say that the Jeep crawled itself through 4 to 6 inches of snow and up our steep and unplowed driveway without drama or fuss, assisted by the "Snow" setting on the all-wheel drive SelecTerrain control knob.
We'd been eager to test the new Cherokee, having recently spent time in two different versions of the new Ford Escape, as well as a few diesel luxury crossovers.
The version we got, however, was a high-end model fitted not with the base 2.4-liter engine, but the more powerful 271-horsepower 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6.
20 to 25 mpg combined
There are no fewer than eight combinations of engine, drive system, and four-wheel-drive technology listed for the new Cherokee on the EPA site. All are fitted with a new nine-speed automatic transmission.
2014 Jeep Cherokee FWD 4-door Sport TrunkEnlarge Photo
The various Cherokee models range from a high of 25 mpg combined for the front-wheel-drive model with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine to a low of 20 mpg combined for the Cherokee Trailhawk 4WD with the 3.2-liter V-6.
Our 2014 Cherokee Limited 4x4 was rated at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway).
And on our test route of about 268 miles, split about two-thirds highway and one-third around-town and suburban stop-and-go, we averaged 23.8 miles per gallon as indicated on the vehicle's in-dash display.
The secondary trip odometer registered 743 miles, and an average fuel economy of 23.3 mpg.
We suspect that the nine-speed automatic transmission really pays off on the highway, when we noted the engine turning at 1500 rpm or below. We felt an occasional low thrumming noise as the engine stayed at low speeds even under heavier load--otherwise known as "lugging."