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  • First Drive: 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude

First Drive: 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude

Blacked Out

Tim Esterdahl
Oct 30, 2015
Photographers: Courtesy of Jeep, Tim Esterdahl
A growing trend among all automakers is creating special “blacked-out” models, which follows the Plasti Dip craze among a younger demographic of car buyers. With blacked-out badges, gloss-black front-end treatments, gloss-black aluminum wheels paired with a black interior, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude certainly has an attitude. Yet, is it strong enough to bring in the younger buyers?
Photo 2/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 002
Officially, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude is relatively new for the SUV. The idea of blacked-out models was first introduced in 2012 at the Houston Auto Show with a Grand Cherokee model that was displayed. Since then, the Altitude name has been used on Grand Cherokee and Wrangler models. In 2014, Jeep added the Altitude edition to the Cherokee.
Photo 3/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 003
The Altitude is really just one of several different varieties of the new mid-sized SUV. In the past, items like chrome accents, larger wheels, and sunroofs would distinguish these different trim levels. Yet, these days, they are more like different flavors. For example, the Cherokee still has the base Sport, midgrade Latitude, and top-trim Limited. Yet, two distinct offerings are part of the mix in the form of the Trailhawk and Altitude.
Photo 4/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 004
The Altitude is a distinctive “flavor” of the Jeep. Not only is it blacked-out everywhere you see on the exterior, the blacked-out interior adds to making it feel distinctive. Lastly, it is only offered in four colors: Granite Crystal (dark gray), Silver Billet, Bright White, and Brilliant Black. These colors reinforce the styling attitude and keep this model more easily distinguishable from its other varieties.
Photo 5/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 009
Under the Hood
While the interior and exterior are markedly different, all Jeep Cherokee models come equipped with the same powertrain options. Standard in all models is a 2.4L four-cylinder engine that produces 184 hp and 171 lb-ft of torque. Also available is a 3.2L V-6 rated at 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. Both of these engines are paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Our test model was equipped with the larger 3.2L V-6 and included stop/start technology to save fuel when stopped for long periods of time. Paired with the nine-speed transmission and four-wheel drive, our model was EPA rated to return 20/28/23 mpg city/highway/combined fuel economy. In a two-wheel-drive setup, Jeep says it will return upwards of 31 mpg highway. The Jeep Altitude, with the V-6 engine, can also tow an impressive 4,500 pounds, making it the best in its class.
Photo 6/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 007
Interior and Exterior
Without question, the Altitude is all about embracing dark colors that pop at night. From the black roof side rails down to the gloss-black grille surround, Jeep designers built this SUV to look amazing cruising after dusk.
Adding to the exterior styling are 18-inch gloss-black aluminum wheels. These wheels mirror what many aftermarket suppliers are producing and help give the Altitude a much more edgy look than other models.
On the inside, black surrounds nearly everything you see and touch. Complementing the black is a rich beige satin color used around air vents, on the steering wheel, and throughout the center infotainment system. These colors give the appearance of a luxury-like interior in the SUV.
Photo 7/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 006
Off-Road Prowess One of the truly amazing things about this SUV is its surprising off-road prowess. Why? Visually, it simply doesn’t give the impression of having much off-road capability and behind the wheel it feels lot more like a soccer mom SUV than a Jeep. Yet, Jeep added their well-known, off-road capability to this unibody SUV.
The first visual clue this is still an off-road capable Jeep is located next to the gear shifter in the form of a selec-terrain dial. This dial, part of Jeep’s Active Drive I off-road group, changes the way the vehicle brakes, accelerates, and drives based on one of four different terrain selections: auto, snow, sport, and sand/mud. This group also includes a fully automatic and seamless operation of four-wheel drive at any speed.
During our time driving this vehicle, we used this system on sand and mud. Also, we used the snow mode during a special FCA winter driving event held earlier this year. In all cases, it is a truly remarkable system, which takes the guesswork out of driving on a variety of surfaces for the average driver.
Photo 8/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 005
Behind the Wheel
It is quite the engineering feat to build a smooth driving unibody SUV with off-road equipment. Typically, the off-road equipment requires certain sacrifices, which historically have included ride quality. A Jeep Wrangler is a perfect example of this. It is extremely off-road capable with a rough highway drive. Yet, in the Jeep Cherokee Altitude, the engineers have done just that. The SUV rides similar to competitors’ unibody SUVs, yet is much more off-road capable.
While it gets high marks for off-road capability, we think the rest of the SUV still needs some fine-tuning. The start/stop technology can be a little hesitant and the nine-speed transmission has some odd shifting points (note: Jeep has been working on this issue with a reflash conducted in May 2014). In our opinion, the difficulty here is the many different features tasked to work together.
Photo 9/9   |   2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude 008
However, this isn’t a deal breaker. It simply takes a little to get used to and we readily admit it could also be; we aren’t used to nine-speed transmissions.
In the end, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude surprises and delights. At first glance, it seems like another uni-body SUV, yet the off-road prowess reminds you it is still a Jeep and quite capable of traversing over a muddy trail.
Specifications
2015 Jeep Cherokee Altitude
TYPE: Midsize SUV
BASE PRICE: $25,695
ENGINE: 3.2L V-6
HORSEPOWER: 271 @ 6,500
TORQUE: 239 @ 4,400 rpm
TRANSMISSIONS: Nine-speed automatic
EPA FUEL ECON (City/Hwy/Comb): 20/28/23
CURB WEIGHT: 4,028 pounds (3.2L 4x4)
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT RATING: 5,500 pounds
TOW CAPACITY: 4,500 pounds (V-6)
FUEL CAPACITY: 16.9 gallons

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