Canyon roads

jeep cherokee curve

On a long run of twisty canyon roads near Los Angeles, the kind of roads you'd think might be sickening to drive in any Jeep, the Cherokee was actually capable and very comfortable. Was it fun? Not exactly, but twisty roads aren't where Jeeps are supposed to be fun.

In curve after curve after curve the Cherokee felt even-keeled with just enough body roll. Even the steering felt precise for a practical-minded SUV, although the ride was somewhat firm.

My only complaint was that, with the efficient 184-horsepower four-cylinder engine, the Cherokee's advanced 9-speed transmission could have decided more quickly when it needed to downshift, which was pretty often. Still, that should be an issue only if a serpentine canyon road figures in your daily commute.

With the 271 horsepower V6, performance was better and quieter and the ride was smoother. But that will cost you $1500 more in sticker price and about three miles per gallon in fuel economy, according to EPA.

First published September 30, 2013: 7:35 AM ET