Enterobacter cloacae complex (ECC) represent globally important nosocomial pathogens. A three-year study of ECC in Germany identified Enterobacter xiangfangensis as the most common species (65.5%) detected, a result replicated by examining a global pool of 3246 isolates. Antibiotic resistance profiling revealed widespread resistance and heteroresistance to the antibiotic colistin and detected the mobile colistin resistance (mcr)-9 gene in 19.2% of all isolates. We show that resistance and heteroresistance properties depend on the chromosomal arnBCADTEF gene cassette whose products catalyze transfer of L-Ara4N to lipid A. Using comparative genomics, mutational analysis, and quantitative lipid A profiling we demonstrate that intrinsic lipid A modification levels are genospecies-dependent and governed by allelic variations in phoPQ and mgrB, that encode a two-component sensor-activator system and specific inhibitor peptide. By generating phoPQ chimeras and combining them with mgrB alleles, we show that interactions at the pH-sensing interface of the sensory histidine kinase phoQ dictate arnBCADTEF expression levels. To minimize therapeutic failures, we developed an assay that accurately detects colistin resistance levels for any ECC isolate.