Smooth new Jeep Cherokee still a toughie on road
- Credit: PA
No longer the workmanlike 4x4 of old, Jeep's latest Cherokee mid-size sport utility vehicle aims to make waves in the burgeoning lifestyle market, says Iain Dooley of the Press Association.
As part of Jeep's new product offensive, this is the American company's latest-generation mid-size Cherokee. Pitched below the premium Grand Cherokee and a more rounded proposition than the iconic, but extreme, Wrangler, the Cherokee is expected to do battle with cars from the likes of Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Audi and BMW.
With a new platform, it promises higher levels of refinement and on-road manners than before. For the UK, diesel power is the default, with two power outputs from a single 2.0-litre unit. A more extreme 'Trail Rated' variant boasting increased capabilities will be available, but as a petrol V6 variant numbers are expected to be small.
Key to this Cherokee's appeal will be its ability to come good on its maker's claims of improved on-road dynamics and a cabin that's received a considerable uplift in terms of quality, space and kit levels.
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Jeep models have always had a distinctive look, and this Cherokee is no different. However, where the trademark grille has been the dominant feature, it has now been incorporated into an overall more dramatic front end.
In fact the whole car is a more dramatic than before, with its angular sheet metal and fuss-free detailing presenting a bold appearance that couldn't be further from the rounded looks of previous models if it tried. The upshot is a 4x4 with kerb appeal to match the very best from Europe's premium SUV-makers.
Space and practicality
Bigger in all the important areas, this Cherokee boasts a useful extra length in the wheelbase to ensure occupants have ample room. For added convenience the rear seats can slide so you can tailor legroom for boot space depending on your needs. And with a large opening tailgate there's no shortage of space at the rear, plus Jeep has devised a range of extras such as baggage nets, partitions and soft storage units to further enhance the Cherokee's versatility.
Behind the wheel
The 140 and 170 horsepower versions of Jeep's 2.0-litre unit provide the necessary propulsion – the former is more than adequate in the real world, the latter adds welcome extra boost. Refinement is good across the board, with the cabin nicely insulated from most external aural distractions.
Purists probably won't like the inclusion of a front-drive variant, but urban dwellers attracted to the Cherokee's family-friendly layout certainly will. There's two types of all-wheel drive if you need the extra grip – the simple version gives you total traction when you need it and needs minimal driver involvement, while the flagship model adds a low-range transmission and a rear diff lock. Suitably equipped, the Cherokee is easily a match for anything from Europe.
Value for money
Although Jeep has its sights on stealing sales from its premium European rivals, the Cherokee is pitched at a slightly lower price closer to the likes of Kia, Honda and Nissan. As such, the well-built cabin, legendary off-road capability and good standard equipment ensure it offers a convincing proposition when talk turns to money matters.
Who would buy one?
If you're not a fan of the European 'soft-roader' trend and want something that at least looks the part, Jeep's Cherokee is likely to appeal. Crucially it's not all mouth and no trousers – even the basic all-wheel drive variant is capable of plugging mud. Factor in the choice of two gutsy diesel motors and it's not just a car for off-road types, as anyone who's a fan of towing is likely to warm to the car's added traction, lofty driving position and generous towing capabilities.
This car summed up in a single word – adventurous.