Jeep Cherokee Road Test

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For many Jeep purists the fact the brand is now part of the Fiat’s empire causes sleepless nights, the iconic American brand now ostensibly Italian. But if it hadn’t been for the Italian giant, Jeep along with the rest of Chrysler would have been consigned to motoring history, the company as a whole more or less flat lining. But how fortunes change, Fiat overseeing Jeep’s startling ascendancy, the brand’s market share soaring. Possibly the most fashionable compact SUV on the market the Renegade has captured the modern urbanite imagination like no other. In fact in Italy it outsells the Fiat 500X on which it’s based, sales figures something even Fiat can’t quite work out.


The one aspect Fiat has insisted on is that irrespective of the model, a Jeep must still incorporate certain of the brand’s famous design details whilst retaining the name’s famous off-road capabilities. That is unless you happen to have bought one of the 2WD versions but why you’d want a Jeep that isn’t a 4x4 still remains one of the world’s great mysteries.


From the model’s launch back in 1974 the Cherokee has gone through many guises, from boxy and distinct to a more comfortable version of the famous Wrangler. Similarly, for those who needed one the Wagoneer and the Grand Cherokee made their appearance the pair firmly establishing the Cherokee and the mid-sized, all-round off-roader, a position the model still occupies today. The main difference is the latest Cherokee is now conspicuously dissimilar to what went before, the overt European looks going head to head with the more established cross-over makes and models.


Externally, the only true Jeep reference points are the seven vertical slats that form the grille, the rest of the Cherokee radically different. Narrow wraparound front running lights and indicators, low set headlights and even lower down front spots feed back into a haunched, rounded outline, side scallops, a high waistline and tapering windows leading rearwards, doors and electric tailgate neatly incorporated into the overall style. One slight negative is the fact the over moulds aren’t colour keyed to the bodywork, their appearance rather at odds with the rest of the car.


Sat on ten-spoke polished alloys and 225/55 road orientated rubber, the Cherokee has a natural squat stance, the front sitting on a one-piece aluminium sub-frame, McPherson struts, long travel coil springs and stabilizer bar, the rear on trailing arms, a high strength rear cradle and once again coil springs. The collective result is that the Cherokee rides off-road nearly as smoothly as it does on-road, the overall dynamics a more than passable compromise over both requirements.


Inside the cabin Limited gets you full leather trim, soft touch surfaces, contrasting stitching, temperature controllable perforated leather seating and a reasonable quantity of toys. Its also been designed to withstand virtually everything a family can throw at it,  the inherently tough interior still wipe down and far more able to shrug off abuse. A pair of analogue clocks flanks the instrument panel’s information rich onboard readouts whilst the 8.4” central Uconnect screen takes care of satnav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, Alpine CD and nine speaker controls along with climate settings and various minor functions. And for smartphone users there’s a wireless charging system and universal phone mount located in the central armrest. Capacity wise with five passengers onboard the Cherokee hauls 591 litres of cargo or 1,267 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded with a towing maximum of 2,495kg.    



Beneath the bonnet three options are to be had although the 3.2 litre V6 Petrol in the Trailhawk version isn’t likely to prove overly popular in the UK. The other choices are the 138hp 2-litre diesel or as tested the 2.2 litre MultiJet diesel which as the name suggests is Fiat sourced. Transverse mounted the driver has 197hp on tap along with 440Nm or torque all of which is controlled via a 9-speed automatic transmission. Falling not far from the factory suggested combined figure of 40.4mpg, the mixed 162 miles of testing delivered an average consumption of 39.8 mpg with a motorway best of 45.2mpg which means a full 60 litre fuel tank should be good for just over 400 miles between refills.


You will however have to use all nine gears to achieve economy since in auto the transmission has a habit of holding onto 6th and 7th. By moving the shift to the left, using the sequential option allows 8th and 9th to be selected far earlier than the Jeep seems to consider appropriate, the semi-manual changes also eliminating the auto mode’s ponderous lower ratio response when brisk kick-down is required. It also comes as a surprise that there’s no paddle change option, something this Cherokee cries out for. Running auto AWD under most conditions, as and when surface changes occur the drive can manually program in Snow or Sand & Mud and should the mood come over you Sport, all selectable via the rotary control to the left of the main shift. Annoyingly the electric handbrake doesn’t disengage


The most appropriate way to describe the Cherokee’s on-road performance is comfortable and unhurried. As a long-haul cruiser it demands nothing of the driver the only criticism being that the power steering tends at times to feel slightly dead and at times a little heavier than you might expect. Similarly, the engine at times sounds harsh under hard acceleration from a standing start although it quickly smoothes out once the higher gears have been engaged and the urgency had died down whilst the disc all round ABS brings the Cherokee to a reassuring and balanced halt.


Off-road the Cherokee still remains worthy of the Jeep name, the compact size, fashionable looks and luxury connotations all relegated into second place as the true abilities of the vehicle come into play. Leave the SelecTerrain Active Drive 4x4 settings in Auto or pre-program, the Cherokee is remarkably refined along tracks and across fields. And whilst clearance figures seem to remain a closely guarded secret the Cherokee seems more than able to clear most objects.


In entry level Longitude trim with the 2-litre diesel the Cherokee starts at £26,345 climbing to £37,245 for the basic Limited. Add on the accessories such as hill start control, collision warning, blind spot monitors and a whole host of other add ons and the Limited spec as tested will set you back £40,910 which means certain of the other prestige offerings are snapping at this Jeep’s heals. The Cherokee you need to avoid is the 2WD version which whilst it looks like its more capable 4x4 sibling is far less capable and is a depreciation and resale liability.


Where the Cherokee looses out is that whilst the Renegade is becoming the Jeep to own, this slightly larger model still in the main appeals to the 4x4 owner who will be buying one because of what it can do and be able to appreciate exactly what the Cherokee actually is and not a mid-sized SUV you’ve purchased to impress others.          



By; Mark Stone




Jeep Cherokee