Car review - Jeep Cherokee
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 January 2015
Keith Danesford reviews the new Jeep Cherokee.
It wasn’t that long ago when buying an American car signed you up to the ownership of a low-tech, heavy-weight gas-guzzler with poor build quality, woolly suspension and a vehicle the size of a modest basement flat.
But look at the latest offering from Jeep, Uncle Sam’s answer to Land Rover, and you’ll see living proof that things have really started to change. Yes, the ostentatious grille and blingy chrome wheels are still a bit American but, other than that, the styling is very European. Those squinty lights, the curvaceous profile and that odd raised bit where the window meets the A-pillar. You’d never have seen all that on a ‘yank tank’ a decade ago.
Personally, I’m not sure about the way it looks. It’s almost too fussy, a bit over-styled. Either way it’s a big departure from the previous Cherokee and certainly turns heads.
While American cars of the old school have been a bit soft and ‘wallowy’ to drive, this car is anything but. In fact, its ride is quite firm. A pay-off from this would usually be found in decent road manners, but I found the Cherokee rolls just a little too much in the bends and there’s little fun to be had. However, being realistic, this is an off-roader with enough the bells and whistles supplied to take it ‘mud-plugging’ if need be, so perhaps fine road manners shouldn’t be expected.
In fact, firm suspension aside, the new Cherokee is very comfortable. Its interior is cleverly laid out and it has great visibility, with plenty of space for passengers and a decent boot. It’s built well too and, apart from some bits of plastic that you’ll find if you look hard enough, it feels like a quality product. And that’s a very good thing because – and here’s another departure from its American heritage – it is pretty expensive.
A high-end diesel model with four-wheel drive will set you back more than £30,000 which puts it in contention with some very desirable German metal, as well as offerings from the unstoppable Land Rover family.
It does wade in to said battle well prepared though. It has plenty of equipment on offer, including heated and ventilated seats, keyless go, a glass roof, automatic wipers, a nine-speaker stereo and lots of connectivity options dotted around for the excellent infotainment system. It also has one of the best digital instrument displays I’ve ever used, a very simple and reliable sat nav system and plenty of clever storage options for odds and ends.
What impressed me most, however, is the Cherokee’s engine. My test car was fitted with the entry-level 140bhp diesel engine which when mated to a manual gearbox, really is the ultimate departure from its traditional American roots.
If it sounds under-powered then, fair enough, it is. Two litres sounds as if it’s out of its depth in a car of this size and it does feel quite slow off the mark but it’s just enough to live with and it’s good for an astonishing 53.3mpg.
Or so Jeep says. In actual fact, on one 15 mile journey I managed to achieve 58.9mpg. I was really trying, but it was still seriously impressive for an SUV.
If 140bhp really isn’t enough there’s a meatier 170bhp diesel option which is available with a nine-speed automatic gearbox but, obviously, this will mean you can kiss goodbye to the 139g/km of the lesser unit.
On the whole, it’s difficult not to like the Cherokee. It might look a little funny and it might have a lot of work to do to tempt buyers away from its more ubiquitous rivals but it’s a good attempt.
It’s done away with many of the American traits that could have put people off and with these traits have gone a few of its charms - but charms don’t sell cars so let’s hope the Cherokee has enough left to lure people away from the comparatively dull German brands.
Because, if nothing else, this is a welcome break from the norm.