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DRIVEN ➤ New Jeep Cherokee cuts the mustard

04 Sep

Model tested: Limited 2.0-litre MultiJet II 170PS 4×4 Auto

By Wayne Gorrett

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  Generous kit levels, eye-catching looks, real off-road capability.
  Focus on comfort has nullified sensory involvement, buzzy diesel.

☀     ☀     ☀

The fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee is a mid-sized SUV that offers something a little off-center in its class. Originating from the Jeep division of Chrysler Group, it was introduced at the New York Motor Show last year. It is manufactured at the North Assembly Plant in Toledo, Ohio, USA and is the first Jeep to be built on the ‘Compact US Wide’ (CUS-wide) architecture, which employs 65 per cent high-strength steel and was jointly developed by Chrysler and its European parent Fiat.

A brace of jeep Cherokee's at the recent UK launch in the Cotswolds.

A brace of Jeep Cherokee’s at the recent UK launch in the Cotswolds.

Jeep’s current marketing strapline reads ‘Go anywhere, do anything’ and the new Cherokee pertinently displays a ‘Since 1941’ motif at the base of its steering wheel, emphasising its long and proud 4×4 heritage. However, its UK offerings over the past two decades or so haven’t really cut the mustard against stronger local, European and far-eastern rivals – until now.

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As evidenced by the much-improved and likeable Grand Cherokee launched in the UK last year, the new ‘regular’ Cherokee is a monumental step in the right direction, offering surprisingly decent road manners for a car of this size and generous equipment levels across three trim levels: Longitude, Longitude+ and Limited. While its looks may divide opinion, there’s plenty of good stuff going on with this new Cherokee.

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Styling

Criticised for its ‘rinse and repeat’ design cues on previous orthogonal offerings of recent years, Jeep has really thrown down the gauntlet with the new Cherokee’s looks. The main styling element that grabs your attention is the wrap-around front grille and slim LED daytime running lights, with the main headlights mounted in a separate cluster a little lower down. With its trademark seven segment grille – each trimmed with bright chrome surrounds – it’s a bold and striking design that’s matched around the car by ever-so-slightly squared wheel arches, masculine haunches and a bluff tailgate. Jeep is to be commended for trying to stand out in such a crowded market.

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The interior

Inside, it’s a bit of a mixed, but largely good bag. There’s loads of space up front and the materials in the driver’s line-of-sight look smart – they’re certainly a lot better than those in other Jeeps of recent years. There is also a colour touch screen (5in on Longitude trims and 8.4in on Limited), which is the focal point of the cabin and the means to control all the major functions. It’s a colourful, crisp and intuitive system that could shame a few premium carmakers’ interfaces and works well with the optional seven-inch TFT display in the instrument binnacle.

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There’s considerable focus on driver and passenger comfort and all furniture has good support. Rear passenger space is decent and headroom throughout is generous, even with the panoramic roof. The 60/40 split sliding rear seats are lounge-like and there’s plenty of room for two grown-ups and an in-betweener.

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The boot, at 591-litres, is good for its class and although space can be increased by sliding the rear seats forward, this leaves little leg-room for rear passengers and an inconvenient gap between the back of the seats and the boot floor. However, flip down the rear seat backs and a handy 1,267 litres of space becomes available – great for the local skip runs – and the boot lip, while high off the ground, is level with the boot floor. You also get useful underfloor storage and the rear seats fold completely flat, so while it may not be the largest boot in this class, it is one of the more practical.

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The Toy Box

Range-wide 1014 Cherokees are generously equipped. Each model features a thin-film transistor (TFT) screen in the instrument cluster available in either monochrome or colour. On the centre console there’s a choice between a 5-inch colour touch-screen for the Uconnect media system and, in a first for this class, an 8.4-inch display.

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Other range-wide kit includes hill-start assist, tyre pressure monitor, cruise control, stop/start, electronic parking brake, LED tail lamps and DRL’s, fog and cornering lights, 6-way manually-adjustable passenger seat (which folds flat), automatic dual-zone air-conditioning with humidity sensor, dual-adjust leather steering wheel, rear climate control outlets, Bluetooth, CD player and steering wheel mounted audio controls.

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The entry-level Longitude model comes with cruise control, parking sensors and dual-zone air-conditioning as standard, with the options of a full-length CommandView sun roof and a charging pad that can replenish some smart phones without the need to plug them in. As an observation, consider the starting price of just £25,495 for the 2.0-litre Longitude 140hp with 2WD via the six-speed manual ‘box and you begin to appreciate the value offering.

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On the top-spec Limited model tested, standard kit includes keyless enter/go, auto lights and wipers, full leather furniture, heated front seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, power tailgate, powered folding mirrors, electric eight-way adjustable driver’s seat with four-way lumbar adjust, park assist group, rear reversing camera, ParkSense rear and front assist with stop.

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Engines and Drive-trains

The Cherokee uses the strong and efficient 2.0-litre MultiJet-II inter-cooled turbo-diesel, available in two power outputs of 140hp and 170hp and both variants offer the gutsy 350Nm torque output. The really good news is that, as found on the Grand Cherokee launched last year, Jeep has again opted to use the exceptionally good ZF nine-speed automatic gearbox. This will be available on the 170hp diesel. As well as the automatic, a six-speed manual gearbox is available on all diesel models in 4×2 and 4×4 drive types.

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A logistical anomaly exists in that, due to the USA’s stubborn disdain for diesel power-plants, the MultiJet-II engines intended for the UK Cherokee line-up are sent from Europe to Toledo, Ohio, fitted to the cars then the cars are sent here. That’s quite an energy footprint.

On the Road

Once perched in the elevated cockpit of the new Cherokee, it only takes a few minutes to realise this is a car aimed at being as comfortable as possible. Jeep has made big strides moving the Cherokee away from agricultural handling to more road-biased manners and has focused on a plush ride that can handle the worst British tarmac. The Cherokee’s 2.0-litre diesel engines cope well with the hefty 1,900kg kerb-weight and body roll is well contained in the corners for a car of this size.

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Special mention must be given to the nine-speed automatic gearbox (developed in conjunction with ZF in Germany), which is optional on the 140hp model and standard with the 170hp version. I’m often wary of gearboxes with high cog counts as they have a tendency to become ‘hunter-gatherers’ when it comes to ratio selections (hunting for the right gear and eventually gathering it up, which all takes time). However, the Jeep’s ZF gearbox is smooth and seamless and contributes to a claimed 16 per cent improvement in efficiency versus the old Cherokee.

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With 369 miles on the trip meter at the end of a two-day road test through the Cotswolds – and with no attempt at frugality – the Cherokee recorded an average mpg of 42.8 (official combined 48.7mpg), which is none too shabby considering its nearly two-tonne bulk.

Off the Road

The all-new Cherokee is the best in its class for 4×4 capabilities over all terrains. The Selec-Terrain system provides five modes (sand, rock, snow, mud and auto).

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The Jeep Cherokee is the first mid-size SUV to feature ‘rear-axle disconnect’, resulting in reduced energy loss when 4×4 capability isn’t needed, with a resultant improvement in fuel efficiency. ‘Rear-axle disconnect’ switches between two- and four-wheel drive for full-time torque management and requires no input from the driver. Below is the best video I have found to show its off-road pedigree (with grateful acknowledgements to YouCar).

Jeep Active Drive I
The new Cherokee has the Jeep Active Drive I system with a single power transfer unit. This enables four-wheel drive to be engaged and disengaged at any speed with no input from the driver. The system offers balanced torque distribution with brake traction control and can deliver or restrict power to individual wheels in extreme driving conditions.

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JAD-I works through a fully variable wet clutch that’s housed in the rear drive module. This clutch supplies the proper amount of torque for all driving conditions from slippery surfaces to aggressive starts. A sophisticated computer program enables this to work alongside the ESC system to deliver outstanding driving dynamics.

Jeep Active Drive II
The Cherokee Limited auto version – as driven – is able to be specified with Jeep Active Drive II, which incorporates hill-descent control. JAD-II works in conjunction with the Selec-Terrain system to ensure that the wheels offering the most grip receive the most power and features a two-speed power transfer unit with torque management and low range. In 4-Low mode, the front and rear drive shafts are locked for low-speed power. Low range gives a 2.92:1 gear reduction for enhanced climbing of steep slopes. It manages this by monitoring the engine, transmission and ESC and modifying torque distribution to enable the Cherokee to continue Jeep’s strong off-road pedigree.

Jeep UK estimates that around 89 per cent of all Cherokee’s sold here will be ordered with AWD technology. We all know – and are boorishly quick to point out – that the majority of 4×4 drivers never go off-road and indeed, they never will. But we’re missing a valid point. Owning and driving a 4×4 SUV should not always be about going off-road. With widely-varying seasonal road conditions here in the UK, the higher degree of encapsulated road safety such technology brings to ourselves and our loved ones is the overriding priority – and rightly so. Knowing that your steed has the capability to ‘go anywhere, do anything’ off the black stuff whenever the mood arises, will raise a smug little grin. And there’s nothing remotely wrong with that.

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Safety

When it underwent EuroNCAP safety testing last year, the new Jeep Cherokee was awarded the full five stars and was rated best-in-class in the ‘Small Off-road 4×4’ category with a score of 83 per cent. With a raft of active and passive safety features, there has never been a safer Cherokee. To highlight a few:

Forward collision warning with crash mitigation; Parallel and perpendicular park assist; Adaptive cruise control with Stop&Go; LaneSense lane departure warning; Blind spot monitoring; Rear cross path detection (which warns drivers backing out of parking spaces of traffic moving towards their vehicle); Seven airbags as standard; Electronic stability control and ABS as standard, as is Electronic Rollover Mitigation which uses the same sensors as the ESC to detect a possible rollover situation and does its best to prevent it’s occurrence.

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Towing

A number of UK Cherokee’s will spend part of their life towing the family caravan on holiday to the seaside or over hill and dale, or be piloted by the chef d’équipe with horsebox in tow to the next eventing meet. Should that be you, then take good heart that the braked towing capacity of the 140hp 2.0-litre turbo diesel with front-wheel drive is 1,800kg; the 140hp with four-wheel drive can tug up to 1,600kg; and the 170hp 4×4 automatic is a best-in-class at 2,475kg. Un-braked towing capacity across all Cherokee models is 450kg and trailer sway damping is standard across the new Cherokee range.

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Prices

The Cherokee is priced from £25,495 for the 140hp diesel front-drive Longitude, topping out at £35,695 for the 170hp Limited automatic 4×4, as tested.

SUMMARY

The new Cherokee has plenty going for it. It drives well, rides comfortably and is well-equipped and competitively priced compared to more premium rivals. In the Cherokee (and the Grand Cherokee, if I’m honest), Jeep UK finally have a valid and viable proposition against its mainstream rivals that should be included in your test-drive short-list. It’s very good and better than the Cherokee has ever been.

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Fast facts: Jeep Cherokee Limited 2.0-litre MultiJet II 170PS 4×4 Auto

Price as driven: £35,695 * Engine: 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder MultiJet-II inter-cooled turbo-diesel * Power: 168hp @ 4,000 rpm * Torque: 350Nm @ 1,750 rpm * 0-62mph in 10.3 secs * Top speed: 119mph * Economy: 48.7 mpg claimed combined (tested: 42.8mpg over 369 miles) * Fuel tank capacity: 60 litres * CO2: 154g/km * Gearbox: 9-speed automatic * Service intervals: 12 months or 12,500 miles * Approach / departure / break-over angles: 18.9 / 32.2 / 19.5 * Ground clearance: 157mm * Wading depth: 482mm * Euro-NCAP Safety Rating: Five Stars (2013).
 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 4, 2014 in Driven

 

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One response to “DRIVEN ➤ New Jeep Cherokee cuts the mustard

  1. marcianus

    September 4, 2014 at 16:23

    Lovely car, and interesting too. It looks a bit different as well – hooray!

    Like

     

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