A diesel engine is usually the automatic choice for a sports utility vehicle (SUV). But we find that’s not necessarily the case with the Jeep Cherokee.
Base price: $66,990.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo diesel four, 125kW/350Nm, 9-speed automatic, four-wheel drive with low-range, Combined economy 5.8 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4624mm long, 1634mm high, 2700mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 412 litres, fuel tank 60 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 tyres.
We like: Clever four-wheel drive system, brilliant cabin features.
We don’t like: Unrefined diesel, inelegant transmission.
How it rates: 5/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The Jeep Cherokee seems to be a bit of a regular around here, with new versions appearing on a regular basis. We’ve had two petrol models to test: the 3.2-litre V6 and a 2.4-litre four-cylinder with front-drive.
Now it’s the turn of the 2.0-litre turbo diesel, which is tested here in flagship Limited specification.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Jeep has had a long association with Italian diesel-engine specialist VM Motori and in fact Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (Jeep’s parent company) has owned the company outright since 2011.
The Cherokee’s 2.0-litre powerplant is a VM unit that is effective but lacking refinement compared with rival Japanese and Korean models. It clatters at low speed and transmits quite a bit of vibration into the cabin under load.
It all feels a little truck-like – handling and ride included - which is surprising given that Cherokee is actually based on a car platform.
The diesel model’s talents are focused more around fuel efficiency and off-road ability. With technology such as a nine-speed automatic transmission, stop/start and a new feature called rear axle disconnect that removes drive to the back wheels completely when it’s not needed, the Cherokee diesel returns 5.8 litres per 100km in the Combined cycle.
Also unique to the diesel is Jeep’s Active Drive II four-wheel drive system, featuring a power transfer unit and low-range gearing unique to this model.
The Limited diesel also features Jeep’s Selec-terrain system, which allows the driver to configure the powertrain in four different ways at the click of a switch: auto, snow, sport or sand/mud.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the Cherokee is absolutely packed with surprise-and-delight cabin features.
The front passenger seat folds flat for longer loads, or the squab tilts forward to reveal an underseat storage bin. There’s another lidded box on top of the dashboard and thoughtful touches such as illumination for the cupholders and a pen-holder in the centre console.
Bootspace is a potential weak point in the Cherokee, with load volume of just 412 litres. But the rear seats are split 60/40 and there’s a neat metal arm in the cargo bay that can be used as an attachment point for shopping bags or other small items.
The cabin architecture pick up many cues from big brother Grand Cherokee, including a massive 8.4-inch touch screen on this Limited model. The dashboard is not quite as fancy as the Grand, but you do get a digital display between the main dials that can be configured by the driver.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? Torque and chassis technology means that the Cherokee diesel is second only to the Trailhawk in terms of off-road ability, and it’s also the most economical model in the range by far. If either of those two things appeal, this could be the Cherokee for you.
For the rest, the diesel engine is disappointingly unrefined and the nine-speed automatic weirdly clunky in this application. It has some calibration problems in the Limited V6 petrol as well, but the diesel transmission seems especially prone to awkward shifts at low speed and indecision on the open road.
- Blind spot warning: No
- Lane guidance: No
- Cruise control: Yes
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/Yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera and emergency braking
- Self-parking technology: No
- Head-up display: No
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Heated/ventilated seats: Two-level/No
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/No
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
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