It still has trapezoidal wheel arches, but just about everything else has changed in the latest Jeep Cherokee. We tested the high-spec Limited version.
Base price: $61,990.
Powertrain and performance: 3.2-litre petrol V6, 200kW/316Nm, 9-speed automatic, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 10.0 litres per 100km.
Vital statistics: 4623mm long, 1631mm high, fuel tank 57 litres, 18-inch alloy wheels on 225/55 tyres.
We like: Wilfully weird styling, practical cabin details, open-road refinement.
We don’t like: Potentially thirsty if driven hard, large turning circle.
How it rates: 7/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? This is the new face of the Jeep Cherokee. Kind of funny-looking, isn’t it? Squinty eyes with a toast rack in the middle.
But bold styling equates to confidence in a brand-new product on Jeep’s part. While the previous Cherokee was a hard-core off-roader, with a ladder-frame chassis and low-range, this one is more in the crossover vein: it’s based on a Fiat Chrysler monocoque platform, for a start, and in place of a dual-range transmission it has an intriguing single-range nine-speed automatic.
The model on test is the Limited: near the top of the range, with only the more rugged Trailhawk above it.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? The Cherokee is ostensibly a mid-size crossover – Toyota RAV4 size if you will – but it’s certainly at the pointy end of the class, since all but the entry-level Sport come with a 3.2-litre, six-cylinder V6 petrol powerplant.
It’s a new engine from the acclaimed Pentastar family. The Grand Cherokee uses a larger-capacity version of the same.
If you’re expecting a rorty powerpack, you might be disappointed. The V6 is impressive for its refinement and cruising ability, but still feels a little lethargic low-down - a reminder that the Cherokee is a substantial vehicle for its class, weighing in at nearly 1.7 tonnes.
Nor does the nine-speed gearbox quite deliver on wow-factor. You’d think it would have a ratio for every occasion, yet it still occasionally stumbles on steep hills and thumps into gear inelegantly in city driving.
Nonetheless, the new engine and transmission bring huge benefits in efficiency: the new Cherokee V6 is 20 percent more economical than the old, with Combined economy of 10.0 litres per 100km. Not as thrifty as its four-cylinder rivals, but pretty good for a 200kW petrol V6.
There’s a good deal of weight to the steering which does not necessarily equate to feel, but the Cherokee still handles corners confidently. The four-wheel drive system had a real workout during some atrocious weather during our test and came up trumps.
While the Limited is primarily a road vehicle (only the Trailhawk version gets Jeep’s ‘Trail Rated’ stamp of off-road approval), it still gets the Selec-Terrain drive model function, which allows the driver to choose between Auto, Sport, Snow and Sand/Mud settings.
The Cherokee’s new architecture brings with it the latest driver-assistance features, although many are still optional – even on the Limited. You’ll need to buy the Technology Group package to get lane departure warning, auto high-beam control, forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, cross-path detection and self-parking technology.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? The interior is a massive leap forward over the previous model, picking up many styling elements and some of the technology from the larger Grand Cherokee. The centre (digital) section of the instrument panel is configurable, just like the Grand. The Cherokee also gets the brilliant Uconnect 8.4-inch touch screen, which is both great to look at and intuitive to use.
Cherokee is still obviously built to a price: the dashboard finish is soft but stops short of being supple, while there’s plenty of hard plastic elsewhere. But the classy styling and high-end infotainment technology in the Uconnect system carry it through.
Perhaps it’s a long history with multi-purpose vehicles, but Americans are particularly good at incorporating people-friendly features into cars like these. The Cherokee is packed with great ideas: the glovebox easily swallows an iPad, there’s a storage bin atop the dash with a grippy liner for your phone and the centre console has holders for both pens and coins.
The rear seat slides to optimise passenger/cargo space, while the front passenger seat can also fold flat to accommodate really long loads. Pull the squab forward and there’s also a hidden storage bin underneath.
Another option package, called Electronic Convenience Group, covers keyless entry/start and a must-have Qi-format wireless charging pad for your compatible mobile phone. Brilliant.
The boot is a little tight considering the size of the vehicle, but with such practical features and generous cabin space elsewhere that’s forgivable. More delightful detail in the cargo area: a built-in rack to help with smaller items such as shopping bags.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? You could argue that the Cherokee Limited is a little old-fashioned: it’s a heavy vehicle for the segment and relies on petrol-V6 power, when its main rivals have four-cylinder engines – many with the option of diesel technology.
The Cherokee is not top of its class for performance or handling. But you cannot help but be impressed by the classy interior, excellent attention to detail and the fact that it dares to be idiosyncratic in a segment that tends towards ‘me-too’ in styling and packaging.
In that sense, the Cherokee is a welcome addition to what is a crowded market. It has its share of flaws, but it also feels a bit special.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/no
- Blind spot warning: Optional with Technology Group package
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Yes
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Keyless entry/start: Optional with Electronic Convenience Group package
- Lane guidance: Optional with Technology Group package
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Yes with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: Yes
- Power seat adjustment/memory: Yes/no
- Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: Optional with Technology Group package
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: No
- Trip computer: Yes
Buy a new Jeep Cherokee HERE.