Jeep Cherokee 2.0 Limited 140PS 6-speed Manual 4×4
Leaving its big brother the Grand Cherokee to try and compete with the likes of the X5, Touareg, ML-Class, Discovery and other larger SUVs, the Cherokee is Jeep’s mid-size offering, jostling with the Qashqai, CX-5, CR-V and RAV4 at the lower end of the spectrum, whilst trying to entice would-be X3, Q5, and Evoque buyers at the upper end. What taste was I left with after half an hour behind the wheel on the roads around Wetherby, as part of SMMT North?
Despite Jeep now being part of the FIAT group, their all-new Cherokee hasn’t gone all cutesy or quaffed on us and has retained its brawny American styling for the most part. When I first saw its picture in the press, I thought the new Cherokee’s front end looked a bit like someone had sat on its tell-tale seven-slot grille – but having met one up-close and personal in the flesh, I now rather like it. The front bumper is slightly fussy owing to the chrome inserts, but I love the menacing, sleek LED running lights and headlamps. The gaping, squared-off wheel arches, butch side profile and somewhat conservative rear styling all add up to an attractive package overall, if you don’t mind standing out from the crowd.
Compared to previous generations of the Cherokee, the interior of the all-new one has moved a significant step closer to competing with the masters such as Audi, Land Rover and even Nissan. While the Cherokee’s quality isn’t quite there yet, it now gives Kia, Ford and Toyota a run for their money. Okay, some of the plastics in the Cherokee felt and sounded way below par, but the rest of the interior really impressed me. The Nappa leather trim, wonderfully soft and comfortable seats, raised driving position, excellent visibility and high levels of technology and equipment pulled the interior’s socks up nicely, giving it a largely premium feel. The dominant 8.4-inch touchscreen and 7-inch instrument cluster were brilliant to look at and easy to get to grips with, and the new Cherokee even comes with a wireless charging pad for compatible smartphones.
The driving experience
The new Cherokee is available in front-wheel drive or 4×4 guises, with a choice between 140PS and 170PS versions of a 2-litre Fiat-sourced diesel engine, and as either a 6-speed manual or an automatic, the latter being a very impressive-sounding 9-speed affair. The one I drove was a 140PS (138bhp), 2-litre diesel manual 4×4 model in range-topping Limited trim.
The MultiJet II diesel engine was a little vocal to start with but soon quietened down and although the 4×4 version is a bit of a slouch, taking 12 seconds to reach 62mph, it made up for it through the comfortable ride and raised driving position. The new Cherokee definitely isn’t a sporty SUV but its soft dynamics soaked up bumps extremely well and body roll in corners at speed was less noticeable than expected. I was sceptical that 140PS and 320Nm of torque would be sufficient to haul this biggish car around, but on the whole I wasn’t disappointed.
The steering was as responsive as I would expect from a mid-size SUV like this, not amazingly sharp and communicative but at the same time not significantly floppy or lacking. The brakes could have done with being a bit friendlier to gel with, but I for one didn’t find the gears notchy, the 6-speed ‘box proving quite pleasant to use. It would be interesting to see how the 9-speed automatic transmission compares and I wonder how the published combined fuel economy figure of 50.4mpg would turn out in the real world. It’s impressive on paper compared to various rivals and a huge improvement over the old Cherokee’s diesel consumption.
The Jeep team wasn’t able to provide a caravan or horsebox to put the new Cherokee to the test in this regard, but the 2-litre, 4×4 manual version can tow upto 1,600kg. If towing is a necessity for you, the 170PS 4×4 automatic version is actually the class-leader, able to tow 2,475kg. Unlike many of its rivals, the Cherokee is very capable off-road. Although I left the Selec-Terrain system alone during this brief drive, I did towards the end take the Jeep over a stretch of ground where most Qashqai or X3 owners wouldn’t fancy venturing, and I could tell the Cherokee would excel if pushed.
The price of the model I drove came out at £34,995 and this initially felt flinchingly expensive, which could be something to do with Jeep still being perceived as a leftfield choice. When you actually compare it, though, it’s admittedly pricier than the less capable Qashqai, CR-V et al, but is quite a few grand cheaper than equivalent four-wheel drive premium offerings like the Evoque, X3 and Q5. As someone with a soft spot for less common cars and particularly off-roaders, I walked away from this first drive pretty impressed with the new Cherokee, which may well put Jeep back on the UK’s mainstream map.