First Drive: Jeep Cherokee
To put it bluntly, Jeeps in past years have lacked refinement, but since the brand's partnership with Fiat the name is on the up.
Jeep has never really faired particularly well when it comes to residual values, either, but It's on a mission to turn this around by building the name to compete with the likes of Range Rover et al.
In accordance with its current message 'don't be in the shadows', Jeep is well and truly out of the shadows with the new Cherokee. But is it any good? AOL Cars headed over to The Lakes in Gloucestershire to find out.
What is it?
Jeep's off-road reputation is prominent in this model, but this isn't just any old mud-plugger – refinement has been sought and executed with this SUV including a new ZF gearbox, which was first introduced on the Grand Cherokee. It's little brother Cherokee is a more compact, sleeker, version of that car and has everything you could want with a very luxurious feel throughout. Starting at £25,495 we, as well as Jeep, think that this will be a successful model for the brand. Jeep is also aiming to provide virtual off-road experiences to customers in all its dealerships across the UK, so watch this space.
What's under the bonnet?
Three different engine specifications are available on the Cherokee, all of which are four-cylinder turbodiesel units. The first is the 2.0-litre 140bhp front-wheel-drive option, and then there's the 2.0-litre engine 140bhp 4x4 and finally the 2.0-litre 170bhp 4x4 with nine-speed automatic gearbox – a first in its class. Because the Cherokee has been designed with off-roading in mind, we would choose the automatic gearbox over the manual because the manual isn't as fun. It's heavy to operate, too, and is notchy in the first two gears, which will become tiresome in traffic jams.
What's the spec like?
There are three specification levels available: Longitude, Longitude+ and Limited. Limited, being the top spec, features an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, electrically adjustable driver's seat, power tailgate and Uconnect media centre with 8.4-inch display (also used in the Maserati Quattroporte) and more. The Longitude and Longitude+ are pretty similar in spec, so if you can cope with a couple of inches off your display and a few less speakers it may be worth saving yourself some cash. Longitude has 6 speakers as opposed to the nine amplified speakers in the Longitude+ and Limited specs. Longitude features Uconnect 5-inch touch screen display and both specs feature a USB charging port in media centre, and an instrument cluster with a 3.5" TFT monochrome display. And as opposed to the rear-reversing camera that the Limited spec has, the Longitude and Longitude+ feature ParkSense rear park assist. Many of the Limited features are available as add-on packages though. Based on the 2.0-litre 140 manual FWD model the Longitude option comes in at £25,495, Longitude+ is £27,695 and for the FWD manual with the Limited spec you can expect to pay £31,195.
There are a few different contenders in the SUV mix to rival the Jeep Cherokee, but are they really rivals? BMW has the X3, which starts at £30,990, Toyota Rav-4 starts at £22,595, which in comparison to the Cherokee has the same level of off-road ability but you can tell it's cheaper - it just doesn't have the same luxury level. The Range Rover Freelander starts at £23,710, which again just doesn't have the same refinement level of the Cherokee. The new Cherokee starts at £25,495, which is a very competitive price for all the kit included. It really is in a class of its own.
What's it like to drive?
Wonderful. The steering is nice and light but responsive; the car grips the road through corners and is surprisingly solid with little roll through the corners for a car of its size. The only real niggle we had was that the brake pedal doesn't inspire confidence on the road; it lacks feel and travel. There are four driver settings; auto, snow, sport and sand/mud, so it can tackle whatever situation you may get yourself into on our unpredictable British roads.
The AOL Cars verdict
It is safe to say we were extremely impressed with the Jeep Cherokee. The test drive around the Cotswolds was pleasant, comfy and hassle free – a truly lovely vehicle with no end of technical refinements, plus advancements such as the revolutionary charge pad for your mobile phone. The way it felt on the road; well built, sturdy, responsive, is testament to the massive step forward that Jeep has taken with this model and as a brand. Its low emissions mean for a low BIK (benefit in kind) tax. It also has the best towing capability in its class of 2475kg. As with all diesels, it was a little loud on idle but not really noticeable from 2nd gear onwards. Overall though, the car is fantastic, it has everything you want and more at a great price. The car, inside and out, feels expensive and luxurious – it is a fantastic off-roader as well as being a very practical everyday car.
Model: Jeep Cherokee 2.0 170 4x4 AD1
Engine: 2.0-litre, 16v MultiJet turbocharged diesel
Power: 170bhp, 350NM
Max speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 10.3 seconds
MPG: 48.7mpg (combined)
Emissions: 154g/km CO2
Author: Danielle Bagnall