This is the new Jeep Cherokee. Don't confuse it with Jeep’s X5-on-a-budget Grand Cherokee: this is a medium-sized SUV designed to go after the Land Rover Freelander, Audi Q5 and BMW X3. How to stand out with a class of such diverse and talented opposition? Jeep has chosen the route of extremely controversial styling. Read on for the full spec - if the pictures haven't scared you off...
Blimey, the new Jeep Cherokee is quite 'challenging' to behold!
As ever, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we'll leave the final Cherokee styling verdict to you in the article comments below. The new car is certainly way more striking that we're used to from most boxy Jeeps – even the marque themselves describe the look as 'polarising'. The headlights are split (Nissan Juke style), the trademark grille dominates the front view like a row of airliner windows, while the upright teetering tail and boxy wheelarches give a somewhat moon buggy-esque look.
Is the new Jeep Cherokee as radical under the skin?
Well, it's not NASA-spec, but there is some interesting tech going on underneath. First up is the three-tier chassis range – you can essentially chose how much off-road ability you have lurking beneath that crazy styling. One word of caution: Jeep is still deciding whether or not it’ll offer all three chassis options in the UK. If they do, here's what you'll have to choose from.
Opt for 'Jeep Active Drive 1' and you get a pretty conventional adaptive all-wheel drive chassis that sends power to wheels that are slipping when the ECU detects wheel-spin. If that's not enough, you can trade up to 'Jeep Active Drive 2', which brings a low range gearbox and a locking centre differential. The ride height is also goes up by one inch.
For the full mud-plugger spec, you'll need 'Jeep Active Drive Lock', which brings all the upgrades of the JAD2 pack, but adds a locking rear differential for better low-range crawling. Regardless of which 4x4 system you choose, Jeep's 'Selec-Terrain' system is standard. Like the 'Terrain Response' gizmo you'll find in the Land Rover Freelander, Discovery and all current Range Rovers, the interface allows the driver tell the car what surface you're crossing; the car then sets itself up accordingly. There are Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud or Rock modes to pick between in the new Cherokee.
Tell me about the Jeep Cherokee's interior
Dominating the cabin is a touchscreen interface, available in 5-inch or 8.4-inch diameter. Jeep says the quality of the materials is the highest of any Jeep yet, and there are a few interesting tech party pieces too, like the option of wireless charging for mobile devices, and an automatic parallel parking system. When the screen is configured to display the space, it overlays graphics of 1941 Willys Jeeps onto the vehicles you’re parking next to. Safety-wise, ten airbags are standard and automatic emergency braking is available.
Can I buy a Jeep Cherokee in the UK?
Not yet. It'll go on sale in the UK in right-hand drive in early 2014, though only petrol engines have been confirmed at the moment (a 2.0-litre four-pot and 3.2-litre V6). Jeep wants to offer a diesel alternative, using engines from its Chrysler and Fiat sister brands, though no deal has been agreed yet. All models use a nine-speed automatic transmission as standard – nine-speeders are also being implemented by Jeep rivals Land Rover its new nine-speed ZF-engineered gearbox in the Evoque crossover.
Price-wise, it's too early to get concrete figures from Jeep, though we’re told the Cherokee will undercut its premium German rivals on price while offering extra standard equipment, as with the Grand Cherokee, so reckon on an entry-level model costing £23-24k.
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