What, another new Jeep?
Yup. Sitting alongside Wrangler, Patriot, Compass, Grand Cherokee and Commander there’s now the all-new Cherokee. It fits into the range between Patriot/Compass and Grand Cherokee and is built on a two-inch shorter version of the base that underpins the Dodge Nitro… but don’t let that put you off.
Jeep is targeting Land Rover Freelander buyers with this new 4x4 so the firm’s worked hard to make it refined on-road while keeping the rugged off-road ability that Jeeps are famous for.
How have they done that then?
The engineers have been hard at work on the damping, suspension bushings and engine mountings and they’ve made it ride a lot better than the Nitro. You still feel like you’re in an off-roader, and it’s not as luxurious as the Freelander, but it’s an awful lot better than the car it replaces.
They’ve also done well to suppress road noise and although there’s plenty of roll in corners the extra width over its predecessor makes it a lot calmer over rough surfaces and less agricultural than you might expect.
It looks better too. Jeep has done away with the curves of the older car and gone back to a squarer shape to make it look as it should: like son of Grand Cherokee. Handsome it isn’t but it’s certainly rugged.
I seem to recall the last model was a bit of a shocker inside. What’s this one like?
It’s an awful lot better. There’s still a very narrow dash which has a certain retro appeal but the windscreen is more steeply raked and further away so it feels less claustrophobic in the front and the fascia is much better quality. It’s still a bit of a hard-plastic fest but it’s a vast improvement.
The seats too have been upgraded and are more comfortable and hold you in place better. Moving the passenger side grab handle from above the door to the fascia is a bit of a mistake as you now have to hunch forwards to hold on if the going gets rough.
Speaking of which, can it cut it in the rough?
Jeep bravely let us test it out on a variety of surfaces. As you would expect from one of its products the Cherokee is very capable in the rough and it’s been made even more so with an all-new four-wheel drive system.
The car is rear-wheel drive when you know having power to all the wheels is pointless, but move a slider and automatic four-wheel drive that varies power according to available grip can be selected, as can a low-ratio four-wheel drive setting. Jeep has also incorporated a Hill Descent Control system which uses the brakes and gears to do exactly what it says on the tin.
What will it be like to live with?
Jeep has worked hard at improving the Cherokee’s functionality. There are plenty of tie down loops for securing cargo to the boot floor and the three rear seats fold down flat, as does the front passenger chair.
There’s ample head, knee and foot room for rear seat passengers and as with other Jeeps there’s a floor that’s carpeted on one side and wipe clean plastic on the other. Proving that it’s not all about being sensible the Sky Slider fabric sun roof is a £950 option and offers a five-foot long opening if you want to be in touch with the elements.
A cheap premium car might sound like a contradiction in terms but that’s exactly what the Cherokee is. In the UK we’re only going to be getting the top of the range Limited version and the only two options will be the Sky Slider roof and the MyGIG multi-media system (£1,500).
At £24,595 for the six-speed manual (a grand more for the five-speed auto) it’s hardly budget priced but it’s going to be very well equipped, making it plenty cheaper than a similarly specced Freelander. However the Jeep will struggle to stack up against a much more formidable – and competitively priced - rival such as the Nissan X-Trail.