2014 JEEP CHEROKEE REVIEW

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The latest version of Jeep’s clever television advertising campaign shows Santa Claus resting at home at the North Pole explaining to Mrs Claus that the reason he’d finished his deliveries so early was that “I bought a Jeep”.

Well, he’s not alone because so far in 2014 almost 30,000 Australians have done the same thing, an increase of 38 per cent over the same period last year.

The fact that Jeep sells only SUVs and 4WDs and so is in the right place at the right time is clearly a factor in its sales success as is a softening of the angular styling that had characterised the American icon, now under the control of Italian giant Fiat.

Jeep Cherokee, the subject of this week’s test, is the mid-sized model in the company’s range and offers a good variety of engines and drivetrains aimed at both urban and semi off-road buyers.

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STYLING
While signature features such as the seven-slot grille and trapezoidal wheel arches have been retained new Jeep Cherokee now has a smoother, more aerodynamic profile in tune with the typical modern SUV that is proving so popular with Australian buyers.

Cherokee gets two different frontal treatments, one for the three variants (Sport, Longitude and Limited) aimed primarily at on-road buyers, the other for the rugged off-road Trailhawk with a smaller lower-grille, extra ground clearance (220 mm) and larger protection panels. Trailhawk has an approach angle of 29.8 degrees, a departure angle of 32.1 degrees and breakover angle of 23.3 degrees.

INTERIOR
Inside, Jeep Cherokee’s styling is right up to date. The cabin interior uses soft touch surfaces with quality material upholstery and contrasting stitching. Sculpted surfaces take the place of flat areas throughout, although sufficient traditional Jeep trapezoidal shapes have been retained in the instrument and centre stack surrounds to, probably, keep the purists happy.

Jeep_Cherokee_interior

Cherokee is a five-seater all of which can be full-sized adults. The thick pillars and shallow rear window don’t help visibility although the large exterior mirrors and high driving position do offset the problem to some extent.

The Cherokee Limited’s powered opening and closing tailgate, controlled from the key fob, allows easy access to the cargo area which can be extended by folding the rear seatbacks flat. The front passenger seat back also folds to offer a flat area for paperwork etcetera and in-seat storage is accessed by flipping up the seat cushion.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
Three engines are offered: 2.4-litre Tigershark four-cylinder and 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 petrol; and 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The entry-level front-wheel drive Cherokee Sport is powered by the Fiat designed 2.4-litre with 137 kW at 6400 rpm and 232 Nm of torque at 4600 revs, performance which will satisfy most of the urban owners at which it is aimed. Fuel usage is listed at 8.3 litres per 100 km on a combined urban/highway cycle.

The 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 powers the 4WD Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk. Down in capacity from the previous 3.6-litre it generates 200 kW and 316 Nm at 4400 rpm with listed fuel combined cycle consumption of 10.0 L/100 km.

The 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is available only with the 4WD Limited variant. Its torque peak of 350 Nm and towing capacity of just under 2400 kg makes it the preferred choice for hauling boats, camper trailers or small-to-medium caravans. Maximum power is 125 kW and its claimed fuel usage is a frugal 5.8 L/100 km.

Fuel consumption on all Cherokee models is aided by a new ZF nine-speed automatic transmission, a world first for this class. There’s further assistance with the 4WD models from a clever system that disconnects the rear axle until 4WD is needed.

Three 4WD systems are available: Active Drive I, Active Drive II and the full-on Active Drive Lock with a two-speed PTU, low range, and locking rear differential. It gives a crawling ratio as low as 56 to 1. All the 4WD systems use the Jeep Selec-Terrain traction control system, which allows the driver to choose from five on- and off-road settings: Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock.

SAFETY
The Jeep Cherokee range is built upon a strong safety base with 65 per cent of the body being constructed from high-strength steel.

Standard safety features across the Jeep Cherokee range include seven airbags, some multi-stage; ABS brakes; electronic stability control with hill-start assist, all-speed traction control, reversing camera and Enhanced Accident Response System; electronic roll mitigation; trailer sway damping; and tyre pressure monitoring display.

Forward Collision Warning-Plus, park assist, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear cross path detection are all optional.

As expected Jeep Cherokee gets all five ANCAP stars.

INFOTAINMENT
Standard features on the Sport and Longitude models are the Jeep Uconnect media centre that’s displayed on a 5-inch touchscreen monitor. Limited and Trailhawk step up to an 8.4-inch screen with large touch areas. Bluetooth pairing is logical and straightforward while the USB, SD and Auxiliary ports are well-located and easy to access.

DRIVING
We’ve been able to test both the 2.4-litre Sport and V6 Limited. As we seem to be saying quite often recently the ‘Sport’ title is purely cosmetic because there’s nothing sporty about the entry-level Cherokee. At 1638 kg kerb weight it’s not the lightest vehicle in its class and while it handled conditions around town it did struggle on the long hilly motorway sections of our route. Fortunately the nine-speed transmission was there to help it along.

The Limited was our preferred choice, although we’re keen to get into the Limited diesel which arrived here a few months behind the petrols.

On the open road both Jeep Cherokee models have impressive body rigidity and excellent noise and vibration damping. The ride is a little softer than we prefer but steering is softer Our off-road testing was limited although it did come after several days of rain and we were able to test the various electronic setting options over some slippery terrain before switching back to ‘Auto’ and letting the 4WD system do the work for us.

SUMMING UP
Jeep Cherokee is a high quality modern SUV that’s attracted a host of buyers that would never have considered the Jeep brand in the past. Its designers have managed to tread that fine line between tradition and fashion while its engineers have retained its previous all-terrain credentials but with improved fuel efficiency, new technology and upgraded safety systems.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL RANGE
Sport 2.4-litre petrol 4×2 five-door wagon: $33,500 (automatic)
Longitude 3.2-litre petrol 4×4 five-door wagon: $39,000 (automatic)
Limited 3.2-litre petrol 4×4 five-door wagon: $44,000 (automatic)
Trailhawk 3.2-litre petrol 4×4 five-door wagon: $47,500 (automatic)
Limited 2.0-litre turbo-diesel five-door wagon: $49,000 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Jeep dealer for driveaway prices.

FEATURES
ABS Brakes: Standard in all models
Automatic Transmission: Standard in all models
Cruise Control: Standard in all models
Dual Front Airbags: Standard in all models
Front Side Airbags: Standard in all models
Electronic Stability Program: Standard in all models
Reversing Camera: Standard in all models
USB/Auxiliary Audio Inputs: Standard in all models
Bluetooth: Standard in all models
Steering Wheel Mounted Controls: Standard in all models

SPECIFICATIONS (Jeep Cherokee Longitude 3.2-litre petrol 4×4 five-door wagon)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 3.239 litres
Configuration: V6
Head Design: Four valves per cylinder
Compression Ratio: 10.7:1
Bore/Stroke: 91.0 mm x 83.0 mm
Maximum Power: 200 kW @ 6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 316 Nm @ 4400 rpm

DRIVELINE:
Driven Wheels: 4WD
Manual Transmission: Not offered
Automatic Transmission: Nine-speed
Final Drive Ratio:

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4624 mm
Width: 1859 mm
Height: 1683 mm (with roof rack)
Wheelbase: 2700 mm
Turning Circle: 11.5 metres
Kerb Mass: 1834 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Towing Ability: 2200 kg with braked trailer

SUSPENSION AND BRAKES:
Front Suspension: McPherson strut, coil springs, one-piece aluminium
sub-frame, aluminium lower control arms, stabiliser bar
Rear Suspension: Four link with trailing arm, coil springs, stabiliser bar
Front Brakes: Ventilated disc
Rear Brakes: Solid disc

PERFORMANCE:
0-100 km/h Acceleration: Not supplied

FUEL CONSUMPTION:
Type: Petrol 91 RON
Combined Cycle (ADR 81/02): 8.3 L/100km

GREEN VEHICLE GUIDE RATINGS:
Greenhouse Rating: 5.5 / 10
Air Pollution Rating: 7.5 / 10

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