Looks may be subjective but when they prevent sales, car manufacturers have little choice but to take notice. The Cherokee, Jeep’s mid-sized SUV, has been at the centre of this kind of talk for a couple of years with its polarising nose finding little favour with buyers.
Now, however, Jeep has taken steps to put the Cherokee back in the race with smart new exterior styling and a better all-round value-for-money offering. We put the range-topping Trailhawk through its paces.
This new Jeep Cherokee debuts a more conventional look, forgoing the previous headlight design for an appealing LED arrangement and sleek front bumper. The trademark seven-slot grille gives more of a Grand Cherokee feel and there is a new look for the rear too with a composite motion sensor bumper and fresh tail light arrangement.
It certainly looks appealing enough and the tough boy image of the Trailhawk is reinforced by unmissable red recovery hooks in the front and rear.
Inside, the changes are minimal yet practical. There is a larger phone tray, new trim colours and flash piano black and chrome highlights that make the overall feel a touch upmarket. Jeep claims the fit and finish is better too, and we can attest to better feel materials all through the cabin.
There are comfortable lodgings for the driver and front passenger with electronically adjustable supportive seats and good visibility ensuring it is easy enough to find that ideal position. The kids didn’t mind the comforts of the rear seat although adults might find legroom a little less generous. Headroom, too, might be tricky if you go for the optional sunroof.
Water bottles fit in deep door pockets and there are two cupholders in the front and two more in the rear with a couple of storage compartments for your bits and pieces.
The boot is slightly bigger than the outgoing model with a two-level floor giving added practicality. Cleverly, the electric boot button is placed just above the wheel arch rather than on the top of the boot lid which makes it easier for the kids to reach.
Perched at the top of the range, the Trailhawk features Jeep’s Uconnect multi-media system with an 8.4-inch colour touchscreen and sat nav. The system itself is intuitive and super-easy to navigate and responsive to quick commands.
Bluetooth pairing is uneventful and sound quality for calls is reassuringly clear. For those who can’t do without their phone screens, there is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well.
You also get four USB ports, a 12V outlet and in a nod to technology proofing two USB-C ports as well.
ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
The four-wheel drive Trailhawk is powered by a 3.2-litre V6 naturally aspirated petrol unit that provides 315Nm of torque and a useful 200kW of power. A nine-speed automatic gearbox completes the offering and while it is quite capable, you can sometimes hear it hunting for gears especially when you are going up or down a hill.
As a point of difference in this accomplished mid-sized SUV class, the Trailhawk sports a proper 4WD drivetrain with triple diffs, low-range transfer case and hill ascent and descent control.
The Select Terrain feature allows you to choose from Auto, Sand/Mud, Snow and Sport settings with the ability to lock all three diffs which makes its excellent off-road performance possible.
Standard safety inclusions have stepped up across the Jeep Cherokee range with the Trailhawk featuring all many driver support aids.
In addition to six airbags, parking sensors and a rear view camera with guidelines, you also get autonomous emergency braking, active forward collision warning, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.
There are three IsoFix points if you are carrying young children, although it is tricky to use all three at once.
Refinements to the suspension, chassis and steering equates to an all-round better performance for this latest Jeep Cherokee.
On the road, it is easily manageable, accelerates well, is happy to change direction quickly and feels well balanced and relaxed.
Given the constraints of an SUV, the Cherokee reacts well when pushed into corners, is decisive when following a line and never totters around looking for its feet.
It is composed over poor urban roads, is manoeuvrable in tight confines and seems eager to please. It can sometimes take a tad long to getting going and the gearbox can miss a beat.
There are no disappointments to be had off the road either, with the Trailhawk impressing with it poise and fleetness of foot. The suspension offers 221mm of ground clearance and the steel underbody skid plates combine with the Trailhawk’s 4WD underpinnings to give it clear confidence when tackling all sorts of terrain.
While the course we tested the Trailhawk on wasn’t difficult, it was muddy and slippery and required a bit of thought to navigate. The Trailhawk just went about its business, crawling and scrambling without fuss and making it a truly fun experience.
Despite its charms, the Cherokee is quite a thirsty unit. We struggled to get the official 10.2 L/100km and had to settle for 12.9 L/100km during our week in the seat. Jeep offers the Trailhawk with a five year/100,000km warranty, a fixed-price servicing program and free roadside assist if you service the car at a Jeep dealer. Service intervals are 12,000km or 12 months.
Jeep has upped its game with the latest Cherokee range. It looks and drives better, has an impressive inclusions list and in the Trailhawk, you have a car that can introduce you to real off-road adventures. How it fairs against segment favourites remains to be seen but at least it has a fighting chance.
AT A GLANCE
Sport 2.4-litre 2WD: $35,950 (automatic)
Longitude 3.2-litre AWD: $41,950 (automatic)
Limited 3.2-litre AWD: $46,950 (automatic)
Trailhawk 3.2-litre AWD: $48,450 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Jeep dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 3.2-litre petrol 4WD five-door wagon)
Capacity: 3.239 litres
Maximum Power: 200 kW @ 6000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 316 Nm @ 4400 rpm
Fuel Type: Standard unleaded petrol
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 10.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 236 g/km
DRIVELINE: Nine-speed automatic
DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 4645 mm
Wheelbase: 2720 mm
Width: 1904 mm
Height: 1724 mm
Turning Circle: 11.9 metres
Kerb Mass: 1889 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 60 litres
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc
Five years / 100,000 kilometres
WHAT WE LIKED:
Off road capability
New exterior looks
WHAT WE DIDN’T:
Bit cramped in the rear
Interior misses restyle
High fuel consumption