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The Jeep Cherokee returned in 2014 after being absent from the UK market for 4 years. Last year a new 2.2-litre diesel engine was introduced to try and keep with the competition, in a segment which is becoming increasingly crowded. Put simply, if you’re looking at a Jeep Cherokee then you could well consider two models from Land Rover; the Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque. But a lot of people forget that Jeep know what they’re doing; they’ve been at it since 1941! I grabbed a top-of-the-range Cherokee Limited to see how it stacks up.
Looks – 5/10
If I could describe the Cherokee in one word, it would be ‘American’. This car would look most at home cruising up I4 in Orlando. The front end is angular, with some striking lines. Most striking of all are the chrome highlights to the grille. They are like giant chrome teeth, and the Cherokee is shouting. Other than that the headlights are oddly small and point. To the side broad arches give the Cherokee some stature, whilst further chrome trim frame the windows. The 18-inch wheels also have a chrome finish, which is a little gaudy. At the back it’s less pointy and a little more on the sleek side, which is good. Twin exhausts are a nice touch, and the rear lights look executive. A subtle rear spoiler rounds off the rear end, and you can just about see the shark-fin aerial. My test car was finished in a wonderful Granite Crystal metallic (£650) which glistened in the sunlight and dark and sophisticated at night.
On the inside cream leather offered a nice contrast to the grey exterior, and brought a bit of light to the cabin. The seats themselves are big and welcoming; like an American armchair. They are perforated to allow for the ventilation, and feature an embossed Jeep logo. The steering wheel proudly shows Jeep’s heritage with the words “Since 1941”. All the controls, from the steering wheel to the gear knob, are chunky and have a rugged look to them. At the centre of the dashboard is an 8.4-inch touch screen, which is framed by air vents and silver trim. The plastics look nice, but overall the interior lacks a premium edge to it. The dials are a bit on the basic side, and some of the buttons/switches look cheap. The large panoramic roof is nice, and has a retractable blind for when you want some shade.
Handling/Performance – 7/10
The new engine on offer is a 2.2-litre multijet diesel engine offering up 200PS and 440Nm of torque. It is available only as an automatic, but features a 9-spee gearbox for refinement. It helps keep the Cherokee on its toes too, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 127mph. That’s about right in this class, and feels almost nippy in a car like this. The engine itself is torquey, and refined in the lower rev bands. It suffers from a little 4-cylinder rattle once you’re past 3,000rpm, but thankfully with the 9-speed box you can keep the revs down. On the motorway you can hardly tell the engine is on, but a quick jab of your right toe will push you past the car in front.
The Cherokee is definitely set up for comfort mode. I think that comes back to my I4 theory. Sit on a motorway at 70mph in the soft, comfortable leather seats and the miles will just disappear. Unfortunately there is usually a downside to such a soft ride, and that comes on the country roads. The Cherokee wallows over bumpier roads and that is a little unnerving. The steering itself feels direct, but the car leans on corner entry and is not at all adapt at hauling itself through twisty sections. On the upside the grip offered from the 4WD system is reassuring, especially when faced with British summer weather (and the resulting standing water) on the road.
Economy – 9/10
Despite being a hefty vehicle, the Cherokee does rather well in keeping money in your wallet; as opposed to handing it over to every petrol station you pass. The 2.2-litre engine features start/stop technology, and this helps keep CO2 emissions down to 150g/km. Road tax is £145 in the first and subsequent years. With the efficient 9-speed automatic gearbox keeping the revs down, the Cherokee boasts combined fuel consumption of 49.6mpg. Anybody buying an SUV would be happy with that, but unfortunately the Cherokee can’t score a perfect 10 because it is bettered by the Land Rover Discovery Sport for both consumption and emissions.
Practicality – 10/10
The Limited is the top model in the Cherokee line-up. It therefore comes suitably equipped. Keyless entry and go, HID Xenon headlights, a rear-view camera, dual-zone air conditioning and Parksense® are all standard. That makes the Cherokee a great car to live with. The cabin looks like it was designed for American passengers, which means for us scrawny Brits it’s vast. Open the power tailgate and you are greeted by an expansive space. Standard boot space is 591 litres, which rises to 1,267 litres with the rear seats folded down. For £2,200 you can add the “Technology group” which comprises Advanced Brake Assist, Power & Multifunctional Mirrors, LaneSense® Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop & Go, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Path Detection and Parallel & Perpendicular Park Assist. That’s a lot of tech, and ensures the Cherokee can go toe-to-toe with competitors.
Fun – 4/10
You can’t argue that the Cherokee is well-equipped. There is a gadget to make just about every aspect of driving easier. But that doesn’t necessarily make it better. There are that many systems that as a driver you feel somewhat detached from the drive itself. Add that to some questionable styling and you’re hardly filled with the urge to drive the Cherokee. Once you do get behind the wheel, long drives are relaxing and comfortable, and arriving to your destination refreshed is a valuable trait. Look carefully and you will see the 1941 Willys Jeep silhouette on the windscreen, which is a lovely touch. But the biggest problem is that you will have to explain to your friends that you’ve spent £41,000 on a Jeep. And they will think you somewhat mad. I do understand that perception isn’t everything, but it spoils a car when you have to heartily justify it all the time.
So that rounds off my week with the Jeep Cherokee. The new 2.2-litre engine is rather good, and when coupled to the 9-speed auto box makes for a smooth and refined powertrain. The equipment list is extremely generous, and you can be confident in the Jeep’s off-road ability. But on the road the suspension lets the drive down. The styling is a bit ‘marmite’ and frankly there are ‘cooler’ cars out there. The final drawback comes with price. The Cherokee Limited starts at £37,245 but, as tested, costs £41,560. Granted, this had all the toys, but there is a lot of choice once you get to the £40k mark. For more information head over to the Jeep website or pop into a dealership. The Jeep Cherokee Limited; vastly capable but ultimately lacking that want factor.