When the creator of the modern four-wheel-drive off-roader launches a new model, you have to take notice of Jeep.
The popular Cherokee has been a regular site on and off US, European and UK roads for over four generations and every so often it gets a substantial or mild makeover. Since being acquired by Fiat the most important Cherokee for over a decade is in showrooms.
With immense resources behind them, Jeep has dramatically developed the Cherokee and lifted its abilities and appeal without sacrificing is essential off-road capability.
The trademark seven slot grille remains as a defining element but behind it all is new.
Our near 200bhp 2.2 diesel engine is a smooth slogger rather than a sporty beast but it suits the car’s character nearly all the time.
With a nine-speed automatic transmission the changes flow rapidly yet imperceptibly and you can select a manual mode to really make it move when you want on open roads or to get around traffic and in certain off-road situations. We found it more rewarding in the manual mode and even then the gear-changes were flowing and not jerky as you might expect.
What really impressed us was the fuel economy for such a large vehicle, it often headed towards 50mpg but settled down to an average in the low 40s.
The well-balanced brakes effortlessly hauled down speed and it securely held on a steep test slope while the steering offered excellent feedback, a good turning circle and was not twitchy or vague.
I learned the layout of the secondary switches fairly easily and while not all were in immediate line of site they were conveniently located.
Dials were big and clear and the infotainment system was comprehensive, backed up by a range of warning lights.
Climate control was straightforward, simple, effective and with good output in such a large cabin, backed up by powered windows all round but the sunroof is extra.
The room was very good in front or back, the loadbed large and easy to fill or empty while the doors also had good openings.
Seats really were very comfortable and supporting with good adjustment range on the front pair and matched to the column movements I think a driver of any size could settle in very well.
Visibility was good except when reversing and some things might not be so obvious and missed by the system.
To the sides and front the high riding position gave a good view, with excellent wipers and headlights for poor conditions. This is useful in heavy traffic in towns, in country lanes with limited overtaking opportunities and even just manoeuvring.
Noise levels were low, rising only when the engine was pressed into service in the manual mode of the transmission, and there were some road rumbles and bangs over poorer surfaces.
As rivals to the Cherokee climb every upwards while suggesting they are more sophisticated, in reality the Cherokee can hold its own against them and leave some behind when it comes to economy and simple driving pleasure.
|Jeep Cherokee Limited||Price: £40,765 inc options of special paint, sunroof and winter pack|
|Insurance group: 29E||Mechanical: 4cyl 197bp 2.2 litre, 9sp auto 4WD|
|Max seed: 127mph||0-62mph: 8.5sec|
|Fuel consumption: 42mpg||CO2 emissions: 150gkm|
|Bik rating: 28%||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
|For:||Economy, comfort, room & off-road performance|
|Against:||Rear visibility when reversing, suspension and road rumbles, engine noise at high speed in lower gears|