The legendary off-roader, which was actually the model for the first Land Rover over 60 years ago, has been given the very latest on and off-road systems and technology for today’s buyers and users.
It has benefitted from becoming part of the Fiat group and uses 140 and 170bhp 2.0 turbo-diesel engines from the Italian power-house combined with a nine-speed automatic transmission available with the more powerful engine and which sets a new benchmark in the mid-size SUV class.
At launch there are three trim levels called Longitude, Longitude+ and Limited, with either engine output and front or four-wheel-drive but by the end of 2014 there will also be a 3.2 petrol automatic Trailhawk, which is aimed at the serious off-roader.
The first nine-models in the new Jeep Cherokee range run from £25,495 for the front wheel drive 140 6-speed Longitude and £29,995 for the 170 9-speed auto Longitude to £35,695 for the highest equipped Limited 170 9-speed 4×4 version.
The new five-door, five-seat Jeep Cherokee sits on MacPherson front struts and four-link rear suspension for optimum on-road handling and off-road flexibility and is fitted with Jeep Active Drive 1 which on 4×4 versions provides intelligent power distribution to whichever wheels need it without the driver having to select. In the automatic versions the driver can dial in traction for road, off-road or wintery conditions and also manually refine the sporty responses.
Standard technical systems include braking stability and hill start assist; traction and roll control; trailer sway damping; electronic parking brake and stop/ start ignition control.
Outside there is a choice of 17 or 18-inch wheels and tyres; LED side lights with fog and cornering lights and inside off-set split back seats with slide and recline adjustment; leather trimmed tilt and height adjustable steering wheel and even a rear cargo stowage system.
Refinement reaches new heights for Jeep Cherokee owners with options including a powered driver’s seat and tailgate as well as wireless phone charging pad, reversing camera and parking assistance system and 8.4-inch touch-screen infotainment screen and enhanced sound system.
The new Jeep cargo volume rises from 591 litres with five seats used to 1267 litres with rear and front passenger seat folded down.
The 2.0 near-140bhp engine emits 139gkm and is Euro 5+ compliant with a combined economy of 53.3mpg, takes 10.9sec to 62mph in 2WD specification and the 4WD version shows 147gkm, 50.4mpg combined, takes 12sec to 62mph while the 168bhp with standard 9sp auto-box pushes out 154gkm, achieves 48.7mpg and takes 10.3sec to 62mph.
Steve Zanlunghi, head of Fiat Group in the UK, said the Jeep Cherokee was coming at a good time for them, with the number of dealers almost twice what they were two years ago and they will cover about 85% of the UK market area by the end of 2014 when there are expected to be 72 outlets.
Analysis by CAP showed Jeep to hold 40% residual value, behind the Audi Q5 and best BMW X3 and advance orders for the new model are about 17% above Jeep expectations, he said. Jeep brand boss in Britain Damien Dally added that the marque is beginning a new chapter in its UK history benefitting from the newest Fiat technology allied with a long off-road reputation and it was confident about 25% of sales will be to business users. The introduction of the 4×2 version is likely to take 10% of sales with its low emissions for tax purposes. Jeep UK believes the majority of sales will be of the higher Longitude+ and Limited models.
The sophistication of the new Jeep Cherokee is very apparent on or off-road.
We tested 170 Automatic and 140 Manual models and they handle very well on demanding country roads, riding smoothly, steering easily and faithfully, and slowing without drama.
Access is straightforward, the seats are well shaped and adjust over a wide range, the load-bed is easy to use and from the high driving position the visibility is very good.
Our 9speed automatic returned 42mpg on test and it was fairly smooth until driven hard when changes were more noticeable while the 140 6sp manual indicated 38.4mpg, possibly reflecting the harder work it performed.
Having said that, the less powerful engine sounded quieter and was within a whisker of the on-road performance of the more expensive and powerful version. It would be a hard choice to make if you find yourself in that position.
It uses traction control systems very well to move grip around underneath without the driver worrying and it is sufficiently torquey to pull itself out of sticky situations or when faced with a slope and little run at it.
Ground clearance is reasonable but there is no special protection fitted as standard on the launch models and the new Jeep is first and foremost a good on-road SUV with a reassuring potential for winter or mild off-road use.