Its restyled interior is likely to please the geometer, says Charlie Flindt, who draws his own conclusions about the country credentials of this “off-roader”, the Jeep Cherokee
The new Jeep Cherokee has a stylishly European interior, but Charlie Flindt finds it less rugged and has a few suggestions to improve what it was originally great at, off-roading.
We love to champion the Land Rover, but we would be without it if it weren’t for the Jeep. Find out why Gavin Gardiner considers his Jeep indispensable in the field, read my favourite bit of kit: Gavin Gardiner chooses his Jeep.
Over the years, the Jeep Cherokee has undergone its fair share of dramatic styling changes. There was the uncompromisingly brick-like XJ at the end of the past century, the cutesy KJ that replaced it and then the Tonka-toy KK. But underneath all those shapes was a no-nonsense American chunkiness – a proper grown-up attitude to off-roading.
After being out of the showroom for a couple of years, the Jeep Cherokee is back (the KL) and it would seem that the influence of Jeep’s Italian parent company is overriding any residual Rocky Mountain ruggedness.
Huge effort has gone into the exterior styling but not everyone would consider it time well spent. The vehemence of the “like or loath it” debate in our household eclipsed Brexit by some margin. I thought it was unusual but quite attractive, even before reading the marketing guff about the subtle incorporation of the signature seven vertical bars blah blah blah.
The insides, too, have a stylishly European look to them. Someone has spent many hours trying to work the “trapezoid” theme into almost every nook and cranny of the interior – not the sort of thing our American cousins would waste their time on. But it seems to work and the cabin is pleasant and comfortable.
The days of finding masses of gasoline-powered cubic inches as standard under the hood have gone, too. A Fiat-sourced diesel lifts the Jeep Cherokee to respectable standards with reasonable haste and moderate efficiency. Nothing to write home about, though.
For some of us, off-roading ability is of great importance and a trip up through the sodden woods to inspect game strips gave the Jeep a chance to impress. The Cherokee scores well for intention, with no side steps and a full-size spare, but loses points for no low ratio and a drive train settings knob that lumps “sand” and “mud” in the same category. Do they know nothing about internal coefficients of friction?
But my pedantry was overcome when we got going. We set the knob to “mud” (confident of not encountering sand dunes in mid-Hampshire) and gently made our way up through wet clay and rubble-filled puddles. The transmission chatted away to itself and we made fine and steady progress. A cursory glance at the game cover confirmed that the flea beetle had indeed wreaked havoc in the kale and it was only when I was nearly back to the road that I noticed that the off-road mode had re-set to “auto” when the engine was turned off and there had been no change in progress – which was interesting.
In an ideal world, low-ratio would have been available and a couple of inches of extra ground clearance. And, bizarrely, these are available in the Cherokee “Trailhawk” special edition – but only mated to a hefty V6 petrol. And you don’t have to be an engineer to know that massive V6s are not the best engines for genuine countryside use. Now,
if Jeep was to drop that plucky little diesel in instead, I can’t help thinking it would have a real winner on its hands. But where do I send the letter of suggestion: Italy or America?
JEEP CHEROKEE 2.2 MULTIJET
Engine 2,184cc four-cylinder turbo diesel
Max speed 127mph
Performance 0 to 62: 8.5 seconds
Combined fuel economy 49.6mpg
Insurance group 34
Would suit stylish off-roaders with flat fields