In the ever-expanding world of the SUV the (to give it the full title) Jeep Cherokee 2.2L Multijet 4WD Auto Limited has much to recommend it. Although it says ‘Since 1941’ on the steering wheel this big car has little in common with the original of legend. Sharing an Alfa Romeo platform, the Cherokee is more Sergio Leone than Clint Eastwood in that it has lost the butch, rugged American looks in favour of something more sleek and European.
A Fistful Of Dollars
Options list aside, the Jeep Cherokee comes in a choice of models although the most expensive, the 3.2L V6 Trailhawk, is only available by special order in the UK; it being considered too thirsty for Britain’s parsimonious wallets. Prices start at around £26,000 for a six-speed manual with 2WD and as the price rises so does the kit and capability.
At around £38k for a range-topping model, the Cherokee is starting to get a bit costly but against that is the fact that you get an absolute ton of worthwhile kit for the money. The top specification (see full listing below) competes on price with BMW’s X3 20d X-line but is a tad more expensive than Land Rover’s Discovery Sport in SE Tech trim so there’s plenty of competition on the forecourts.
If you are never likely to venture off-road then two-wheel drive is all you are likely to need. 4WD is great and adds additional security when road conditions are bad but, in the UK at least – famous last words – what’s the worst weather we could really get? There’s a range of engines on offer but the pick of the bunch is the new 2.2L Multijet.
This relatively new 197bhp diesel makes a strong case for itself. It is quicker in the traffic light sprint than the old 2.0L (8.5s to 62mph) and it is faster too, reaching a top speed of 127mph although obviously you will never experience this. With torque at 325lb-ft at 2500rpm the Jeep Cherokee feels eager right from the off.
A high point is the nine-speed gearbox which offers swift and smooth shifts and endeavours to get the car into the highest suitable gear asap. That’s good for economy. There are no steering wheel mounted paddles (although curiously there are sites on the back of the chunky, leather-clad steering wheel for them) and if you switch the automatic box to manual using the big lever you can take total control, although so good is the auto I wouldn’t bother if I were you – it’s all too much hassle. Yes, I know it is just a sequential manual but who can be bothered with that? Kick down with the right foot and the Jeep Cherokee gets up the road very speedily although you scarcely notice until you have a gander at the dials or see the flash of a camera in the rear view mirror.
Selec-Terrain 4WD offers a choice of ‘Auto’ for everyday use, ‘Sport’ for when you want to open the taps a bit more, ‘Snow’ for more control on the dreaded white stuff and ‘Sand/Mud’ for a bit of off-roading. It’s simple and it works well.
For A Few Dollars More
You pay more money you get more car; that is how it has always worked and on this ‘Limited’ trim level you literally get the lot. This list is lengthy which is why I am not going to itemise everything here, it is all on the specification sheet below if you’re thirsty for detail.
Our featured car costs almost £41,000 but that is because it has the optional and gorgeous ‘True Blue’ special paint. It’s more of a midnight blue in my opinion but it does look splendid although it is very hard to photograph its likeness in Winter light. The other options fitted are a full cabin sized powered sunroof which adds a healthy £1095; the Technology Group (£2000) and the Cold Weather Group (£195). Take these three options off the invoice (you won’t) and this model will set you back £36,795. It is expensive all right but no worse than most of the pack.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
I suspect, unless you were beyond stupid, that it is impossible to accidentally bump into things when manoeuvring the Cherokee, say in a car park, such is the level of all round alert systems and a really very good rear-mounted camera. Go near anything, or if anything comes near you and the Jeep knows before you do.
The good news doesn’t stop there. This is a very comfortable vehicle. On our broken roads the low-speed ride is a little unsettled but once underway the ride is excellent. For me, it is a little too soft but most buyers will be pleased, I expect. What’s not so good is the cornering ability, or rather a lack of it. Try entering a corner too hot and the resulting effect will feel like one of those teacup rides at the fairground. Indeed, the handbook comes with a roll-over warning, given the higher centre of gravity. No doubt that is aimed more at off-road use because in reality on the road you would have to driving like the worst kind of halfwit to come unstuck.
Look at it this way. If a hot hatch is a Jack Russell terrier that hares around corners nipping at old ladies’ ankles, then the Jeep Cherokee is akin to a Labrador; sedate and benign. Once you relax, stick your elbow on the sill and accept that this car is a cruiser you’ll be happy.
Sadly, I was unable to test the Jeep’s credentials off-road but it is known to be a capable performer should the need arise. For a big, heavy motor it is economical too. During a lot of urban driving I achieved a commendable 37mpg and on a run I suspect that the ‘official’ figure of 49.6mpg would be approachable. This is no doubt aided by the inclusion of an unobtrusive Stop/Start and the smooth gearbox.
I like that the cabin tries to be all things to all men and nearly succeeds. It is a touch austere perhaps but presents well. It’s very roomy for all yet has those utility touches that you need in a family vehicle. Cupholders abound as do 12V sockets and conveniently a 230V 3-pin socket in the back. The ‘Cold Weather Group’ adds strong, tightly fitted removable rubber mats which is a real boon for winter use.
The Morocco Black Leather interior is well finished with super-comfortable heated and vented seats although only the driver has electric adjustment. The back seats tilt, split and fold making the boot enormous; seats up though and the storage space is a tad disappointing although there are hooks aplenty plus a couple of storage bins. Sufficient space then, but not class-leading in the luggage department, accessed by the massive powered tailgate.
I like the simple dashboard layout which has some button controls (there are more on the multi-function heated steering wheel) although most of the functions are controlled through the ‘Uconnect’ touchscreen. Rather against trend, the 8.4” screen is almost square, which is fine. It is well conceived technology; maybe not cutting edge, but very clear and easy to use. As usual, Bluetooth, navigation, climate, USB, SD card etc are all standard kit.
There’s no ugly side to this car. No, it does not handle as well as some rivals but on the open road it makes for a very pleasant all-weather cruiser. The big diesel makes itself known on start-up and under load but once rolling it quietly gets on with the job. At the legal limit there’s a bit of wind noise from around the wing mirrors but it isn’t intrusive, The fat Michelin Primacy tyres on the 18” alloys help to enhance the long distance ride quality.
Given that some professional reviews have been modest, I had a read through a lot of owner reviews and found, as often seems to be the case, that the majority seem to be very happy with their car. If you want to know the reality of ownership, ask an owner.
The Jeep Cherokee is not perfect. It is not a car that will press on along twisty country lanes and deliver up a great driving experience, but it does seem to me to be a car that will cope with everything a family and/or long-distance travel can throw at it. It might not be every motoring journalist’s best buy but it has endeared itself to me. A personal favourite. Geoff Maxted
P.S: At the Geneva Motor Show that starts later this week, Jeep will be presenting a new limited edition Grand Cherokee SRT Night. It features a stealth-like appearance with the front grille bezels, B and C pillars and side window surrounds all adorned in Matt Black. The front applique is Satin Black, as is badging on the bonnet and rear lift-gate.
Also, to celebrate their 75th Anniversary, Jeep will offer, in limited quantities, Anniversary models across the range which will be distinguished by a new livery, a 75th Anniversary badge, low gloss bronze-coloured rims, bronze and orange-coloured exterior inserts and exclusive interiors with seats sporting the 75th Anniversary logo in relief. These will be available later in 2016.