AT A GLANCE
The eyes have it when it comes to our first impressions, whether of partners, paintings or cars. From there we appreciate the other attributes of the object of desire. Jeep has applied that thinking to the second generation of its mid-size SUV, the Cherokee. Jeep Australia brand chief Guillaume Drelon quotes research showing the outgoing model’s pointy-nosed looks were the major reason both for buying — and for not doing so (as evidenced by just 790 sales last year).
Consequently, the Cherokee has had a substantial facelift to align it with the smaller Compass and bigger Grand Cherokee. The seven-slot grille now gently kinks back towards the bonnet, there are LED lights all-round on the four variants and the cabin is enhanced by piano black and satin chrome finishes.
Relying not solely on looks, this Cherokee is a demonstrably better drive. It gains extra features across the range, from standard autonomous emergency braking to blind-spot and lane-departure warnings and rear crosstraffic assist.
Jeep says the cargo area has been increased
JEEP CHEROKEE PRICE Limited $46,950, Trailhawk $48,450
5 years/100,000km, 12 months/12,000km, $1535 for 3 years
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, blind-spot and lane-departure alert
ENGINE 3.2-litre V6, 200kW/315Nm
TRANS 9-speed auto; AWD/4WD
SPARE Full-size by more than 70L and quotes a massive 764L of space with the cargo floor set in the lowest position. (Jeep uses US methodology that applies a width/height/depth calculation so there is no real comparison with other brands that determine capacity with physical blocks.)
For what it’s worth the Cherokee looks to have similar overall space to such rivals as the Hyundai Tucson.
The Cherokee will launch with the top-spec Limited (main picture) and Trailhawk (right) in October, followed by the Sport and Longitude a couple of months later.
At entry level, the Sport uses a 2.4-litre fourcylinder (130kW/229Nm) to power the front wheels. The Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk employ a 3.2-litre V6 (200kW/315Nm) to power all four wheels. A nine-speed auto is standard on all versions.
The Sport has seven-inch infotainment screen with smartphone mirroring, reversing camera and 17-inch alloys. The price is unchanged at $35,950 plus on-road costs.
Longitude versions pick up auto lights and wipers, dual-zone aircon, power front seats and power tailgate. Prices start at $41,950, an increase of $500.
The Limited adds gear such as an 8.4-inch screen, satnav, semi-automated parking, leather seats with heating and cooling, digital driver’s display, adaptive cruise control and nine-speaker Alpine audio. The price is up by $1000 to $46,950.
Given its off-road orientation, the Trailhawk has a more robust four-wheel drive set-up with low-range and a mechanical rear diff lock. Taller suspension and four skid plates highlight its ability to tackle tough terrain without much effort.
The price is down $1500 to $48,450 — but features found on the previous model, such as full leather seats, are now bundled into a $2950 pack that includes the sliding and reclining rear seats, heated and cooled front seats and adaptive cruise control.
ON THE ROAD
Noise is not an issue in the Cherokee. Extra sound insulation has muted the 3.2-litre engine and tyre noise is similarly suppressed.
The electromechanical steering doesn’t give much feedback on the road but it is direct and well-weighted, which is better than many in the mid-sized SUV segment.
Performance is impressive — its 0-100km/h sprint time is 7.5 seconds and it has solid midrange acceleration. The downside of opting for the only petrol V6 in the segment is the claimed thirst of 9.8L/100km — expect low teens around town.
A run along a gravel and mud-rutted track behind Healesville shows the Limited’s off-road ability is restricted only by its 19-degree approach angle. Given the sensors are fitted low on that bumper, damaging it will be an expensive exercise.
The Trailhawk doesn’t have that problem. Its 29-degree approach angle and serious articulation makes this the most capable offroader in the class without sacrificing much in on-road comfort.
Both Cherokees tend to ride firmly over small bumps but soak up bigger obstacles with style — just as the maker intended.
The recalibrated nine-speeder is mostly unobtrusive but can hesitate when picking a gear on corner exits, especially uphill.