AT A GLANCE

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - CRAIG DUFF

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

WAR­RANTY/SER­VICE

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

THIRST 9.8L/100km

CARGO 764L

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.

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