THREE TIMES THE CHARM
ALL NEW JEEP CHEROKEES EACH OFFER SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT
TRAILHAWK, Limited and Sport; three Jeeps, all Cherokees, and all quite different.
The totally revised new Cherokee range has one four-cylinder front-wheel-drive model, with the rest V6-powered 4WDs with varying degrees of kit.
They're good-looking mediumsized SUVs with a rakish waterfall grille, scalloped sides, sleek head and tail lights, and they turn heads wherever they go.
More than handsome, those looks add to the Chero's aerodynamics and make each model quieter, appreciably quicker and more fuel-efficient.
In contrast to earlier Cherokees, the new ones are well-appointed, beautifully finished and packed with all the electronica du jour.
All get keyless remote entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding and reclining rear seat, rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a good audio system with a touchscreen interface, USB/iPod integration, an auxiliary audio input and an SD card reader.
Additionally, a nine-speed automatic transmission, all-independent suspension and unibody construction makes them a lot more rigid and better handling.
Specs increase with each ascending model and a long list of op- tions lets every buyer tailor the car to taste and needs.
The V6 models get dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver’s seat, bigger touchscreens and the rest of today’s ‘essentials’. There are lots of onboard storage nooks and bins and several power outlets.
Occupants get good seating and comfort, but the trade-off is a notso-big cargo area.
The four-pot Sport, from $33,500, uses a 2.4litre Multiair single cam motor that happily spins into redline territory and produces 137kW and 232Nm.
It runs on 91 octane and averages 8.2litres/100km; that's a whopping 33per cent more fuel- efficient than the old Cherokee.
The Sport is mainly for urban folk who like the idea of an SUV; tall stance, comfort, great visibility and suchlike. It's the city car of the trio, but it doesn't get the selfparking feature of the V6s. Odd.
The Limited and Trailhawk have the 200kW/316Nm 3.2litre Pentastar V6 motor, which is also happy on 91 brew, and averages 10.0litres/100km.
The Limited, from $44,000, comes with a light-duty high ratio 4WD system and includes a SelecTerrain traction control dial to choose between auto, snow, sport and sand/mud.
The V6 Cheros seamlessly change from four to two-wheel drive when they sense there's no need to drive all the wheels.
For more serious off-road work there's the Trailhawk, at $47,500, which sits a bit taller, has 18-inch alloys with all-season tyres, raised suspension, recovery hooks and a more aggressive 4x4 system, including low gearing and a locking rear diff. It also has a ‘rock’ switch on its Selec-Terrain system. And it's the only one to get hill descent control .
Verdict: A huge improvement over earlier Cherokees. Good looking, well-finished and big on smart technology. The Trailhawk is the best equipped and most handsome of the three, almost too pretty to take off road.