En­ter the CHROME zone

It’s cheap and easy to add some bling to a Jeep Chero­kee Sport, re­ports NICK DAL­TON.

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

DO you want a smart look­ing wagon with heaps of street cred and a look that be­lies its rel­a­tively cheap price tag? Buy the Jeep Chero­kee Sport, cur­rently on spe­cial for $36,990, or­der metal­lic black duco, add the $3000 Free­dom pack, tint the win­dows and slap on some 20in chrome al­loys and for $42,990 you can drive away in the coolest 4WD in town. That’s what Ire­lands of Cairns has done.

WHAT IS IT?

The Chero­kee is no soft roader. It can mix it with the best in the bush with its com­bi­na­tion of good ground clear­ances, tough sep­a­rate chas­sis/body con­struc­tion and a spe­cial elec­tronic 4WD sys­tem, of­fer­ing RWD, 4WD high and 4WD low as well as ESP/ABS-re­lated Hill De­scent func­tions.

HOW MUCH?

The KK Chero­kee range comes with two driv­e­trains and two spec­i­fi­ca­tion lev­els. I tested the cheap­est model in the range, the $36,990 Sport 3.7-litre V6 petrol. That’s $4000 cheaper than the Mercedessourced 2.8-litre four-cylin­der turbo-diesel Sport CRD.

Stan­dard Sport equip­ment in­cludes air­con­di­tion­ing, six-CD au­dio, aux­il­iary in­put, re­mote cen­tral lock­ing, power win­dows, al­loy wheels, cruise con­trol, fog­lights, park­ing sen­sors and a full-sized spare tyre.

The test car came with the $3000 Free­dom Se­ries pack which in­cludes a nudge bar, tow bar, side­steps, a bon­net and win­dow de­flec­tors, an emer­gency kit and spe­cial badg­ing. Ire­lands had also added 20in chrome al­loys and tinted glass for a drive away price of $42,990,

WHAT ARE THE COM­PETI­TORS?

Hum­mer H3, Mit­subishi Chal­lenger and Pa­jero, Nis­san Pathfinder and Toy­ota Prado as true off-road­ers and then SUVs such as Dodge Nitro, Ford Ter­ri­tory, Holden Captiva and Kia Sorento.

WHAT’S UN­DER THE BON­NET

The 3.7-litre V6 pro­duces 151kW at 5200rpm and 314Nm at 4000rpm. That’s up 1kW and 7Nm re­spec­tively from the pre­vi­ous model. Jeep claims an 11.7 litres/100km fuel use av­er­age, which trans­lates to a CO2 emis­sion rate of 283g/km. Our fig­ure ended up be­yond 14.7 litres/100km (about 330g/km).

How­ever, the en­gine has im­proved, of­fer­ing good re­sponse once the new elec­tronic throt­tle clears some ini­tial dough­i­ness. Noise sup­pres­sion is good, the V6 only mak­ing it­self heard when revved be­yond 5000rpm, where it also starts to feel a bit strained.

The auto isn’t the smartest go­ing around, tend­ing to jump be­tween ra­tios.

HOW DOES IT GO?

It’s much bet­ter than the old Chero­kee but big bumps still trans­mit harshly into the cabin. The steer­ing is a bit vague and the long travel sus­pen­sion means it doesn’t sit flat around cor­ners.

The im­proved sus­pen­sion re­sults in bet­ter be­hav­iour on-road, as well as tighter steer­ing, re­duced body roll and in­creased road com­fort. I didn’t bother trav­el­ling off road be­cause of the big­ger 20in al­loy wheels. I didn’t want to scratch them but there’s no doubt it is en­tirely ca­pa­ble in the dirt, gravel and mud.

The KK uses a new on-de­mand 4WD sys­tem called Selec-Trac II, which uses a con­sole-mounted switch to se­lect rear-wheel drive, 4WD auto or 4WD low-range.

Around town the Chero­kee’s rel­a­tively small size for a 4WD helps out, as does good vis­i­bil­ity, big ex­ter­nal mir­rors and rear park­ing sen­sors. The turn­ing cir­cle is a tight 10.8m. On the open road it is rel­a­tively quiet

IS IT SAFE?

IS IT ECO­NOM­I­CAL?

The Chero­kee is haul­ing just un­der two tonnes, and if you are heavy with the throt­tle it will use fuel. I av­er­aged 14.7 litres/100km which in­cluded a run down the Bruce High­way to In­n­is­fail, up the Palmer­ston High­way to Mil­laa Mil­laa, through Ather­ton and down the Ku­randa Range back to the city.

The of­fi­cial com­bined cy­cle av­er­age is 11.7 litre/100km. The diesel is bet­ter with of­fi­cial fig­ures of 9.4 litres/100km.

IS IT GREEN?

Rel­a­tively. Pro­duces 293g C02/km. The Green Car Guide gives it four stars with a green­house rat­ing of 5/10 and an air pol­lu­tion rat­ing of 5.5/10 (10 is best).

Based on an all-new uniframe body, the Chero­kee gains a five-star crash test rat­ing from the NHTSA in the US. Stan­dard Sport safety equip­ment in­cludes dual front and cur­tain airbags, ABS with brake as­sist, trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor­ing. All pas­sen­gers get lap-sash seat belts and head rests.

IS IT COM­FORT­ABLE?

The KK is box­ier than its pre­de­ces­sor and big­ger in­side, ben­e­fit­ing from a wider track, longer wheel­base and mov­ing the spare tyre un­der the body.

The ex­tra space is most ob­vi­ous in the rear seat, which is no longer cramped.

It’s not spa­cious, but two adults can fit OK and a third at a pinch for a short trip.

Up front the tall dash makes the driv­ing po­si­tion feel sunken. The driver’s seat is flat on the sides and bulging in the cen­tre. It’s the wrong way around. The large four-spoke steer­ing wheel only ad­justs for height and the pedal box is quite small.

Com­mend­ably, there is plenty of stor­age, in­clud­ing cuphold­ers, door bins, trays and nooks. The glove­box and cen­tre lid­ded bin are un­der­sized.

In re­cent years the in­te­ri­ors from Chrysler, Jeep’s owner, were too plas­tic and brit­tle, but the Chero­kee show signs of im­prove­ment. There are still plenty of hard sur­faces but there’s also im­proved fit and fin­ish.

The footwells are ex­tremely tight.

IS IT VALUE FOR MONEY?

Yes, no doubt about it, with lots of metal and equip­ment for the price.

WOULD I BUY ONE?

Yes, if I needed a 4WD for off road duty. There are bet­ter ma­chines but they cost a lot more. The Chero­kee Sport V6 is a wor­thy im­prove­ment over its pre­de­ces­sor and a good choice for some­one who needs se­ri­ous off-road abil­ity while pre­fer­ring petrol power over diesel. It’s in a small mar­ket niche, but the few who do should be sat­is­fied.

>> TEST CAR COUR­TESY IRE­LANDS OF CAIRNS, MUL­GRAVE RD, WEST­COURT.

Kicker: Caption in light or on pic.

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