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