Riding the range on my trusty steed
THERE is an old expression to ‘put your money where your mouth is’ – and that was certainly true of 4x4 supremo Jeep, who invited the world’s motoring media to get behind the wheel of their 2015 Jeep Cherokee ‘Trailhawk’ model in Utah’s amazing Moab desert.
Your Motoring team (me) was amongst journalists from as far away as Russia, South Africa and several European countries who spent two days tackling the most extreme off-road driving I have ever experienced in standard production vehicles.
We took their latest medium-sized SUV along impossible ridges, over boulders the size of houses and through dried-up river beds where, in the 1950s and 60s, some of Hollywood’s greatest cowboy films were made with stars like John Wayne, Richard Widmark and Rock Hudson in hugely popular films such as The Comancheros, Stagecoach, Fort Apache and Rio Grande. More recently the stunning, vast valleys with their huge red stone ‘mesas’ have been the backdrop for hit films like Thelma and Louise and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
From our base at the amazing Sorrel River Ranch we set off for two days of extreme offroading, in cars which were unmodified in any way, across obstacles like Moab’s Hell’s Revenge Trail alongside the Colorado River – over six miles of rocks, ridges and stunning scenery... but no roads whatsoever.
In fact, not even a track as the Jeep’s hill ascent and descent electronics were put to the test... and low range gears with diff lock on was the order of the day as we tried not to look at the sheer 100-ft plus drops on either side.
I was truly amazed at how the Cherokee Trailhawks – which for the first time are available in the UK for 2015 – tackled seemingly impossible terrain like a mountain goat. It is testament to the vehicle’s ability that during the two days of trials not one got stuck, despite the fact that very non-expert journalists were behind the wheel of each car.
My trusty steed was the 268-bhp, 3.2-litre petrol V6 with Jeep’s superb 9-speed auto box (yes we achieved all this in an auto). It has to be said the main reason we surmounted such incredible terrain is the car’s Active Drive Lock 4x4 system… and all this off-road ability can now be bought in the UK for just over £34,000 on the road (or trail).
Introduced last year (when Jeep topped a million sales worldwide for the first time) the latest Cherokee is a good-looking vehicle, well equipped and, helped by the current favourable dollar exchange rate, a bit of a bargain here in the UK where new Cherokee motoring can be had from just over £26,000 for the FWD, 2-litre diesel model.
Jeep have also been in business for 75 years, being the originators of the 4x4 market, and events like this prove another old saying. When they claim their cars are ‘built to overcome the world’s most difficult terrain’ it most certainly is a case of ‘does what it says on the tin’.