Rid­ing the range on my trusty steed

Macclesfield Express - - MOTORING -

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’.

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