Wanneroo Times - - Driveway - Paul Gover

IT’S easy to for­get the deeply seated roots of the Jeep Chero­kee.

As I creep down a gnarled rocky de­scent and then crawl back up the deeply rut­ted dirt on the other side, over ter­rain where I would strug­gle to walk with­out twist­ing an an­kle, I’m get­ting a re­al­ity check.

This Chero­kee Trail­hawk is rugged and real and about as far from sub­ur­ban SUV life in Aus­tralia as you can get.

Yet the up­dated and facelifted Chero­kee is most likely to be com­pared to a Mazda CX-5 and win praise for a boot that’s had an 85mm stretch to com­fort­ably fit a golf bag cross-wise. It’s com­ing soon as the spear­head to a mas­sive new-model of­fen­sive in­tended to bury the cus­tomer com­plaints, and sales slump, that hit Jeep so heav­ily in the past two years.

Full de­tails of the 2018 sales plan are still se­cret, in­clud­ing the model mix and pric­ing, but Jeep has high hopes and in­tends to hold the cur­rent price line from $35,950 to $49,950 with the five-year war­ranty that’s key to a pro­gram to re­build con­fi­dence Down Un­der.

The global pre­view, run about an hour north of Hol­ly­wood, com­bined canyon curves with high-speed free­ways and a rugged off-road course to check the per­for­mance of the Chero­kee with its 2.4-litre and 3.2-litre V6 en­gines, front- and four-wheel drive, and the Sport, Lim­ited and Trail­hawk pack­ages.

But the first thing to no­tice on the ‘18 Chero­kee is the front end.

It has a more up­scale look with LED head­lamps that throw more than 50 per cent more light into the night.

The vis­ual changes to the Chero­kee make it more like the Grand Chero­kee. There are the more ur­ban Sport and Lim­ited,

while the Trail­hawk gets less body­work be­low the bumper – and prom­i­nent red tow hooks – to aid off-road clear­ance.

The up­dated Jeep is qui­eter and smoother, with a more sub­stan­tial feel. The in­fo­tain­ment screens are big­ger and clearer, with Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto smart­phone mir­ror­ing.

Cor­ner­ing grip and bal­ance are also good. The brakes are fine and there is more feed­back through the elec­tric power steer­ing.

The low-speed ride is a bit sharp, feed­ing small bumps into the cabin, but things smooth out beyond 80km/h over all sorts of un­du­la­tions.

The Chero­kee Trail­hawk is awe­some off the bi­tu­men.

Well-sorted elec­tron­ics, low-range gears and a lock­ing rear dif­fer­en­tial mean it will go al­most any­where.

Peo­ple who shop the Chero­kee against a CX-5, Hyundai Tuc­son or Kia Sportage are un­likely to ven­ture into such ter­rain but they get the brag­ging rights that come with a Jeep.

Ver­dict: De­spite the up­date work, it’s also not go­ing to win a head-to-head com­par­i­son with a CX-5 or VW Tiguan. But it is an im­prove­ment and, with the vis­ual lift, that might be enough for peo­ple who are ready to take a chance on a Jeep.

The Jeep Chero­kee Trail­hawk comes into its own off-road.

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