JEEP TACKLES COMEBACK TRAIL
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.