The Jeep brand is one that is synonymous with the American motoring market and one that was reasonably prominent here in Ireland during the boom. It never went away, and now last December it launched the latest variant of the famous Cherokee onto the Irish market. After initially coming under fire due to its controversial looks, is there substance beneath its marmite skin.
First impressions in the metal is that the new ‘Seven-Slot’ front grille is not severe as reports would have suggested, in fact most people commented (during my test drive) on how good the Jeep Cherokee looked overall. The objective of the head of design for Jeep was to convey visually that this was an ‘all new Jeep’ and he certainly achieved that. In an age of car design where many are choosing evolution rather than revolution, you have to commend Jeep and the end product. It looks good. In profile it looks sleek sitting on 18 inch chrome alloy wheels sporting a durable lower body and a number of obvious Jeep cues throughout.
Inside, to state the obvious it feels very American. The look and use of chunky materials throughout gives you that reassuring all American durability. For this reason, the cabin does not feel particularly spacious as everything looks and feels ‘big’. Again there are many reminders of the Jeep’s heritage on the interior with ‘1941’ stamped firmly on the steering wheel and subtle ‘Jeep Willys’ decal placed at the bottom centre of the windscreen. Sitting at the top of the centre console is the infotainment system with large 8.4 inch TFT screen which looks great. While radio and media/Bluetooth functions are all controlled from the screen and the interior temperatures are displayed on the screen, the switchgear for the climate sits below making it a little fiddly to use at times.
On the road, it is instantly clear that Jeep have gone to long lengths to ensure that the new Cherokee offers a supple ride and it does, it is very comfortable absorbing the worst that Irish B roads could throw at it. That said, the attention to softness lends to extra body roll in the corners. The driving position is naturally elevated and comfortable. In keeping with the solid interior, I found the steering wheel to feel huge in my hands, but steering was quite light on the go and this did make manoeuvring the Cherokee is smaller spaces an easy experience. Our test car was fitted with the 2.0 four cylinder turbo diesel engine mated to a 9-speed automatic transmission. The power from the Jeep Cherokee was strong and the ZF automatic transmission is silky smooth. What the Cherokee’s dynamics and package offer, may just be what most people look for in a Jeep – a smooth comfortable American cruiser with the added bonus of big comfy seats that adjust in 9 different ways and some techy toys to play with.
Compared to its more mainstream rivals in the shape of the Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fé, the new Jeep Cherokee should be commended for its brave new looks but still lacks that element of exterior and interior flair that these rivals bring to the table. Comparing it to its premium Audi Q3, BMW X3 or Volvo XC60 rivals in terms of drive, the Jeep is just that bit too soft to provide the same level of driving enjoyment. Starting at €36,000, the Cherokee would appear to reasonably priced for what it offers. Our test car however was loaded with goodies and came in at a whopping €58,250, a price point where many may seek a more premium badge.
The Cherokee name is one with a lot of heritage and therefore likely to command an audience and make its marque in terms of market share. It is naturally more American than European in its DNA which is likely to appeal to SUV buyers.