We?ve probably all been through the following scenario at some stage. A certain individual has been catching your eye for a few months and while you know absolutely nothing about them ? they look hot ? and that?s often enough, isn?t it? You ask them out, they say yes?
So you roll-up at their door, pressed and dressed, a little on edge, the senses tingling in anticipation of the night ahead. You?re hoping for one of those rare nights: a nice meal and some good conversation. A night when four hours seems like four minutes.
The reality, of course, more often than not, is that you spend a few hours learning one of life?s little lessons. Your date may look hot, but everything else is cold: the food, the restaurant and the conversation.
There is little behind the facade.
Which brings me not so neatly to Jeep?s all-new 2008 Cherokee; a ?hottie? ? we?re talking looks - that left me feeling a little cold.
We loved the ?mad? SRT8 Grand Cherokee and I?ve always admired Jeeps from a distance. But the smaller Cherokee, until now, always seemed a little underdone on the outside ? too soft, too curvy ? a Jeep with not enough Jeep about it.
But all that has changed with the 2008 Cherokee. It?s squarer, chunkier and, dare I say it, even has a hint of Hummer about its imposing new styling. There is plenty to like. It looks how a Jeep should look; ruggedly handsome with a chiselled jaw. The new ?Handsome Rob? of the Toorak tractor set?
The Cherokee?s interior is dominated by a flat-fronted dashboard and typically chunky American trim ? more Fischer Price than finesse. Put aside the flimsy indicator stalks (reminiscent of a mid-90s Commodore), and some errant trim-fit, and the quality of the interior is actually quite good. If you are used to Australian-built cars, then the Jeep?s fit and finish won?t see you complaining.
The cabin is roomy, there is a reasonable storage area behind the rear seats and the front seats are comfortable and provide adequate support. The driving position, while not perfect (the pedals are noticeably offset and the footwells are best described as ?compact?) is comfortable and you do adjust to its quirks.
The Sport model on test makes do with a six-speaker stereo, with auxillary jack for connecting MP3 players. It will belt out a fair tune, and is one of the better stereos that I?ve come across in the $40k price range.
Standard Cherokee features include automatic climate control, power and heated fold-away mirrors, power windows with driver-side one-touch, fog lamps and aluminium wheels. A new feature of note (only available on the Limited) is the optional Sky Slider canvas roof, for those who like their motoring to be an open-air experience.
For interior packaging and value therefore, there is a lot to like about this ?family-fare? Jeep.
If taking it off-road (a camping trip by a mountain stream), the new Cherokee now features as standard Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and an all-new four wheel drive system called Selec-Trac II: a full-time, active on-demand system that anticipates and prevents wheel slip before it occurs.
So, it?s all sounding super so far. Unfortunately, the new Cherokee?s good looks are tarnished a little by what lies beneath. The Cherokee on test was the ?Sport? petrol, entry level to the new Cherokee range and fitted with a 3.7-litre petrol V6 and four-speed automatic gearbox.
Now, it?s fair to say that we?re spoiled these days with five, six and seven-speed autos, however, with just four-speeds at its command, the Cherokee is a gear short of a good time. The 3.7-litre petrol V6 is a SOHC 2-valve unit managing a modest 151kW and 319Nm, which doesn?t help the situation. The result is rather predictably, a little underwhelming.
The auto shifts through the few gears at its disposal without too much fuss, however cruising at 60km/h on a part-throttle can catch the box trying to hold fourth (overdrive) and doing so sets up a mild drivetrain vibration that quickly becomes frustrating.
The petrol V6, if pressed, will hustle the Cherokee along but there is no hiding the fact that it?s a little underdone, a little overworked and lacking any real personality. Returning a claimed 16.9 L/100 km city cycle, the petrol Cherokee is going to have you wincing at the pump.
Despite being an ?all-new? system, the Cherokee?s steering is light, and while not totalling lacking in feel, it offers the driver little in the way of feedback, a fact probably not helped by the under-damped chassis. (It?s no surprise then to learn that the new Cherokee is built on the Dodge Nitro platform.)
The ride on smooth tarmac is actually quite good, if at times a little bouncy, but nothing that shouldn?t be expected given the Cherokee?s off-road ability. Where the suspension really drops the ball is on broken bitumen, pot-holed bitumen, repaired and patched bitumen... in other words, 90 percent of Australian suburban and secondary roads.
The Cherokee may be an off-roader but let?s be realistic - the majority of new owners will spend the vast part of their time touring the shopping strips, not the Bungle Bungles. It?s around town that some of the shortcomings of the Cherokee?s soft ?springing? become apparent. On less than perfect urban roads, and over rail crossings, the Cherokee?s front wheels ?patter? a little unnervingly ? nothing serious (just feels a bit like the shocks have abandoned ship).
While the Cherokee is at best a compromise in the urban environment and does not share the excellent on-road manners offered by the likes of Kluger, Territory or Mazda?s CX-7, it has them trumped when the going gets rough. Being 4WD (rather than AWD) with a genuine high and low-range that are selectable on the fly via a console mounted switch, the Cherokee is in its element off the road.
The new Selec-Trac II full-time four-wheel drive system features a 4WD Auto mode that effectively provides the Cherokee with all of the benefits of an AWD system. When 4WD Auto mode is selected (and it is not restricted to off-road conditions only), sensors will adjust and redirect torque between the front and rear axles, depending on road conditions.
I would really like to give the new Cherokee the tick, but, compared to its very competent opposition, it?s not quite there yet. That said, it looks great, feels robust, appears to be reasonably well screwed together and the interior isn?t a bad place to spend some time. It?s quiet on the road, comfortable to travel in and can easily swallow a family and a few of their belongings.
Jeep aficionados are going to find it hard to resist because it looks so much more like a Jeep than its predecessor. Perhaps, however, some of us will be looking for a bit more in ?the drive?.
More substance behind the facade.
But don?t let this news deter you. There is one other drivetrain available in the new Cherokee that on paper at least, appears to more than answer most of my criticisms - the diesel.
For a $4000 premium, the Cherokee (both Sport and Limited) can be had with a VM Motori sourced 2.8-litre DOHC 16-valve common-rail turbo diesel engine. In stark comparison to the 3.7-litre petrol engine, the diesel features best-in-class torque, putting out a whopping 460Nm at just 2100rpm. It is a damn sight more economical than the petrol engine as well, using a claimed 12.2 L/100 km in city driving.
Of course, the icing on the cake is that ticking the diesel option, will also net you a Mercedes-Benz sourced five-speed automatic gearbox.
Now, that?s a hottie with some brains to-boot.
The Last Word
?Buy the diesel Cherokee, fit some decent aftermarket shocks and you?ll enjoy what has to be one of the most stylish 4WDs on the market. Did I mention you should buy the diesel...??
|Jeep Cherokee Sport Pricing||3.7L V6 Auto $39,990 (As tested) |
2.8L CRD Auto $43,990
|Jeep Cherokee Limited Pricing||3.7L V6 Auto $45,990 |
2.8L CRD Auto $49,990
|Options||Premium Paint $300 (Sport/Limited) |
MyGIG (Sat Nav) $3,000 (Limited)
Power Sunroof $2,000 (Limited)
Sky Slider Roof $3,000 (Limited)
|Dimensions||Wheelbase ? 2694mm |
Ground clearance ? front/rear axle 189mm/196mm
Overall length ? 4493mm
Overall height ? 1736mm
Body width ? 1839mm
Track ? Front/Rear 1549mm/1549mm
Overhang ? Front/Rear 744mm/1055mm
Approach angle ? with/without Air dam 28.2?/38.2?
Breakover angle - 21.7?
Departure angle - 30.0?
Water Fording - 438mm @ 8km/h
Cargo volume (L) ? Rear seats up 419
Rear seats folded 1404
|Powertrain||V6 3.7-Litre Petrol |
Fuel Consumption (L/100km)
Urban cycle - 16.9
Highway cycle - 8.9
Combined cycle - 11.7
CO2 (g/km) - 283.0
|Performance||Maximum Speed ? 193 km/h|
|Towing Capacities||Braked with weight distributing hitch 2270kg |
Braked without weight distributing hitch 1600kg
Fuel tank capacity 73.8 Litres
|Warranty||Warranty Duration 100,000 kilometres - 24 Hour Jeep Assist|
|Wheels and Tyres (Sport)||Wheel Type, Material - 16 x 7.0 Aluminium |
Tyres ? Front/Rear 235/70R16 235/60R18
Spare Tyre Full-size