What’s Hot: Strong engine, smooth performance, extra towing capacity.
What’s Not: Only available at the top end of the range.
X-FACTOR: It’s almost as refined as the V6, adds an extra dollop of grunt and better fuel economy.
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $49,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 125kW/350Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo diesel | 9spd auto
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.8 l/100km | tested: not recorded
Jeep has unveiled the missing link in its Cherokee range - a frugal diesel. It joins the range at the top, sitting above both the four- and six-cylinder variants.
After all, in this country, you can't seriously offer an SUV range without a diesel, can you?
In fact, according to Jeep, diesel sales in the medium SUV category run at close to 30 percent of total volume. Jeep also says, however, that diesels traditionally sell best in higher-specced models.
And that's why the new diesel will only be found in the top-spec and well-equipped top-dog Cherokee for the time being.
Which may disappoint buyers who were hoping for a diesel option right through the range.
But it's a good one. For buyers with towing in mind, or owners in regional areas for whom diesel is the more attractive option, this new Cherokee variant can’t come quickly enough.
This drive confirmed what we already suspected - the diesel Cherokee plugs a yawning gap in the range that we’d previously identified, and does so with a refined and modern diesel engine.
- Instrument cluster with 7.0 inch display
- Leather seat trim with heated front seats
- Dual zone climate control
- Nine-speaker Alpine audio system
- Uconnect 8.4 inch touchscreen with navigation
As with the existing Cherokee range, the Diesel Limited offers a clear and concise dashboard, large and clearly labelled controls, and well-finished, high-quality plastics.
'Limited' specification means you'll find niceties such as leather seat trim with heated front seats, leather wrapped steering-wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen with navigation and reversing camera, and an Alpine nine-speaker sound system.
The clever rear seats slide fore and aft, allowing between 700 and 820 litres of cargo space in the rear, or 1555 litres with all seats folded.
ON THE ROAD
- 2.0 litre turbo diesel four cylinder, 125kW/350Nm
- 9-speed automatic, Active Drive II All-wheel-drive.
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Four wheel disc brakes
This is the engine that the Cherokee has been waiting for.
While the powerful V6 model is certainly very capable, and the four-cylinder petrol engine is reasonably thrifty, the new diesel engine promises to combine both attributes.
The Cherokee diesel runs a 2.0 litre MultiJet2 four-cylinder turbo diesel capable of churning out 125kW of power at 4000rpm and 350Nm from 1750 rpm.
Jeep’s segment-first nine-speed auto is the sole transmission offered.
Power is delivered to all four wheels via an Active Drive II all-wheel-drive system featuring low-range gearing, and rear axle disconnect for improved efficiency.
A drive route based around Mount Buffalo in the Victorian high country offered a mix of loping country tarmac and undulating gravel back tracks.
The Cherokee diesel was able to showcase the beadth of its ability in both situations.
From start-up, the MultiJet2 engine is smooth and quiet - surprisingly so for a diesel and close to a match for the larger and more expensive Grand Cherokee.
This drive provided a reasonable indication of what to expect for anyone planning to use their Jeep for weekend escapes off the beaten track.
Away from paved roads, the Cherokee proved yet again that it’s made of tougher stuff than many of its medium SUV contemporaries.
With no shortage of grunt, available from low in the rev range, the Cherokee Diesel was easily able to cope with the steep trails we put it over.
Although there is a manual mode for the transmission, it was hard to fault the operation of the gearbox - even in low-speed crawl situations.
No unwarranted shifts delayed progress or upset the vehicle’s balance during delicate trail climbs.
Although it does without the more rugged off-roading package of the Trailhawk model, there’s little to deter the Limited Diesel from heading quite a way off-road and onto some marginal tracks.
With a low range transfer case and four-mode terrain-select tailored to snow or sand/mud as well as Auto and Sports modes.
Heading back onto the tarmac doesn’t dull the Diesel’s appeal either.
For highway stints, engine revs are kept low and the cabin is well insulated from engine noise and vibration, but also wind and road racket.
Diesel models also score a higher tow rating with a braked trailer capacity of 2393kg bettering the 2200kg rating of the equivalent petrol V6 model.
With a longer stint behind the wheel we’ll be able to report on the Cherokee Diesel’s urban behaviour and provide a clearer picture of real-world fuel consumption.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.16 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control and traction control, ABS, EBD, reversing camera, and seven airbags Anti-whiplash head restraints, pretensioners and height adjustable seatbelts for front seats, three-point belts in all positions and ISOFIX child anchorages in the rear.
Optional safety tech also includes Forward Collision Warning-Plus, ParkSense Parallel/Perpendicular Park Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control-Plus, Lane Departure Warning-Plus, Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Path Detection.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
With high levels of equipment, and a willing diesel engine, Mazda’s CX-5 GT locks horns with the Cherokee Limited, while the CX-5 Akera (with it’s added safety tech) lines up against the Cherokee with optional safety pack.
Toyota RAV4 Cruiser also delivers plenty of bells and whistles, but its much lower towing capacity pales in comparison.
X-trail and Outlander are both cheaper, and offer seven seats, but the Nissan runs a smaller 1.6 litre engine and neither offers a particularly useful third row.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
There’s no doubt Jeep knows how to build a good SUV - it has been doing it for longer than almost everybody.
And, since its launch here, the new Cherokee has achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success in just a few months.
Although just a single model, and with a pricing premium that adds $5000 to the V6 Limited, the Cherokee Diesel doesn’t disappoint. The engine’s strong power delivery and the transmission’s user-friendliness lift the driving experience.
Few SUVs can match the Cherokee for off-road performance, but many also struggle to match the Jeep on-road.
The quiet cabin and smooth ride of the Cherokee Diesel just enhances that advantage.
For buyers who have been patiently waiting for a diesel Cherokee, Jeep has delivered a package that is sure to please.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
Sport 4x2 - 2.4 litre 4cyl auto - $33,500
Longitude 4x4 - 3.2 litre V6 auto - $39,000
Limited 4x4 - 3.2 litre V6 auto - $44,000
Trailhawk 4x4 3.2 litre V6 auto - $47,500
Limited 4x4 2.0 litre 4cyl auto - $49,000