July 14, 2014
Vehicle Style: Medium SUV
Price: $39,000 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 200kW/316Nm 3.2 petrol 6cyl | 9sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 10.0 l/100km | tested: 10.0 l/100km
Jeep has knocked the edges off its midsized Cherokee - both literally and figuratively - creating something unlike any Jeep you’ve seen before.
It’s well-rounded in more ways than one. For the new Cherokee, Jeep’s styling department has broken with tradition and created something that looks truly modern, rather than a rose-tinted homage to the past.
The seven-slot grille is perhaps the only nod to Jeep’s history, but even that is radically different.
Different for difference’s sake? Not at all, for Jeep’s 'softer' approach with the 2014 Cherokee actually makes it a much better car for today’s driver.
There are still some rough edges, yes, but there are also plenty of virtues to this SUV.
Quality: Trimmed nicely, feels solid, cloth upholstery and plastic quality aren’t quite Euro-grade, but they’re awfully close.
All in all, few will complain about the finish to this interior.
Comfort: And neither will they find much to groan about with the Cherokee’s seating. The cushioning is good, there’s good support in the right places and plenty of adjustability to the seats and steering column.
The outer back seats have enough leg and headroom to seat two average-sized adults in good comfort, but the centre seat is very firmly padded and quite narrow. Reserve that one for kids.
Equipment: A reversing camera, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB audio inputs, an SD card input, audio controls on the steering wheel, three 12V power outlets and cruise control are standard on all Cherokee models.
Get into the Longitude variant, and you enjoy a powered tailgate, auto-on headlamps and wipers, dual-zone climate control, an eight-way powered driver's seat, remote ignition and a leather-upholstered steering wheel.
Our car was also equipped with the optional sat nav package (which brings a large 8.4-inch colour touch screen display), while the standard infotainment system features a 5-inch touchscreen.
Storage: There’s loads of storage options in the Cherokee, ranging from the usual centre console cupholders and bins, to the flip-up front passenger seat squab that hides a useful waterproof bin.
A lidded compartment also sits at the top of the centre stack for wallets or keys, but strangely there’s only one map pocket on the back of the driver’s seat.
The boot measures a huge 820 litres with the rear bench slid to its most forward position, increasing to 1555 litres when you flip the 60/40 split rear seatbacks down.
The front passenger seatback also folds flat to help carry long objects, and there are four bag hooks in the boot.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: A nine-speed automatic is the sole transmission available in the Cherokee, and it’s certainly an impressive number of ratios that Chrysler’s managed to cram into this ‘box.
But out on the road, it’s not as sophisticated as we expected. Gearshifts are only smooth when barely tickling the accelerator, it’s too eager to kick down, and it tends to hold onto gears for too long.
Ninth gear is stratospheric- the gearbox won’t let you select it unless you’re cruising around 130km/h, making it meaningless in Australia. Even eighth gear is unavailable at 100km/h.
The gearbox and throttle mapping changes when you toggle through the various drivetrain modes though, and the softer throttle response in 'mud' mode makes it easier to manage the Cherokee’s power when going bush.
The Cherokee’s 200kW/316Nm 3.2 litre V6 is a fine engine with ample torque.
It’s not a fuel miser, but certainly not bad considering the hefty, and strong, V6 under the bonnet. Jeep claims 10.0 l/100km and our tester achieved exactly that during our week with it.
Refinement: The Cherokee’s V6 is blissfully quiet at low RPM and idle, but we heard an unusual raspy noise when accelerating that didn’t sound like it was coming from the engine (that we were unable to pin-point exactly).
Otherwise, both tyre noise and wind noise are very low, even at speed. For a dual-purpose vehicle - and, yes, you can get this 4X4 a lot further off-road than other soft-roading SUVs - the new Cherokee is surprisingly refined.
Ride and Handling: The Cherokee’s transformation from truck to car means very good things for on-road manners.
It handles quite well, for starters. There’s good grip in corners, not too much body roll and the suspension recovers from big bumps with ease.
Lumpy roads don’t phase it, though the ride can be a little sharp over things like manhole covers and potholes.
The steering is nice and light to make urban driving easier, and besides a bit of vagueness around dead centre it works well with the Cherokee’s chassis.
Braking: The Cherokee’s all-disc hardware is capable of stopping the 1.8-tonne SUV in a hurry, but the long-travel pedal requires a healthy stomp to do its best.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars - this model scored 36.16 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD, multi-mode AWD, reverse parking sensors, reversing camera, seven airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km, whichever occurs first. Free roadside assistance is also offered for the first three years of ownership.
Service costs: Service intervals are 12,000km and costs can vary from dealer to dealer. Contact your local Jeep service centre for specific pricing.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport AWD ($36,620) - The segment leader as far as on-road dynamics are concerned, the CX-5 is a delight to drive. It doesn’t feel quite as spacious as the Jeep, particularly in the boot, but it does have sat-nav as standard and a lower price of entry.
But neither the CX-5, nor any of these closest competitors, can go as far off-road as the new Jeep. (see CX-5 reviews)
Nissan X-Trail ST-L AWD ($38,990) - A match for the on-road refinement than the Cherokee, the X-Trail is another fresh entrant in the medium SUV category.
Its 126kW 2.5 litre four-pot can’t match the Cherokee’s V6 though, though it is significantly less thirsty. (see X-Trail reviews)
Ford Kuga Trend ($36.240) - Thanks to the magic of turbocharging, the Kuga’s 1.6 litre petrol engine delivers more power (134kW) and more torque (240Nm) than the X-Trail.
It is still well behind the Cherokee for power, but for those that don’t need massive amounts of muscle in their SUV, the Kuga is a good choice. (see Kuga reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
No question, the new Cherokee Longitude is a very good machine. It offers a lot more 'going bush' capability than most of the other soft-roaders in its segment, and is swift and quiet on road.
While the nine-speed transmission calibration doesn't really work on Australian roads (with our very low speed limits), the strong V6 up front has no trouble whisking the Cherokee along, and will have no trouble with any family-sized load.
Also, it feels bigger than most of its price and segment competitors.
But the price is an issue. At $39,000 (plus on-roads), the Cherokee Longitude is at the more expensive end of the medium SUV segment.
Sure, it’s got substantially more grunt than a 2.5 litre Mazda CX-5, but at $39k it starts to compete with very polished turbo diesel medium SUVs like the Kia Sportage, Nissan X-Trail and Ford’s excellent Kuga.
And there’s no diesel option for the Cherokee, at least not yet - it's expected later this year.
In a segment that has such a high uptake of diesel engines, that’s a handicap at the moment.
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