2.8 CRD Limited Auto
4x4 market appears to be alive
and well, so what better time for Jeep
to introduce its new Cherokee
a well kitted-out, reasonably priced
mid-size 4x4 still styled in true iconic
WITH A HISTORY STRETCHING BACK OVER 65 YEARS, the Jeep brand (and its 4x4
vehicle line-up) enjoys iconic status. But driven by rising fuel prices, the
need for lower CO2 emissions and a slowdown in most of the US and European economies,
manufacturers including Jeep are having to change
their ways to survive by introducing cheaper, lightweight, fuel-efficient and
smaller models. New engine power technologies whether it be hybrids
of fuel-cell are all on the agenda.
All this takes time but times are currently tough in the automotive trade so,
in the words of the song: 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going'.
[Originally recorded by Billy Ocean in 1985, When the Going Gets Tough, the
Tough Get Going was written by Wayne Braithwaite, Barry Eastmond, Robert
John 'Mutt' Lange and Billy Ocean and it was used as the theme song for the
Michael Douglas film The Jewel of the Nile Ed]. And a very apt
mission statement for the Jeep brand always a producer of tough, purposeful
True 4x4 vehicles are seemingly not flavour of the year, but real sales figures
not pundits' speculations prove demand is still high. Financially
well-off people who want a large and powerful 4x4 can still afford to buy and
run one, and the mid-sized SUV 4x4 market is still alive and well as more models
are introduced in response to customer demand.
So drive forward the new Jeep Cherokee, a mid-sized 4x4 with loads of high specification
at a reasonable price and, true to its roots, still styled in true iconic Jeep
fashion with a boxy, upright stance. With the exception of the rounded and more
aerodynamically designed Grand Cherokee, all Jeep models are all-American, brash,
in-your face, tough looking 4x4s. Jeep makes no concessions to demands for soft
off-roaders. They are what they are and for many enthusiasts people who
need a rugged 4x4 for work or play the Jeep traditional brand qualities
fit the bill perfectly.
The 2008 Jeep Cherokee is now only available with a diesel engine a 2.8-litre
unit and a choice of manual or five-speed automatic gearbox. It is available
in only one equipment level Limited and prices are £24,595 for
the manual version and £25,595 for the auto. This model is expected to account
for around 85 per cent of the 500 sales predicted for the remainder of this
year. For the record, the 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, common-rail direct-injection
turbocharged diesel puts out 174bhp and 302lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm.
The all-new Cherokee has a new suspension and steering system which makes the
Cherokee more refined on the road but it still lacks the poise, control and
finesse of European, Japanese and even Korean 4x4s. There is no doubting its
off-road and 2,800kg (braked) towing capabilities, but in the handling and ride
control departments the steering is too light and vague and the suspension spongy.
On the inside, the Cherokee moves more upmarket with a leather interior, heated
front memory seats, climate control, electric windows and cruise control all
fitted as standard. The finish and build quality certainly looks to have improved.
Also worth mentioning is the cargo space 419 to as much as 1,404 litres.
"Current Cherokee owners won't recognise the interior of the new car
cargo and storage space have both increased and seat comfort has significantly
improved while the leather treatments to seats, handbrake and gear shifter,
grab handles, door panels and centre console create a luxurious and refined
feel" says Jeep. All true. And I rather suspect current owners of Grand Cherokees
might find down-sizing to the slightly smaller Cherokee well worth considering.
For fresh air enthusiasts, the new Cherokee has a £950 Sky Slider fully-opening
canvas roof option. Two-and-a-half times the size of a regular sunroof, this
powered roof can be operated whilst driving at speeds up to 85mph; it takes
18 seconds to fully open or close.
Jeep hasn't forgotten about the Cherokee's legendary four-wheel drive ability.
The new Selec-Trac all-wheel-drive system with 2WD, 4WD Auto and 4WD Low settings
is now standard across the range. Just by using a simple switch, any of these
settings can be accessed easily a real delight to use. Models with an
automatic gearbox also feature the new Hill Descent Control system which offers
even more downhill control in low-traction conditions again, easy to
use and very safe in use.
Off-road is where the Jeep Cherokee impresses most. It is an extremely capable
vehicle as I found this week driving off-road and fording rock strewn rivers
in Wales. Some other media people were seen towing a caravan over a stiff off-road
course just to prove the Cherokee's impressive towing credentials. Including
the off-road driving, my test car's fuel consumption worked out to 23.3mpg but
on-road work should see a figure closer to the official 31.4mpg.
It's true that the interior has more space and more specification but I just
wish the on-road driving performance and handling was up to the higher standards
set by its competitors such as the Land Rover Freelander, BMW X3 and Nissan
X-Trail plus, of course the softer off-roaders such as the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi
Outlander, VW Tiguan and Toyota RAV-4.
Not so great is the high road tax costs for the Auto version and the fact that
this latest Cherokee lacks the on-road handling and finesse of many of its rivals.
Other aspects that work against it are the light steering and a lack of reach
adjustment on the steering column, as well as some 'bling' elements of the exterior
styling and some tacky American interior design touches. In its favour, you
get a proper, strong and durable off-roading 4x4 with towing capabilities, the
tough Jeep image that's sure to be loved by some, a high specification and good
value for money. David Miles
Jeep Cherokee 2.8 CRD Limited Auto | £25,595
Maximum speed: 111mph | 0-62mph: 10.5 seconds
Overall test MPG: 23.3mpg | Power: 174bhp | Torque: 302lb ft
CO2 242g/km | VED Band G £400 | Insurance group 13