The original Jeep Cherokee was launched by American Motors, later part of Chrysler, in 1974. Its relaunch in 1984 saw a completely different model on a shorter wheelbase, and was influential in shaping the future of SUVs. The car has continued to evolve over the years, as has the company ownership, as Chrysler became part owned by Fiat in 2009 and a fully-owned subsidiary of Fiat in January of this year. The new Jeep Cherokee has evolved into a very strong contender in the medium sized SUV crossover class. Fiat has transformed the car from a functional vehicle to a comfortable, spacious car, competing in the league of the Toyota RAV4, the Land Rover Freelander and the BMW X3.
Initially the new Jeep offering for the UK market will be:
• Six speed manual gearbox front wheel drive 140 bhp.
• Six speed manual gearbox four wheel drive 140 bhp.
• Automatic transmission four wheel drive 170 bhp.
All of these options will be available in any of the three editions, the Longitude, Longitude Plus and the Limited. The final model in this range will be the Trailhawk, which is expected to be released during the autumn of 2014. The Trailhawk will have a 3.2 litre six cylinder petrol engine and will be designed to meet the demands of the very toughest terrain.
The new Cherokee is much lighter than its predecessor, thanks to its platform, which has been based on that of the Dodge Dart. As yet there has been no confirmation of the 0-60 mph time for the Cherokee models except for the Trailhawk, whose time of 6.6 seconds is highly impressive, particularly when contrasted with the competition, such as the 8.4 seconds best for the Land Rover Freelander 3.2 i6 GS. Steering is precise and road handling is excellent. Official figures for fuel efficiency have not yet been released, but Jeep’s MultiJet II technology is designed to reduce fuel consumption significantly, with a reported 30 per cent decrease compared with that of the previous diesel Cherokee. This significant improvement in fuel economy means it will be able to compare favourably with many of the rivals in its class.
The Cherokee can also fight off the competition in terms of interior style and comfort. Inside you’ll find the cabin space is generous, with the rear seat leg room larger than in most of the Cherokee’s mid size SUV rivals. There is also plenty of storage space provided. The audio/media system offers satellite navigation, digital radio and Bluetooth functionality and is operated via a 5 inch touch screen, with an 8.4 inch touch screen also available in some models.
The standard package on the Longitude includes LED tail lights, rear parking sensors, 17 inch alloy wheels, dual zone air conditioning, a leather covered steering wheel and digital radio.
The next model up in the range is the Longitude Plus, which includes as standard some additional features such as an audio system with nine speakers and a subwoofer, the Uconnect 8.4 inch multi media screen and voice recognition.
At the top end of the range for the June launch is the Limited model, which boasts many extra features such as eighteen inch alloy wheels, automatically operated BiXenon headlights and assisted parking with sensors at both the front and the rear, taking the pain out of both parallel and perpendicular parking. The Nappa leather seats typify the luxurious feel of the interior, which is also fitted with an electronically adjustable driver’s seat, and there is even wireless charging capability for your mobile phone. Automatic windscreen wipers and a keyless entry and ignition system add to the many benefits of the Limited edition.
Top spec Cherokees will be available with the new Adaptive Cruise Control Plus system from Chrysler. This is designed to bring the car to a halt in the event that a forward collision is anticipated. The driver is able to select a minimum gap to maintain away from the car in front. The car then continually monitors the distance via video and radar technology and will apply automated braking if the distance falls below the preset level. The Active Drive Lock traction control system will be available in the Trailhawk model.
When it reaches the UK later this year, the Trailhawk will be something of a trail blazer for Jeep. It has been put through its paces in testing, and has managed to make it unscathed through the ultimate challenge for 4x4s at the Rubicon Trail in the United States, close to Lake Tahoe.
All of the Cherokee models will have the Select-Terrain system, similar to the Land Rover’s Terrain Response device. The driver selects one of sand & mud, snow, sport, or rock and the car then adapts its drive to the terrain accordingly.
Safety is a priority on the Jeep Cherokee, with many items provided as standard. All models incorporate a total of ten air-bags, providing protection both front and rear and including front knee air-bags. ABS, hill start assist, and stability control are all part of the package. The Limited and Trailhawk models can also benefit from a lane departure alert system and blind spot warning.
In April, Jeep announced that entry level pricing will start from £25,495 for the Longitude 2.0 140 six speed manual option, with front wheel drive, while the Limited 2.0 170 automatic will retail at prices from £35,695, which represents excellent value for money when you consider everything these cars have to offer. It’s hardly surprising that the new Jeep Cherokee has received such positive reviews from the motoring fraternity and it is certain to be welcomed enthusiastically when it lands in UK showrooms this June.