ROAD TEST: New Jeep Cherokee: Faultless? Surely not?
Genuine, slap-you-around-the-face, oh-hello-there surprise: It's a wonderful thing isn't it...?
Alas, sadly, the older/more cynical one gets, the less it tends to happen in life.
As a now rapidly balding, increasingly overweight, definitely middle aged motoring hack and editor of almost two decades, I've tested a lot of cars.
The job and lifestyle are ace: I'm a very lucky lad.
But like any job, you can become blasé – in my case to quality cars, especially new ones on test. Ask any (honest) motoring journo (if you can find one that is... and do let me know if you do! lol), and they'll say the same thing – just like they will also say they love Porsches. So, so sad, but very true.
So (being 100% honest), when yet another brand new car arrived in yet another very busy week (one pushed to the limit with childhood illnesses and family Christmas preparations), I confess to being a little underwhelmed: One more task to be done properly in a week loaded with them...
I signed for the car, took possession, took a cursory glance in the grey Wintry wet drizzle and grumpily grabbed my coat, wallet and hat to take the delivery driver to the train station. Bah-humbug!
What is it again? Oh, yeah, Jeep's all-new Cherokee. Christ, the last Jeep I drove was a long while back, and that rolled like jelly, drank fuel like I do whisky and barely stopped when you beat the stuffing out of the brake pedal. Ho-hum... here goes.
Enter the slap in the face surprise(s):
Wow! That's a bloody comfortable seat. And easy as pie to adjust to perfection and turn the heated element on.
Wow! Look at that dash set-up... and I'm immediately, instinctively pushing all the right buttons on a system I don't know. Unheard of.
Wow! How smooth is that gear-change. How many gears? Nine. Nine?!
Wow! How much grunt has that diesel engine got? 197bhp and 440Nm! From a 2.2 oil burner that's this smooth and this quiet? God, it's pretty quick – perfectly matched to that top transmission. And reading a 48mpg average. WTF?
Wow! Check out that full length sun-roof. Thought they'd (sadly) gone out of fashion. Fabulous.
And so the surprises went on, mile after mile, hour after hour of testing: Genuinely surprised. Genuinely impressed. Genuinely researching nearby Jeep dealerships and looking at HP offers. And that, let me tell you in rare for a cynical old dog like me.
In almost two decades of doing this job, I've either bought or wanted to buy just a handful of cars on the back of a test drive: Subaru Impreza RB5, Subaru Legacy/Outback/Forester Turbo S (largely, any Subaru!), VW's Passat R36, Golf R and VW Touareg R50 V10, Audi RS4 & RS6, Mazda's RX-8 PZ, Porsche Cayman S and 997 Turbo (sorry!) and a Supercharged Range Rover. The latter I still own... and love!
Now, most surprisingly, I've just added another as the family car... Jeep's new Cherokee. Why?
Because apart from the over-blingy wheel design and the slightly ungainly boot and awkward side profile, it's a practically faultless car. And inside, it IS faultless.
Five hundred miles of testing on and off road, every button pressed, with and without passengers – Christ, it even picked up the family Christmas tree – and it did everything I threw at it as a family car, with honours. And it didn't annoy me once. In fact, I grew to love it more on a daily basis. And let me tell you... that's rare. I even turned to look at it once or twice after locking up and walking off... the acid test of true love, in good cars... and good women.
That's all down to something honest and old fashioned: Clever design. That ability to combine fine form with first-class functionality. This is something the Jeep boffins have done so well with the infotainment, the TFT instrument cluster and infinitely adjustable heads-up display. The net result is that the (deservedly award-winning) interior of the new Cherokee is a wonderful place to spent time driving: The best I've tested in a long, long while.
And the car is blooming nice to drive so why wouldn't you want to be in here enjoying driving it – on and off road?
A great engine, good brakes, superb transmission and even a good balance between ride ability and handling comfort suspension set-up... something so few manufacturers get right these days. Tick, tick, tick on the test sheet.
Our test Cherokee 2.2 MultiJet 200hp 4WD 9SPD Auto Limited came in a tasteful, attractive True Blue colour and was loaded with £4,000's worth of extras, taking it's OTR price to £40,765.
But, given the want-for-nothing levels of incredible interior specification and top-technology – that actually work well and are brilliantly thought-out and expertly designed and installed for easy operation – that's not bad at all. In fact, it's bloody good. And it's certainly a lot cheaper than many of its rivals, generously specced-up like this test mule was.
And then there's the Jeep's on-road pace road-holding prowess and excellent 4x4 fuel economy: 0-62mph in 8.5s and an easily achieved 127mph V-Max and yet still just shy of a 50mpg average potential (we hit 42mpg on our test).
Then throw in the Jeep brand hallmark of the Cherokee's genuinely multi-surface off-road ability, which is easily dealt with thanks to its innovative Selec–Terrain™ traction system – shifting differential modes to suit different surfaces at the touch of a very Jeep-feeling solid, robust button.
And what have you got...?
Well, I'll tell you...
You have a darn fine, massively spacious, practical, comfortable, swanky, quick, safe, solid, different, bold, impressive and fun go-anywhere family chariot.
And t's a car you won't see on every street corner and that people actually warm to, rather than sneer jealously at. And all of that adds up to a positive ownership experience.
Entry for the new car is £26,095 in the UK... and that's a bargain.
So, before you buy a predicable German box or something from the far east... we urge you to go and test drive the new Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep brand is on a roll right now – thanks partly to the Renegade revolution, but mainly down to the fact they've quite clearly got a very, very talented bunch of engineers in the FCA Group right now. They are clearly thinking men and women, who are loving working on the Jeep brand right no... you can tell. And the new Jeep Cherokee is a fine credit to their hard work and dedication to great design. Here is a fabulous and very nearly faultless (bar a couple of exterior design decisions!) SUV, making it a highly desirable, thinking man or woman's proposal. Test drive one and see for yourself how far this brand has come in a decade. Now where's my local dealer...?