herald

Monday 21 August 2017

NEW JEEP CHEROKEE IS MORE COUNTRY GENT THAN ROVING COWBOY WITH RADICAL OVERHAUL

It's akin to getting John Wayne to swap his dusty Stetson for a tweed deerstalker.

Yes, the "man's man" Jeep Cherokee has been given a major makeover to make it more alluring to European customers.

Some puritans say they've gone too far with the very futuristic front complete with slender headlights while dumbing down the signature front grille.

I personally think it looks awesome, especially with the chrome wheels (a real American touch), but I suspect the FIAT group are out to capture the hearts of what they see as their core market - yummy mummies.

Hence the reason for the 2WD version and the on-demand 4WD system which kicks in automatically, making it one of the most user-friendly SUVs in its class.

Powered by a choice of 140 or 170bhp 2.0-litre turbo-diesels, the new Cherokee is also pretty frugal, returning a very decent 48mpg (5.3L/100km), while emissions of only 139g/km put it in tax band B2 (€280 per year) .

Even the top-of-the-range 4X4 twinned with a first-in-class nine-speed automatic gearbox falls into tax band C (€390).

Irish customers will be offered two trim levels, Longitude and Limited, with both focusing on "premiumness" to compete with the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3.

Slipping into a wall-to-wall leather cabin, the layout and feel of the cockpit is indeed impressive, though the use of hard scratchy plastics in places is a bit of a disappointment.

What will put a smile on your face is the level of technology packed in here.

Standard kit includes a choice of either a 5.0-inch colour touch-screen for the Uconnect infotainment system or 8.4-inch version, cruise control, parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, front cornering fog lamps and dual-zone air-conditioning.

Opt for the Limited and you'll get bigger alloys, leather upholstery, bi-xenon headlights, heated front seats, wireless-charging pad and colour reversing camera.

But this is first and foremost a family car, so how will it fare with the school run or the weekly shop?

Pretty well, considering the generous amount of space - especially in the rear where most of the squabbling will take place.

There's enough elbow and legroom to keep the peace (each seat reclines and slides back and forth) and there's plenty of storage and cubby holes for toys and drinks. The boot is generous too with 571 litres.

Drive-wise, it's not quite as refined or indeed slick as the design. The engine sounds a little gruff for a car in this class, and the steering could be a little more informed.

That said, the new suspension set-up helps to deliver a smooth, comfortable ride that irons out any bumps one should encounter.

All in all, the new Cherokee has come a long way, but just not far enough to worry the two aforementioned German gents who have ruled the manor for years.

Prices for the Jeep Cherokee start at €36,000.

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