Jeep Cherokee a Family Workhorse

In Car Reviews, Jeep by Tom Scanlan

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Should we be calling it Chrysler’s ‘General Purpose’ vehicle?

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The Jeep, World War 2’s most recognisable vehicle, has evolved hugely of course into what has been for many years now, as in the current Cherokee, a big, comfortable family work-horse.

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To look at, the car has not got one straight line left and its chrome adornments would glint in the deepest, darkest forest.

First impression on climbing aboard the ‘Brilliant Black’ test car was, well, black! The interior continued the colour theme with all black leather seats and door panels, carpets, dashboard, etc.. The sombreness was lightened by a variety of chrome and plastic inserts. The only other colour came from the red pointers in the instrument cluster. (Please note: we have substituted a red car for the review).

The driver sees in front a deeply set speedo and rev-counter, between which is the trip information. To the left of these, in an imposing central console, is the audio and touch-screen control centre. This turned out to be more intuitive to learn and therefore easier to use than some other systems. The steering wheel was smoothly leather-bound and chunky; various functions are set into the steering wheel, from the cruise control to telephone and voice command and a knob to scroll through all the information available. The gear lever knob in the 6-speed manual test car was another dose of chunkiness, although metallic smooth in the hand.

Out on open road, the Cherokee at first felt a bit wallowey; however, this was probably because I had just been driving an old car whose suspension had become somewhat thumpy! So, very soon, the Jeep had morphed from marshmallow to malteser, so to speak, with the car gliding smoothly over traffic humps, but sitting firmly on the surface when faced with twists and turns. The rack-and-pinion electric steering was excellent here, quick and accurate, and even providing a touch of sportiness into the proceedings.

The test car’s 2-litre, in line four-cylinder diesel engine had a modest 138 bhp, so it doesn’t exactly take off quickly (0-62 mph in twelve seconds), but its torque (320 Nm at 1500 rpm) gives it useful urge whenever it’s needed.

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Cruising about in the Cherokee was a very pleasant experience, generally very quiet except, acceptably, when driven hard for a burst of overtaking…so what?  manoeuvering is easy enough especially with the help of the rear-view parking monitor screen.

The fuel consumption of course varied dependant upon driving conditions. I experienced a four-mile walking-pace queue during which the overall fuel consumption stood at an impressive 35 mpg. After a few minutes, I realised that there was no need to use the accelerator pedal – just in and out with the clutch did the trick, so the rpm never rose above 1000. A general variety of driving delivered around 40 mpg, while the trip indicator just managed to show a fraction more than 50 mpg on motorway trips once the engine was properly warmed up.

The brakes worked fine, but, slowing the car gently from 70 mph caused a noticeable drumming noise: no vibration, just that noise, but it was a cause for investigation. We have not had an answer yet. Equally apparent was an increase in noise levels from somewhere within the car, possibly just road noise, at about 40 mph. My passengers didn’t notice anything, but it was unusual.

As has long been an American tradition, the nomenclature ‘Limited’ refers to top-specification versions and this Cherokee Limited was stuffed full of equipment to make your journeys comfortable, safe and enjoyable…well, that’s what I felt. Whether help in an emergency or a chat with someone in the outside world, or finding the nearest place to fill up the car or the tummy was what was required, it was all on tap.

Such cars as these are quite spacious and this is no exception; you could probably get three adults in the back. The boot is of average size, nicely carpeted and with a full-size spare wheel under the floor. The tailgate can be opened and shut remotely and has a gentle warning alarm to make sure you’re standing clear, plus an automatic stop system.

As a 4wd vehicle, with just a turn of a knob to get different grip characteristics, the car was not tested off-road; however, past experience over some extremely testing terrain in Cherokees makes us confident that the current model is more than capable in this respect.

The gearbox was a six-speed manual, but there will soon be a nine-speed automatic available. The manual change was a touch notchy at lower speeds, but the higher gears gave perfectly light, slick changes.

Overall, although nothing’s ever perfect, this Jeep Cherokee is a very good car that ultimately has to be judged on its price compared to other big 4wd cars…£34,995.

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About the Author

Tom Scanlan

'Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars. He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0. In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.'

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