There’s a stack of mid-sized SUV’s creeping along the tarmac but not many can lay claim to some serious rock climbing talents. From the ground up the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is all new, with radically different styling, revised engines, transmission and most importantly comprehensive all-terrain technologies. But with a set of looks that may prove hard to swallow is the new Jeep Cherokee a winner? EFTM has recently spent a week in the Jeep Cherokee Longitude.
The 10 Minute Test Drive
Every time I jump into a new Jeep I’m impressed by how well the Americans are incrementally improving their interiors. This is the best offering yet, with higher quality materials and a noticeable lift in craftsmanship. There’s an immediate premium feeling about the cabin, stitched leather-look material covers the upper dash with similar material making its way over to armrests. On the as-tested Longitude model, the exceptionally comfortable cloth trim seats feel like they will last for any distance.
Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional 8.4-inch touchscreen Uconnect radio with satellite navigation, it’s a worthy inclusion and one of the larger multimedia surfaces found in any car. It’s a hub for controlling everything.
The word “Fluid” is one of the most used adjectives to describe the exterior styling of many a motorcar but not too many a Jeep up until now. Of course the seven-slot grill is still there but the entire front end looks like the face of a free-falling skydiver, swept back and well, fluidic.
What appears to be slim headlamps are in fact LED daytime running lamps (DRL’s), this is the centrepiece of the brave new Cherokee styling. The headlamps themselves are buried underneath and are initially hard to detect, with fog lights placed below making for an interesting to say the least triple lighting setup. I must say however the brightness of the halogen projector headlamps, in particular the high beam, is pretty ordinary.
The lower half of the new Jeep Cherokee still maintains the expected rugged looks, with tough looking wheel arches, aggressive approach and departure fittings and an overall mud-slinging look.
The rear end looks like a Subaru Tribeca, this is most certainly not a good thing.
Polarising looks aside I can report the Jeep Cherokee is an excellent drive, with a creamy, well isolated ride combined with whisper quite interior. Power from the now 20 percent more efficient petrol V6 Pentastar is delivered mostly smoothly by an increasingly in vogue nine-speed automatic.
It’s also a pleasant steer, even for those that appreciate keen dynamics. The car feels taut, strong and corners with supreme confidence.
Ins And Outs
I tested the petrol 3.2-litre V6 Pentastar, which puts out 200kW and 316Nm of torque channelled via a first in class nine-speed automatic transmission. That’s lots of cogs, and to be honest having experienced the same setup in the Range Rover Evoque I’m not sure it’s all that effective. The Cherokee lacks the paddle shifters of the Range Rover, making do with a manual select gear shifter. But the box itself isn’t overly quick there were times when a sudden throttle application would throw the system into a state of conniption. Additionally so tall is ninth you need to be doing consistent highway speeds to even achieve it.
That aside I’m quite happy to gush about the rest of the experience. The 4WD system on offer is the real deal, the Longitude comes equipped with “Jeep Active Drive I” with Auto, Snow, Sand/Mud, Sport and Rock modes. Outside of the 2WD Sport model there are three 4WD modes spread across the range with varying degrees of capability with one or two-speed transfer units. Uniquely all off-road models feature a rear-axle disconnect which activates when all four paws are not required, a fuel saving measure.
The Longitude model is well fitted out with highlights including a reversing camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, deep tint sunscreen glass, fog lamps, leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel, LED interior lighting, electric park brake, Dual zone air conditioning, auto dimming rear mirror, rain sensing wipers, cloth seats with power 8-way driver’s seat, power tailgate, automatic headlamps, remote engine start system and leather-wrapped gear knob.
As mentioned the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect touchscreen is a breeze to use including navigation, voice recognition, full Bluetooth connectivity, 3.5mm auxiliary inputs and USB ports. These days a huge glowing multimedia screen just isn’t enough so an additional 3.4-inch TFT grayscale instrument cluster is thrown in. The latter can be customised by the driver to display an array of information where you want and when you want.
The Jeep Cherokee is as safe as a bank, with a full five-star ANCAP rating.
The Jeep Cherokee is now available in five variants which includes a diesel model just announced. Full pricing before on roads is below.
- Sport 4×2 2.4-litre MultiAir Tigershark l-4 9-speed auto – $33,500
- Longitude 4×4 3.2-litre V6 Pentastar 9-speed auto – $39,000
- Limited 4×4 3.2-litre V6 Pentastar 9-speed auto $44,000
- Trailhawk 4×4 3.2-litre V6 Pentastar 9-speed auto $47,500
- Limited 4×4 2.0-litre Diesel 9-speed auto $49,000
The Jeep Cherokee Longitude will average 10.0L /100km, pretty much spot on what I achieved at 10.2. But this is only in 4×2 mode, off-road work would blow this right out. Jeep’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel is by far the more efficient option, said to average just 5.8L / 100km. Unfortunately at this stage it’s only offered on the 50k (after on roads) Limited model.
The benchmark for compact SUV’s for me is still the Mazda CX-5, but the new Cherokee stands alone as a viable, premium alternative that can do more than scale a grassy knoll. If you can get past the unusual looks, you’ll end up with a winner on your hands.
EFTM Rubber Stamp
This is an excellent vehicle, with a sprinkle of drawbacks that will deter some. Ascetically it’s a challenge to stomach, I never quite warmed to the aerodynamic theme which is a shame because I simply loved the drive. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee earns the EFTM Rubber Stamp of Approval.