Is it a brave new era of quality and refinement for off-roader?
Jeep is known for building some of the world’s most accomplished off-roaders. But its products don’t have enough all-round appeal – and the latest Cherokee does nothing to resolve this. It has a cramped, poor-quality cabin and cumbersome handling on tarmac, so only those buyers who need serious mud-plugging abilities are likely to consider it.
It’s one of the most famous badges in off-roading, and with 65 years of mud-plugging heritage, few companies can rival the 4x4 kudos of Jeep.
But the compact SUV market is tough, so the new Cherokee has to be good to compete. The line-up couldn’t be simpler: the car is offered solely in Limited trim with a 2.8 CRD diesel. Your only choice is between the auto box in our model and a manual.
With squared-off angles and a prominent grille, the styling appears dated, although it’s unmistakably Jeep, and is just what fans are looking for.
Unfortunately, even the most avid brand enthusiasts will find it hard to be impressed by the interior. The flat dash design is old-fashioned and uninspiring, while the quality and fit of the materials is way behind rivals from Europe and Japan. The driving position is cramped, too; there’s no reach adjustment on the steering wheel and the large transmission tunnel means the footwell is uncomfortably narrow.
Rear legroom is compromised as well, and the high boot floor means luggage room is poor for a car of this size. The only cabin feature worth recommending is the £950 Sky Slider full-length opening canvas roof.
As you would expect, a rugged chassis and decent wheel clearance mean the Jeep can handle hardcore off-roading. But few owners will need this and despite new suspension, the handling on tarmac is poor.
The steering has very low gearing – you need to turn the wheel a lot to get any response – while at speed the complete lack of feedback is disconcerting. Add in a poorly damped ride, which allows the suspension to crash over bumpy surfaces, and lots of body roll, and this car is hard to enjoy on the road. At speed it’s not very refined, and while the 2.8-litre diesel isn’t short on performance, it sounds harsh under power. All of which will disappoint those who were hoping the Cherokee would take a big leap forward.