Re-conceived Cherokee is more civilised crossover than usual tough-guy Jeep, with a rise in quality which places it firmly alongside the Audi Q5 and BMW X3

What is it?

This is the all-new, fifth-generation Jeep Cherokee, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the often square-cut and traditional 4x4s that went before it.

Instead it mixes Jeep styling motifs (a seven-vertical-slot grille, angular wheelarches) with fashionable design features such as no straight lines, concave surfaces and me-too trapezoidal tail-lights set on a slant.

The short bonnet and long front overhang betray the fact that it's derived from a transverse-engine, front-wheel drive platform with distant roots in Alfa Romeo's Alfa Romeo Giulietta.

It looks like a design student's proposal for a properly futuristic Jeep with a fast windscreen rake, a pointed ridge across the front grille and slender DRLs where you'd expect the headlights to be. But you know such a student would have toughened-up the look. As has Jeep, for the top Trailhawk version of which just 20 will arrive in the UK, despite being the visual lodestone of the range.

Why so few? Because as well as the full gamut of off-road, big wheel-articulation hardware denied to lesser Cherokees, it has a thirsty 3.2-litre petrol V6 which no-one will want to buy, despites its hunkier cladding, grey detailing and cutaway valances.

So the real-world, clean-clothes Cherokees come with Fiat's 2.0-litre Multijet II turbodiesel in 138 or 168bhp guises, matched in our test car to a nine-speed automatic gearbox.

You can have front-wheel or four-wheel drive, the latter automatically disconnecting and reconnecting drive to the rear wheels as needed to improve economy, as a Range Rover Evoque now does. Trim levels are Longitude or plusher Limited, and both aspire to a 'premiumness' that would make them rivals to an Audi Q5 or BMW X3 at a lower price.

What's it like?

Comfortable from the driver's seat. The cabin is much more of a quality job than in past Cherokees, with padded surfaces, no rattles or creaks, barely any wind noise and a decent sat-nav.

You sit in an authentically commanding driving position tailored by a multi-adjustable electrically powered seat, but the steering wheel's natural tilt is surprisingly far from the vertical. Fake wood inserts on the doors jar a bit, the glovebox is disappointingly small and those padded surfaces are just a touch too coarse and shiny to worry those Germans.

To drive, the Jeep feels like the tall but taut SUV it is. The steering (from the Alfa Romeo Giulietta) is much more accurate than a past Cherokee's, and the ride is mostly composed except for a choppiness over some ripples.

In 168bhp guise, driving all the wheels, the engine is subdued at speed and has adequate overtaking thrust, while the nine-speed auto shifts swiftly and unobtrusively.

There are no manual paddles but, should you fancy the futility of wading through all those ratios, you can tap the central selector back for up, forward for down. 

Curiously, the 138bhp engine is more vocal and more obviously dieselly, at least when mated to front-wheel drive and a manual gearbox, as in the version we sampled.

It's a lot more entertaining to drive as a manual, though, with enough of a direct connection between driver and powertrain to goad the chassis into a bit more interactivity. Unfortunately, in this form the activity extends to a livelier, bouncier ride.

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We also tried the 268bhp, V6-powered Trailhawk – likely to cost around £38,000 – on the off-road course at Fiat's Balocco proving ground, and there's no denying its ability to climb extraordinary gradients and pick its way across structure-bending articulation tests.

It has as standard the Active Drive II low-range gear set that's optional in the Limited, plus a lockable rear differential that comes as part of the Active Drive Lock pack, which also adds Mud to the 'Selec-Terrain' Auto, Sport, Snow and Mud/Sand settings that come with all four-wheel-drive (Active Drive I) Cherokees. 

The Lock pack also includes Hill Ascent Control to go with the II pack's Hill Descent Control; dialling the former into a constant 3mph climb up a 70 per cent gradient shows how painlessly capable an off-roader the Trailhawk is.

Should I buy one?

This is a roomy, practical (the rear seats slide), compact SUV, if hardly an inspiring one to drive, but its aura is a long way from that of previous Cherokees.

The obviously gaping hole in the range is a diesel-powered Trailhawk, which Jeep's UK importer is curiously reticent about remedying. There's talk of something along those visual and hardware lines next year, but without the Trailhawk badge.

Meanwhile, UK sales start in May at around £25,500 for a front-drive, 138bhp, manual Longitude (with 135g/km CO2) and rise to an estimated £35,000 for an automatic Limited with four-wheel drive and the 168bhp engine. That mechanical spec with the cheaper, but still very well equipped, Longitude trim would be the pick of the bunch.

At these prices the Cherokee is actually closer to BMW X3 and Audi Q5 prices than Jeep would like us to think, but the new car does promise better off-road ability to offset its cheaper-looking cabin. In the end, though, the Cherokee in its non-Trailhawk guise is a car with a confused personality.

Jeep Cherokee 2.0 Multijet II Limited auto 4WD

Price £35,000 (est); 0-62mph 10.3sec; Top speed 119mph; Economy 48.7mpg; CO2 154g/km; Kerbweight 1921kg; Engine 4 cyls, turbodiesel, 1956cc; Installation Front, transverse, 4WD; Power 168bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox 9-speed auto

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JOHN T SHEA 12 April 2014


The Cherokee's V6 develops 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque. Definitely my choice over any four cylinder diesel.
fadyady 10 April 2014

I quite like

the re-design of the world famous Jeep's iconic 7-bar grille.
Landie 10 April 2014

Healthy V6...

What would be an interesting model is one with a decent & healthy V6 producing say 240/260 BHP, (reasonable power outputs for a modern V6 engine today), and plenty of low down grunt, (Turbo V6 perhaps?), for the same price, perhaps carve itself it own little performance neich in the class.