What is it?
A second chance for the new Jeep Cherokee. Our full road test on the car was about as bristling with praise for this troubled compact SUV as you’d expect of a two and a half star verdict.
Among very few causes for hope was the more powerful diesel version, available exclusively with a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission, which is the car under inspection here.
It's a good two seconds quicker to 60mph than the 138bhp manual version and capable of towing half a tonne more on a braked trailer. It's also fitted with no fewer than four overdrive ratios for economical cruising.
So the Cherokee JTDm-2 170 automatic certainly appears to present stiffer competition to other premium SUVs. But it isn’t. In fact, it’s got greater failings than the cheaper, slower manual.
What's it like?
A lack of apparent substance and thoroughness in the car’s engineering is its chief failing. The 168bhp diesel is every bit as clattery and coarse as the cheaper oil-burner and offers little more overtaking pace on the road. It’s short on torque compared with most of its competition, and it feels like it.
The first time you press the brake pedal, you’ll also realise that Jeep’s right-hand drive conversion has left the brake servo on the opposite side of the car. It's connected to the pedal by a steel bar that crosses the bulkhead, which thuds in a dull fashion every time you release the pedal, while the servo’s hisses and shudders can clearly be heard.
Hardly the stuff of premium-brand meticulousness, that, although it’s a particular ‘Heath Robinson’ solution still used in other Fiat Group products, among them the two-pedal, right-hand-drive Fiat 500.
With the exception of marginally improved motorway economy, the nine-speed transmission singularly fails to enhance the Cherokee’s performance. The powertrain is slow to auto-restart, slow to kick down, unresponsive in manual mode, indecisive when left in D and delivers hurried gearchanges with all the smoothness of an angry van driver.