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.
Hold the car stationary on the aforementioned brake pedal and you can also feel that the driveline doesn’t fully disengage, but strains gently against the driveshafts, making the body shimmy and shake with every few crank revolutions.
The car’s other dynamic shortcomings are shared with the cheaper version. Its steering feels leaden, inert and full of unpleasant friction, the handling is competent but soft and remote and the ride is quiet but poorly resolved, with lots of initial body movement and poor rebound damping. This is dynamic deportment done as was common in 4x4s two decades ago – and not done well even by that mark.
Inside the cabin the Cherokee is fairly roomy, comes with plenty of kit and is adequately well appointed and constructed. Its off-road capability is far from exceptional, though; there’s just 157mm of ground clearance here, which is barely enough to cope with a rutted track.