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The first impression
When I actually saw the new Cherokee in the flesh I stopped and stared. You know the way a Neofundi would at the first sighting of a new collection of Prada shoes. It is so dramatically different from the outgoing model and boldly modern in its approach.
With the introduction of the first 1984 Jeep® Cherokee three decades ago Jeep invented the midsize SUV category. The outgoing and 3rd generation Cherokee was retrospective in its design, it had an old school charm that lacked the capacity to woo many buyers. The new 4th generation Cherokee is a quantum leap forward, for some even too forward - like jumping into the future. I believe those who are nervous about its futuristic styling now will appreciate its ballsy design in the future.
Jeep® designers looked back at the brand’s illustrious history when penning its new lines. They studied the details of yesteryear that make the brand iconic and reinvented them for their new Cherokee. Key elements of the front of the new Jeep® Cherokee are the 'waterfall' bonnet with the iconic peaked and the seven slotted grille which includes a crisp, horizontal snap – a feature found in many classic Jeep® vehicles. The sides of the Cherokee feature the signature Jeep® trapezoidal wheel arches. The rear is highlighted by the contemporary full LED tail lamps which are an integral part of the rear back-light graphic making the vehicle look stronger, yet harmonious. This mid-sized SUV looks unique and stands out from the crowd of other “same old same old” hill climbers it competes with.
Open up the Cherokee and the contemporary yet iconic lines can be seen within the cabin. The dark leather clad dash features light contrasting stitching which highlights the same trapezoidal shape that can be seen on the wheel arches. The cabin is generously spacious, comfortably capable of transporting five large sized adults. With kids growing up bigger than their parents these days, the Cherokee makes for an ideal lift club vehicle for grade 12 learners.
The Limited variant on review followed the Jeep® Moroccan Nights interior theme where there is high contrast with golden tones. The Morocco interior is black with warm Moroccan Sun accent stitching providing a contrast to the black. The Black Nappa leather seats are sumptuous and are elegantly contrasted, with the sculptural dashboard and “nice to touch” switch gear.
On the Road
The new Jeep® comes with either a 2.4 on the entry level variant or with a silky smooth 3.2 V6 engine. Both are petrol and all models come standard with a 9-speed automatic gearbox, a number I have only seen matched by the Range Rover Evoque.
The new engine does a rather good job bringing the car up to speed and does so with a marvelous growl, a sound which is quickly extinguished by turbocharged four cylinder motors which are used for their efficiency.
The ride of the car is firm in sport utility vehicle fashion, though the car’s dynamics aren’t as agile as that of an Evoque or X3, but that’s semantics, because the majority of drivers will be satisfied with the job it does.
One journalist mentioned that he felt the steering to be too firm, perhaps it was only on his 4x4 version of the Limited? My findings in the 2WD version of the Limited were that the steering was comfortable to operate and offered reasonable feedback from the road.
The cabin is well insulated, muting a large amount of road noise and allowing just enough of the muscular sound from the V6 engine.
The 9-speed gearbox is a marketing highlight of the Cherokee. Truth be told, it is a let-down after the hype. The gear changes are snappy and feel as if they flick the car in a jerky motion with some of their changes at lower speeds and pull off. This sensation dissipates as the speed rises.
A personal highlight is the integrated and multifaceted infotainment system. Most cars are getting them these days but may are as complicated as hell to operate. This system makes using the host of standard features like the radio/audio system, heated seats, climate control and navigation system as easy as navigating your smartphone using a similar touchscreen type of operation.
What I liked:
What I’m not mad about:
The extra stuff
All new Cherokee’s come standard with a 6 year / 100 000km maintenance plan as standard.
The Cherokee has the ‘best in class’ safety score with the Euro NCAP. The five star achiever also hangs the accolade of safest SUV in its category for 2013 on its head, thanks to more than 70 safety and security systems.
The Cherokee Limited comes standard with a remote starting system. It's the first I have seen of this type of system, and love it. From the key fob you are able to start the engine and with it the climate control system and heated seats. This feature allows you to prepare the cabin before you enter it, so it is just right! The car remains locked, so no need to worry that your beloved SUV with be gone like the wind.
Consumers place a large percentage of their buying decision on the way a car looks. They consider the brand, the price and lastly the technicalities when it comes to the car’s specs and added value niceties.
With that said, the Jeep® nameplate is cool. It represents the brand’s core values of freedom, authenticity, adventure, passion and the fresh interpretation of “go anywhere, do anything” attitude of the legendary American brand.
The styling gets a thumps up though there are those who don’t like its futuristic approach. I believe in time their views will adapt.
The two German competitors are the ones to beat. They are the benchmark in premium luxury and accomplished performance but both are pricey. The Audi is the more luxurious while the BM is the most dynamic in its performance. Both are best in 2.0 diesel variation though.
The Freelander is old. She has seen her day and needs to be replaced. Look out for the Freelander 3 in 2015.
The Subaru caters for the alternative customer. Performance is key and the Forester XT doesn’t disappoint.
Would I buy the Cherokee? I would, being a brand snob. If I wasn’t, I would buy the gorgeously seductive KIA Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD at R420k.
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