MOTORING: Meet the Jeep Cherokee 2015

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Last week, a Jeep Cherokee 2015 was spotted in the capital and while many still wonder about the identity of the owner, we thought we should give you a review of the car from experts who have driven it.

 

Jeep Cherokee 2015
Jeep Cherokee 2015

THE 2015 Jeep Cherokee entered the red-hot market for compact SUVs last year at just the right time, but it’s got big shoes to fill nonetheless. The original Jeep Cherokee launched in 1986 set the bar for sport-utility vehicles that could be used as family transport, and inspired a host of competitors, including the wildly successful Ford Explorer of 1990.

But times have changed over three decades, and what used to be truck-based SUVs are now “crossover utility vehicles” built on car underpinnings.

They are more comfortable, more fuel-efficient, and much closer in spirit to passenger cars — but taller and with all-wheel drive as a required option. They are also nowhere near as simple and straightforward as the original Cherokee of yore.

Today, the Jeep Cherokee is meant to be a mainstream choice for family duty — and a direct competitor to established crossovers that include the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4.

It’s a clean break from the Jeep Liberty it replaced, and the changes go far beyond the model name. It’s no longer based on truck-like rear-wheel-drive mechanicals, and its styling is less blunt and bluff than the squared-off Liberty.

The 2015 Cherokee aspires to bridge the on-and off-road worlds. It may be the first compact SUV to do both equally well: a city-friendly crossover stuffed with the heart of a Trail Rated Jeep. It’s got all the Jeep brand essentials — ruggedness and a general zest for things outdoorsy – while remaining perfectly suitable for families that want AWD security and a dash of toughness.

But not everyone is going to be a fan of the exterior. One approach would have been to find a middle ground among Jeep’s heritage, contemporary crossovers, and an edgy new direction. But the actual Cherokee leads off with a startling variation on the Jeep face, and then gives up by the time it gets to the windshield. In other words, its roles as a Liberty replacement, Dart derivative, and Compass mea culpa still are not totally reconciled in the design.

The front end splits its headlamps and underplays the grille — the one design detail that connotes Jeep no matter where it’s seen, around the world.

Those are unforgivable but reworkable flaws, and frankly, quirks that some will like. The rest of the body impresses as warmed-over leftovers, with a heavy reliance on crossover fall-backs in glass area and fender sculpting — rehashed Hyundai, inherited Grand Cherokee. The cabin does paramedic duty here, healing up all that poorly thought-out stretching with some palliative shapes and some truly nice finishes and Easter-egg touches (consider it a challenge to find all the hidden Jeeps inside).

You have a choice between a four-cylinder engine and a V-6, which helps it stand out in a class that includes several models that have gone all-four-cylinder. The standard 184-horsepower, 2,4 litre in-line four is plenty strong for quick acceleration (as well as smooth and quiet for this class), provided there is not too much weight aboard.

The other new 3,2 litre V-6 makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque; it’s torquey and generally happy with whatever work you throw its way. With the V-6 and a Trailer Tow Package, the Cherokee can pull 4,500 pounds. No matter which version, the Cherokee has fairly numb but accurate steering, with a well-tuned and well-damped ride.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has rated the Cherokee at four stars overall, a score it earns in all but side-impact tests – where it’s given five stars. — thecarconnection.com

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