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Jeep Cherokee 2014 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Once again the Cherokee has risen to take on an army of rivals in the mid-size sports utility market. Jeep has brought out the big guns with the new KL series.  These include all-terrain ability, better fuel efficiency, new technology, advanced styling and upgraded safety systems. It's also the first in the segment

Once again the Cherokee has risen to take on an army of rivals in the mid-size sports utility market. Jeep has brought out the big guns with the new KL series. 

These include all-terrain ability, better fuel efficiency, new technology, advanced styling and upgraded safety systems. It’s also the first in the segment to feature a nine-speed automatic transmission.

Available in four models, Sport, Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk, with a choice of two petrol engines – a diesel will follow later this year - prices start at $33,500, plus on-road costs.

Our test Cherokee, a Longitude 4x4 3.2-litre V6 with nine-speed automatic transmission, slated at $39,000, was fitted with the optional 8.4-inch touch screen Uconnect radio with satellite navigation.

Design

Under the watch of the Italian Fiat Group, the Jeep brand continues to cast off the vestiges of mid-20th century roadhouse automotive architecture, the KL Cherokee taking on the physical features of a thoroughly modern mid-size SUV.

Above what designers know as the ‘waterline’ is a sleek aerodynamic body aimed at gaining maximum penetration through the air while saving fuel. Beneath the line is a robust base conveying the traditional go-anywhere Jeep capability.

Designers have incorporated other signature Jeep cues such as the peaked seven-slot radiator grille, trapezoidal wheel arches and the characteristic ‘kink’ in the beltline.

A nod to the future includes a unique shape for daytime running lights situated high on the front for effectiveness while fording water, while the rear fascia is designed to take every licence plate from around the world. Also featured are foglamps and reflectors.

The Cherokee’s cabin was named one of Ward’s 10 Best Interiors for 2014, compiled by respected US-based automotive resource WardsAuto. Judges recognised the Cherokee interior for its advanced design, space, bold styling and technology features.

Infotainment

Connectivity is the name of the game here with the driver able to receive information and vehicle feedback in the format they prefer while keeping their hands on the wheel and, hopefully, their eyes on the road.

The driver can tailor the display to show speed, real-time fuel consumption, safety warnings, audio information and Jeep’s own Selec-Terrain system.

The test vehicle was fitted with the optional Uconnect system with satellite navigation allowing the driver to control sat-nav, audio, climate controls and much more from the touch screen, additional controls on the centre stack below the screen or with voice commands.

With large touch areas, the 8.4-inch colour screen with Uconnect is easy to use and includes Bluetooth connectivity, and audio streaming capability.

Engines / Transmissions

The 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 makes its debut in Cherokee Longitude and is the first derivative of the award-winning 3.6-litre Pentastar unit, which powers Dodge Journey, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler and Chrysler 300 in Australia.

The 3.2-litre 200 kW engine, which the maker claims consumes just 10 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres in the combined urban / highway cycle, benefits from the same innovations that earned its larger stablemate industry-wide acclaim for efficiency, power and refinement.

With fuel saving in mind, the Cherokee becomes the first mid-size SUV to feature rear-axle disconnect, the axle seamlessly switching between two- and four-wheel drive without driver input.

The driver does have his or her day, however, with Jeep’s Selec-Terrain traction control system, which via a knob on the centre console, the driver can choose the on- and off-road setting for optimal performance. Five self-explanatory settings - Auto, Snow, Sport, Sand/Mud and Rock - are on hand to smooth the going.

Safety

With 65 per cent of the body being constructed from high-strength steel, there’s a strong safety base for the new Cherokee range. Seven airbags include multi-stage driver and front passenger airbags, driver knee bag, front seat-mounted side airbags and all-row side curtain airbags.

Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes are backed up by Electronic Stability Control, traction control, electric power steering and hill-start assist. A tyre pressure monitoring system has all-wheel display. A five-star ANCAP rating results.

Driving

There is no denying Fiat has come up with a refined engine. Response is so good off the mark there is more than a chance of spinning the wheels. However, once up to speed, the motor operates the ‘nine-cogged’ auto transmission with quiet efficiency, the latter’s shift mapping automatically changing to suit varying conditions.

Jeep claims the KL V6 is 20 per cent more fuel efficient than the unit it replaces. The test Longitude produced consumption figures of 6.8 litres of petrol per 100 kilometres on the motorway and 13.6 litres per 100 kilometres in city traffic during our test period.

Seating for up to five adults, obviously designed to accommodate broad-backed occupants, offers average lateral support during spirited driving. The high driving position produces good forward visibility but a shallow back window allows only a restricted rear view. Large exterior mirrors compensate.

The automatically opening and closing tailgate, controlled from the key fob, allows easy access to the cargo area which can be extended by folding the rear seat backs flat. The Longitude front passenger seat back also folds to offer a flat area for paperwork etcetera and in-seat storage is accessed by flipping up the seat cushion.

Verdict

The go-anywhere capability has been a Jeep feature down the years and with the well-appointed, value-for-money KL Cherokee it extends that tradition to the mid-size SUV segment, where with the whimsical ‘I bought a Jeep’ backing, it could make serious inroads. 

Pricing guides

$18,892
Based on 210 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$11,989
Highest Price
$28,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Limited (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $14,800 – 28,490 2014 Jeep Cherokee 2014 Limited (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Longitude (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $13,950 – 22,999 2014 Jeep Cherokee 2014 Longitude (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Sport (4x2) 2.4L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $11,989 – 20,990 2014 Jeep Cherokee 2014 Sport (4x2) Pricing and Specs
Trailhawk (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $16,882 – 25,488 2014 Jeep Cherokee 2014 Trailhawk (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8