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Jeep Cherokee Blackhawk 2016 review: snapshot

EXPERT RATING
6.6
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the Jeep Cherokee Blackhawk with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

The Cherokee has always been one of those what-you-see-is-what-you-get cars – cheap, cheerful and with that Jeep name, the promise of better-than-good off-road appeal and a bit of real ruggedness to boot.

The new Cherokee has been around for a couple of years now and has plenty of pretenders to its crown. Not many of them will ever venture off-road, though, so the Cherokee has to fight hard to win punters not so fussed by the possibility of sand-slinging shenanigans. And what better way than to keep things rolling, sales-wise, than to add a styling-led special edition like the Blackhawk?

When the current Cherokee launched its new look to the world in 2013, there was a quiet pause as everyone wondered where the chunky Tonka toy looks had gone.

In their place was a rather more svelte, modern looking car from the slim LED daytime running lights back. Even the formerly very upright grille had a backward kick at the top, the formerly retro headlights now pushed down into the bumper where they look like foglights. It's quite a menacing look, especially in the black of our test car, and with just a little hint of Batmobile about it.

Predictably, the quiet pause was interrupted by purists vowing to never again to buy the Cherokee now it was handsome. In this Blackhawk guise, with blacked out grille, big wheels and dark glass, it looks pretty good.

Inside is rather less avant-garde but also less chunky and, well, less horrible than its predecessors. It's a fairly generic car interior, everything is where it is supposed to be and does what it should when you press or flick things.

The centre stack is ergonomically sensible, everything falls to hand and the big terrain select dial is suitably chunky. It's a far less self-conscious interior than any Jeep before it and, given the state of the Renegade's cabin, since. It could do without the supremely hokey 'Since 1941' legend on the steering wheel.

The seats are a bit squidgy in the base but otherwise supportive and comfortable on longer drives. The fabric seems hardy and should cope well with a hard family life.

The steering wheel is oddly-angled and despite a reasonable amount of adjustment for seat and steering column, it's hard to get comfortable and your wrists will ache if you try to hold the wheel at a quarter-to-three.

The dash is well laid-out with clear dials and a useful central information screen showing various useful bits of information, including live tyre pressure monitoring.

Given its putative role as a lifestyle getaway-type vehicle, the deceptively large boot holds 700 litres and is accessed by a reasonably low loading lip (although the boot release in the base of the tailgate will get super grotty). With the seats down, the load space increases to 1667 litres. There's also a few useful cubby holes around the cabin, including a flip-up front passenger seat squab where you can hide a couple of phones and house keys. The cupholder count is four – two in front and two in the back.

The Cherokee range starts at $34,000 for the four-cylinder Sport, the six-cylinder Longitude comes in at $40,000 and it's then on to the Trailhawk ($49,000) via the $46,000 Limited. Snuggled in between the Longitude and Limited is the Blackhawk, a six-cylinder special blacked-out edition priced at $44,000.

For your money, you get 18-inch alloy wheels, a nine-speaker stereo with DAB+, USB and Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights and wipers, heat insulated windows and windscreen, leather steering wheel and gearknob, heated and folding rear vision mirrors, electric drivers seat and tyre pressure monitoring.

Conspicuous by its absence is satnav. There are just two options, the snappily-titled Electronics Convenience Group which for $900 adds keyless entry and start and a 240-volt power socket. Premium paint (three out of the four available colours) is an almost reasonable $500.

There's one thing you can say the Cherokee shares with a $310,000 Maserati and that's the 8.4-inch UConnect touchscreen system. You can also say it's better than the Maserati's unit because it is. The Fiat-Chrysler shared system has come a long way in the past few years and is now beginning to catch up. You control the phone, DAB+, radio and phone connectivity through the screen as well as the climate control.

The screen responds reasonably quickly and the layout is much, much better than it used to be and is now looking like it belongs in the twenty-first century. It seems the deletion of satnav cleans up the huge mess in other versions.

The Blackhawk's 1834kg is hauled along by a 3.2-litre aluminium Pentastar V6 developing 200kW and 316Nm of torque, ordinary numbers considering its size. Rather less surprising is the 10.0L/100km combined figure that looked a lot more like 15.0L/100km in mostly city driving, with some enthusiastic but light off-roading thrown in. The 0-100km/h time is around 10 seconds.

Bang up to date, however, is the nine-speed automatic transmission from ZF plugged into a 4x4 on demand system with selectable terrain control (Auto, Mud/Snow, Sport) and low-range. The Cherokee is rated to 450kg towing unbraked and 2200kg braked.

Six-cylinder Cherokees have always been reasonably good to drive if not particularly economical. The Pentastar V6 dates back to 2011 and is missing a few features such as direct-injection to help reduce emissions and increase power. Nevertheless, it's a very smooth and quiet engine, helping to keep the cabin quiet so the kids can ruin the relative silence. Even the Blackhawk's 18-inch wheels fail to upset the hush.

On tarmac, the car's limits are, shall we say, low and easily-reached. A not particularly quick swing into a side-street coupled with a swerve to avoid an idiot coming the other way on the wrong side of the road resulted in loudly protesting tyres before the electronics reigned everything back in. Pushing on through corners means a fair amount of understeer, but chasing hot hatches is hardly the point of this car, despite the firmish ride.

In auto mode, the drive-by-wire throttle is too doughy and needs a good prod to get some forward motion but then you get too much. Of little help is the transmission which in Sport mode is extraordinarily recalcitrant on the upshift, but that mode does improve the throttle.

When driven as intended – sedately on the road, like a lunatic off it – the Cherokee is a good companion that lives up to its name. Its sand mode is particularly good and we enjoyed bouncing around on rocks and gravel no end – the ride stays composed but with just enough bounce to make it fun. The fun's over when the rocks get a little larger or the hills too steep (wrong tyres and wheels), but if you want super-serious off-roading, buy a Defender and some earplugs.

Seven airbags (including a knee bag for the driver), stability and traction controls, rollover stability, trailer sway control and ABS scored the Cherokee five ANCAP stars.

Verdict

The Cherokee Blackhawk is a stylish spec level with its blacked out bits and pieces, combined with a decent specification (lack of satnav excepted) and, relative to other Jeeps, sharp pricing. There aren't too many cars that will do what the Cherokee does at its price point/size with such aplomb and that's why you'd buy it.

Click here to see more 2016 Jeep Cherokee Blackhawk pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$24,440
Based on 28 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$16,999
Highest Price
$29,490

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
75th Anniversary (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $25,850 – 31,900 2016 Jeep Cherokee 2016 75th Anniversary (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Blackhawk (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $20,790 – 26,290 2016 Jeep Cherokee 2016 Blackhawk (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Limited (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $23,999 – 29,490 2016 Jeep Cherokee 2016 Limited (4x4) Pricing and Specs
Longitude (4x4) 3.2L, ULP, 9 SP AUTO $16,999 – 26,995 2016 Jeep Cherokee 2016 Longitude (4x4) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
6.6
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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