MAN, it was depressing getting back into the work Astra. I’d just spent a few days in a Jeep Cherokee Limited 4X4 and it was bliss. Organised once again by the helpful team at Cricks Mt Gravatt, we’ll start my Cherokee journey from the beginning.
Having previously tested a Grand Cherokee, I felt a definite sense of familiarity upon jumping into the smaller model. However, smaller is a relative word. The Cherokee is by no means a small car but it does a good job of not feeling like a massive one either. At the Cricks Mt Gravatt yard, I fired up my Bright White Cherokee Limited’s 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 petrol motor and took a few minutes to acclimatise.
First up, the front seats were deliciously comfortable (and heated if you so wish), especially in black nappa leather, and supportive in all the right places. I soon discovered they were also extremely adjustable, and after several button touches on the seat’s side, I was in the perfect driving position. The steering wheel was very adjustable too, and I made good use of its reach adjustment in bringing it much closer to my chest (I can’t stand driving with my arms stretched out in front of me like I’m holding a ladder).
The folks at Cricks were kind enough to loan me a vehicle fitted with a Technology Group pack, which includes such gadgetry as adaptive cruise control with stop and go, advanced brake assist, auto high-beam headlight control, blind spot and cross path detection, full speed forward collision warning plus, lane departure warning plus, parallel and perpendicular park assist with stop and a Parkview reversing camera.
I was having fun and hadn’t even started driving. A terrific Alpine nine-speaker premium sound system is fitted as standard to the Cherokee Limited, so I was quick to personalise the equaliser, seamlessly pair my phone via Bluetooth through the 8.4” Uconnect central colour touchscreen and turn up the volume.
Now ready to head back to BNB HQ, I moved the bulbous shift lever to D and set off. Unlike the Grand Cherokee, the Cherokee has operational stalks on both sides of the steering wheel, so care was needed to avoid an embarrassing wiper instead of indicator moment because the indicator stalk is on the left in Jeeps.
Funnily enough, I avoided such a calamity for the entirety of my Jeep loan period, yet messed up and smudged the windscreen in the first hundred metres of the return drive in the work Astra – which didn’t improve my mood one bit. Anyway, on the drive back to the office I was super impressed with the Cherokee’s noise, vibration and harshness levels (or lack thereof).
The cabin is very well insulated and road and tyre noise are kept muted to the point where I described it as driving on a cloud. As for drivetrain noise, applying anything under 30 percent throttle results in near-seamless and silent transportation. In fact, sitting at a set of lights on a detour to Macca’s, I adjusted the fan control on the centre stack and the engine suddenly kicked into life, scaring the crap out of me. I hadn’t heard or felt the thing stop!
I pride myself on being an observant driver and this Jeep had just got the better of me with its engine’s stop/start system. Damn you Jeep. Visit to the Golden Arches satisfyingly complete, I pressed two buttons on the centre stack, easily disabling the lane departure and stop/start systems.
Yes, I’m a bit of a control freak and am not a huge fan of a car controlling itself. The interior of the Cherokee was definitely my favourite aspect.
From the outside, its rear end was relatively clean and inoffensive, however the car’s nose was a little too squinting hippo for me. I will admit it did grow on me and by the end of our time together I really didn’t mind the looks from whatever angle.
In any case, in its Bright White duco with polished 18” wheels, my Cherokee Limited caught the attention of many a passer-by. While a little showy, looks are absolutely a personal choice, and there’s no doubt this model portrays a certain amount of class. Come night-time and the brilliant bi-function halogen projector headlights came to life. With self-levelling and a beautifully clear-cut field of vision, the headlights made night driving a pleasure.
Cornering lights that cast a beam shortly in front and to the side of the car when making a turn were a cool if slightly redundant feature.
The Technology Group package meant my Jeep had park assist, which is a feature I was itching to try. I’d seen cars park themselves on TV ads but never in real life, and I’d certainly never sat passively in the driver’s seat while it happened. Well thanks to editor Ben and his wife Greta, my girlfriend and I had tickets to the Gangsters’ Ball at the Tivoli Theatre on a Saturday night.
Before leaving the Redlands, I input the Tivoli’s address into the GPS navigation system. The nav system was bang on and didn’t take us down any back alleys or into the bush en route to our destination. The computerised woman directing us there was also exceedingly polite and regularly said please before giving a command, which was lovely.
Once navigation had been selected on the Uconnect screen, we switched back to the radio, resulting in nav instructions being relayed through the speakers at appropriate times and instructions to turn appearing on the 7” colour TFT instrument cluster. I knew parking in the city on a Saturday night was going to be a mission, but we lucked out and found a park on Gregory Terrace not 100m from the Tivoli.
Not having read any instructions on how to use a park assist system, I hit the indicator and tried to follow the steps on the instrument cluster screen. I was doing something wrong however, and the system couldn’t acknowledge the fact a parking space was available, so I reverse parked myself without a worry thanks to the impressively clear and bright (rear fog lights) reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to try the park assist system again.
The following day I took the Cherokee down a local dirt road and boy did it love that. I left the Selec-Terrain system in Auto and despite some corrugations and the occasional bigger rock, the Jeep was composed, smooth and swift across the gravel. It was testament to the dual personality of the Cherokee that it could comfortably commute into the bustling inner city and just as easily go soft-roading on a whim.
While I enjoyed most things about my Cherokee, ferrying Carly’s parents to a birthday dinner resulted in complaints about rear-seat discomfort.
I’m not sure if this would prove an issue with young kids on long journeys, but if thinking of investing in a Cherokee, it might be worth bringing the young ones along for a test drive.
The one thing I disliked about the Grand Cherokee was its foot-operated park brake and subsequent lack of left leg room. Happily, the Cherokee dodged this issue by employing an electric park brake operated by a little toggle switch behind the shifter. My left leg was exceptionally pleased.
I wasn’t so pleased with the drivetrain, or more aptly, the nine-speed automatic transmission. The 3.2-litre V6 produces a stout 200kW of power but just 316nm of torque. That’s not a whole lot of twist for an 1800kg vehicle. Subsequently, the engine’s smooth but relatively high-revving nature meant any depression of the accelerator resulted in the nine-speeder dropping about five ratios to grab the appropriate gear and find the torque required to travel uphill or overtake, sometimes resulting in shunty driving characteristics.
Fuel economy was not this drivetrain’s strongest suit either, and while I probably drive with a heavier foot than most Cherokee owners, I returned 11.1 litres per 100km. What I wouldn’t give to see the Grand Cherokee’s three-litre V6 turbo diesel and eight-speed auto wedged into the smaller car.
In any case, the petrol engine’s free-revving demeanour results in a lively driving experience if the mood strikes, and the terrific steering wheel weights up nicely off centre, all adding up to a pleasurable vehicle to drive the vast majority of the time.
Ultimately, the Jeep Cherokee does an admirable job as a suburban soldier/weekend warrior. Comfortable, smooth, quiet and capacious, it offers a lot of good things for a lot of people.
In terms of tech, you’d be hard-pressed to find a car in this price range with as much electronic gear loaded into it. Speaking of price, as tested the Cherokee Limited petrol with Technology Group pack will set you back $53,955 drive away ($50,955 without the Tech pack). As mentioned, the Limited is a car that is chock-full of quality appointments, and entry to the Cherokee club starts at just $35,000 drive away for the Sport.
From there you can move up the model range and add options and groups as you wish, including the Electronics Convenience and Technology groups and much more.
If you’d like to take a closer look at a Jeep, visit mtgravattjeep.com.au or stop by the Cricks Mt Gravatt yard located at 1323 Logan Rd, Mt Gravatt.