Jeep Cherokee

Less polarising face still has an eye for rough stuff

RYAN LEWIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THERE is only one mid-size SUV on sale with proper off-road chops: the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk. No other vehicle in the segment is available with a low-range transfer case, and that rut-riding ability, and its V6 engine, give the rugged American a distinct point of difference. But this generation has had a hard time finding favour with Aussies, a problem that Jeep admits came down to its looks.

The 2019 facelift ditches its squinty, double-decker headlight design and brings an equipment upgrade as well. All four variants carry over existing engines rather than the 2.0-litre turbo fourcylinder introduced overseas.

Cherokee Sport runs a petrol 2.4-litre atmo four producing 130kW/229Nm sent to the front wheels only. Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk use Jeepís 200kW/315Nm 3.2-litre Pentastar V6, which is an energetic (and thirsty) performer with a likeably throaty soundtrack. All versions get a nine-speed auto, though only Trailhawk has tricky off-road internals (lightened by 8kg), an extra drive mode and mechanical locking rear differential.

PLUS & MINUS

Off-road toughness; less polarising styling; safety upgrades Dynamic polish lags behind class leaders; thirsty engines

Model 2019 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Engine 3239cc V6, dohc, 24v

Max power 200kW @ 6500rpm

Max torque 315Nm @ 4300rpm

Transmission 9-speed auto

Weight 1889kg

0-100km/h 8.4s (claimed)

Economy 10.2L/100km

Price $48,450

On sale October

Jeep has tweaked Cherokeeís gearbox calibration to improve shifting refinement, and it gives no cause for complaint other than some lag when using the new paddle shifters. Cabin refinement as a whole is impressive. Measures were taken to fix NVH issues and itís now notably quiet inside.

Dynamically, itís still a little off the pace of class leaders. Thereís head-toss over lumps in the road from the tough suspension, and its light steering isnít CX-5-accurate, but these compromises arenít new and wonít seem so bad if you plan to use its off-road aptitude.

Time will tell whether the styling changes are enough to lure the masses, though the revised fasciae are an improvement. Boot space behind the sliding rear bench seat is 76mm wider thanks to revised trim on either side, still with a full-size spare under the floor in every variant.

At launch only the two rangetoppers will be in showrooms; the premium Limited and robust Trailhawk, priced from $46,950 and $48,450 respectively. Sport and Longitude will fill out the range in early 2019 from $35,950.

All models take on additional safety aids and Apple/Android smartphone integration, but itís the Limited and Trailhawk that have the most to boast about with full active safety suites, a large, responsive infotainment screen and LED lighting front and rear.

Jeepís rugged reputation is held up by Cherokeeís performance, and with its more mainstream appearance and an attractive five-year warranty and servicing plan, it should be much harder for prospective buyers to ignore.

RYAN LEWIS

Go on, play rough

Cherokee Trailhawk is a proper force on rough stuff. Heavy-duty mechanicals managed by sophisticated torque distribution systems give it surprising ability on difficult terrain. Selecting low-range makes quick work of steep, rocky tracks. Its tall ground clearance of 221mm is on par with most dual-cab utes, and there are protective plates underneath as standard. Options include more aggressive tyres (available at a dealer level) for those who are serious.