Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel Review and First Drive

by under Review on 22 Oct 2014 01:46:39 PM22 Oct 2014
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2014 JEEP CHEROKEE
Price Range
$33,500 - $49,000
Fuel Consumption
5.8L - 10L/100km
4RATING
PROS

Brilliant diesel; best-in-segment nine-speed automatic; genuine off-road capability; classy interior

CONS

On-road dynamics not as sharp as some; only available in Limited variant

Jeep’s all-new Cherokee mid-size SUV was well-received by critics and customers when launched just a few months back but one box wasn’t ticked – a diesel-powered model. Jeep has rectified that big-time with the launch this week of the Cherokee Limited Diesel, boasting a brilliant European-origin 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine and best-in-class nine-speed automatic transmission.

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Just as well because with so much competition for the burgeoning mid-size SUV market segment, brands bringing less than their ‘A-Game’ will find the going tough. As at the end of September, the ‘SUV Medium <$60K’segment had accounted for 82,127 sales so far in 2014 – it’s massive and attracts a mix of private and fleet buyers with varying requirements of their vehicles (hence the trend to 2WD variants).

Everyone knows, Fiat-owned Jeep is one of the world’s premier SUV brands and the all-new Cherokee chaperones an upcoming expanded range of models targeting global buyers. For now, with the full Cherokee lineup in showrooms – starting with the $33,500 2WD ‘Sport’ model - the iconic American is positioned to take-on any mid-size rival. 

Jeep Cherokee Diesel Overview

Jeep has launched the turbo-diesel version of its mid-size Cherokee SUV in one variant – the luxurious all-wheel-drive ‘Limited’ model – very sharply priced at $49,000. With five-star ANCAP safety plus a heap of tech such as the best-in-class nine-speed automatic transmission, segment-first fuel-saving rear axle disconnect and a towing capacity of 2393kgs, the Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel certainly asks questions of even the best in this league.

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The diesel version shares the cutting-edge new looks of the petrol-powered Jeep Cherokee range which arrived in Australia earlier this year. Up front, the slim-line headlights and pointy version of Jeep’s hallmark seven-bar grille not only reinforce the aerodynamics, they give a hint to the Cherokee being the torch-bearer for a bunch of new Jeeps including the compact Renegade model which isn’t too far away from launch.

Jeep Cherokee Diesel Engine

Power comes from the MultiJet2 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel developed by Jeep’s parent company Fiat. With 125kW of power at 4000rpm and peak torque of 350Nm from 17540rpm, Jeep Cherokee’s turbo-diesel outpunches rival Toyota RAV4’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel (110kW/340Nm).

Fuel consumption for the Jeep Cherokee Limited diesel is rated at 5.8l/100kms which also betters RAV4 (6.5l/100kms for the six-speed auto ‘Cruiser’ model).

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And Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel trumps rivals with its best-in-class nine-speed automatic transmission. As we know in the industry’s never-ending quest for optimized fuel consumption, transmission ratios are becoming more numerous, but Jeep Cherokee impresses by offering the nine-speeder as standard right across the range (even the entry-level two-wheel-drive 2.4-litre petrol ‘Sport’ model).

And underneath is Jeep’s Active Drive II all-wheel-drive system with the claimed industry-first rear axle disconnect system which means for urban running the Cherokee Limited Diesel is in fuel-saving front-wheel-drive mode. 

Jeep Cherokee Diesel The Interior

The good news is as Jeep is exclusively offering the turbo-diesel Cherokee in the ‘Limited’ variant, you get the whole enchilada of interior luxury and tech. This starts with nicely-style leather-trimmed seats (fronts heated) and also includes satellite navigation and a premium nine-speaker Alpine audio system.

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Jeep is of course as American as Disneyland and the Statue Of Liberty and for Australian families that ‘Americanization’  translates into a very spacious and comfortable interior for the mid-size Cherokee. Those nice, leather-trimmed units in the Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel offer good support and combine with rake/reach adjustment for the leather-wrapped three-spoke steering wheel to offer a comfy driving position.

The ‘Limited’ model specification also brings the upscale 7.0-inch instrument cluster and Jeep’s slick ‘Uconnect’ 8.4-inch touchscreen for the audio, navigation and climate control.

Rear seat and cargo space is impressive and the latter bests most in this league. 

Jeep Cherokee Diesel Exterior & Styling

As we reported when the all-new Jeep Cherokee was launched a few months back, this is a Jeep, but not as we’ve known them. This is the new Fiat-owned Jeep under the control of the Italian Sergio Marchionne and run by Brit Mike Manley with a mission to diversify, modernize and grow.

So the Cherokee arrives brandishing new, ‘softened’ looks which are right from the ‘contemporary’ section of the automotive styling handbook. Up front there is the iconic Jeep seven-bar grille, but again, not like we’re used to – it’s sharp and aerodynamic.

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Same for those ultra-slim headlights – oh, so modern, aero and eschewing the trend to over-sized lights which have become common.

Side-view too sees a new, soft look for Jeep with a modern twist to a larger glass area than we expect from the American superbrand. Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel rides on nice-looking 18-inch alloy wheels which sit under wheel-arches with plastic edges (matched on the side sills) for off-road protection.

The back-end sees a nice shape for the tailgate (deep opening for easy loading by the way), large modern tail-lights and the new version of the Jeep badge. 

Jeep Cherokee Diesel On The Road

Just a brief sample of the all-new Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel was all www.carshowroom.com.au needed to confirm this is a worthy addition to the Cherokee lineup. Good and as refined as the Limited V6 petrol model is, the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with its extra torque (350Nm to 316Nm for the V6) may even have an edge.

Underneath is Jeep’s Active Drive II all-wheel-drive system with enough low-range for some serious off-road action and Jeep’s brilliant rear axle disconnect system for enhanced refinement/fuel-consumption on-road. So, around town the Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel is a smooth and refined operator with abundant acceleration for freeway merging and impressive quietness even in the peak-hour hustle/bustle.

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That large format 8.4-inch Unconnect screen gives a great reversing camera image and Jeep’s parking system further helps tight maneuvers.

Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop, naturally a vehicle with this much off-road ‘cred’ exhibits a tad more body roll and requires just a bit more steering that the likes of Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga. The Kuga CX-5 are both Car Showroom Favourites partly for their sporty on-road dynamics but, to be fair, they won’t take you anywhere near as far into the bush or over sand as the Jeep Cherokee and they certainly don’t match the American’s 2393kgs towing capacity.

Jeep Cherokee Diesel Issues

Like the Toyota RAV4 and others with legitimate off-road ability, through the high-speed twisty stuff the steering of the Jeep Cherokee isn’t as pin-sharp as the more on-road biased Mazda CX-5. And some may have been expecting the diesel model to be available in more basic trim/equipment levels for serious bush-bashing. 

Jeep Cherokee Diesel Verdict

With more than 30 per-cent of medium SUV buyers stumping-up for diesel power, this is a vital vehicle for Jeep. As per the rest of the Jeep Cherokee lineup, the new diesel model is a winner.

That MultiJet2 turbo-diesel is mighty powerful in a vehicle this size and, driving through that best-in-class nine-speed automatic, refinement levels are also impressive. Lots of Jeep technology ensures the Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel ticks all the boxes for those who want a little bit more from their SUV than just the school and shopping mall runs…and isn’t that why you’d buy a Jeep anyway?

And with those North American origins, creature comforts and space also get a ‘green tick’.

Add-in excellent build quality, stylish good looks and - in ‘Limited’ guise - luxuriously appointed and full of extra kit, the Jeep Cherokee Diesel at $49,000 does seriously question the value-for-money of segment rivals. 

Jeep Cherokee Diesel The Competition

They don’t come more diverse than Australia’s mid-size SUV segment. And diversity of choice means buyers should ask themselves a basic question before buying: how important are off-road ability and towing to my needs?

‘Exhibit A’ is the segment’s best-seller the Mazda CX-5. A Car Showroom Favourite, the Mazda CX-5 has a massive range starting at $27,880 for the front-drive Maxx model ($32,880 for the first AWD variant), it  looks great, drives great and is good at just about everything – except serious off-roading.

That brings us to the segment number two the Toyota RAV4. Like the Jeep Cherokee, 4WD versions of the RAV (starting from $31,990 and going to $48,990) have what it takes to tackle even harsh off-road conditions.

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