8 months with a Renault Clio

Top Car's Wayne Batty says goodbye to his Renault Clio. It’s not a soppy farewell but the little 'automatique' did its maker proud.

Kia's trendy family pick

Wheels24's Janine Van der Post experiences the upcoming Cerato.

New Jeep Cherokee here

2009-08-31 13:50
Jeep Cherokee
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Jeep
Model Cherokee
Engine 3.7-litre V6, 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power 151kW @ 5 200r/min, 130kW @ 3 800r/min
Torque 314Nm @ 4 000r/min, 410Nm @ 2 000-2 800r/min (460N
Transmission Four-speed auto, Six-speed manual, Five-speed auto
Zero To Hundred 10.7, 10.5, 11.5 seconds
Top Speed 193-, 180-, 179km/h
Fuel Tank 73.8-litre (petrol), 70-litre (diesel)
Fuel Consumption 11.7l/100km (petrol), 9.4l/100km (diesel)
Weight 1935kg (petrol), 1980kg (diesel)
Boot Size 420-litres
ABS Yes, with ESP, EBD
Airbags Yes, font driver and passanger, side curtain
Front Suspension Double-wishbone
Rear Suspension Live axle
Warranty 3 year/100 000km
Rivals Honda CR-V, Land-Rover Freelander, Toyota Fortuner

Lance Branquinho

Meet the new, all Jeep, Cherokee. Well that is the marketing spin anyway. But does the new styling herald a complete makeover? Has the icon gone soft?

With Chrysler now in the second year of private ownership – by venture capital group Cerberus – after the messy Daimler-Chrysler divorce, the Cherokee is flagged to be a key driver of Chrysler’s new export linked growth strategy.

Back to original building blocks

Although the previous Cherokee was a successful model for the brand locally, the round-headlights and discernibly softer styling had perhaps moved too far beyond the characteristic, squared off design of the original Cherokee.

The new model harks back to the first generation XJ styling cues, with a squared-off profile and an oversized, ‘Commander’ inspired grille and front-end treatment.

Proportions are neat, and although the garish grille and shiny side-strip insets look a bit odd on models finished in white, overall the new styling is an attractive blend of original Cherokee cues and contemporary refinement.

Considered in detail, the new car has seen the spare tyre move under-body, freeing up load space – now 420 litres – and allowing a 100mm deep waterproof stowage area under the loadbay, perfect for wetsuits and muddied mountain bike gear.

The front air-dam is now fully removable too – loosen three plugs, takes about four minutes – to render an impressive 38.2-degree approach angle for off-roading.

Safari roof option?

Perhaps the most striking new feature is the optional Sky-Slider retractable roof. Although R12 900 is hardly cheap (only R2 900 more than the standard sunroof though), it’s quite a clever bit of engineering, enabling retraction from either front or rear, and with the rear seats folded down it makes an entirely stable viewing platform for wildlife ranging and photography.

Chrysler’s MyGIG infotainment system is R14 900 extra, and provides a very convincing built-in navigation, audio, entertainment and communication system solution. The 20 Gig hard drive can hold up to 1 600 songs, interfaces seamlessly with your iPod, and can store and view Jpeg compression images from your digital camera.

It renders a very useful, safe stowage, portable hard drive when on vacation and running out of memory card space in the bush for your camera. Featuring a 6.5-inch, thin-film-transistor screen, the centre mounted MyGIG display is conveniently viewable from across the cabin even at an angle of 180-degrees.

Standard Cherokee in-car entertainment is typically elaborate in the American tradition. All models – both the Sport and Limited – feature CD players (Limited gets a 6-disc shuttle) with MP3/WMA compatibility and a 3.5 mm audio input jack.

The rest of the interior is standard Jeep fare. It’s hardly spacious, although rear legroom is better than a Grand Cherokee now, and although the front passenger gets a dash mounted brace bar, you’ll miss the front roof-mounted grab handle, absent due to the presence of side-airbags, according to Jeep…

No lockers, should we care?

Beyond the revised styling and new accessories the key question is: can the new Cherokee still churn its way up and over an off-road trail?

Drivetrains remain basic and under stressed with a mildly reworked 3.7-litre V6 petrol essentially carried over from the previous range. It produces 151kW and 314Nm and drives through a thoroughly antiquated four-speed automatic transmission.

Diesel buyers have the new Panther – we kid you not – series turbodiesel to consider. A 2.8-litre four-pot, with variable geometry turbocharging, it produces 130kW and 410Nm of torque driving through a six-speed manual transmission, whilst the five-speed automatic gearbox versions have 460Nm on tap.

Although the new Cherokee has user friendly, console switch selectable four-wheel drive engagement – from two- to four-wheel, and high- to low-range – it foregoes the presence of any differential locking system. Instead you have second generation Selec-Trac four-wheel-drive providing full-time, active on-demand torque distribution able to anticipate and quell wheel slip before it occurs.

Suspending the new Cherokee over undulations is an independent double-wishbone front suspension augmented by a live-axle, five-link rear set-up. The damping is road-biased and ground clearance, with the 17-inch, 235/65 standard Limited-spec tyre set-up, is only 189mm up front and 196mm at the rear.

Lower spec Sport models have 16-inch mags shod with 235/70 tyres, whilst optional 235/60s on 18-inch mags are an option on Limited models – all Cherokees are shod with Goodyear Eagle RSA tyres.

On the road, over the trail

Low-range, but no lockers. Double-wishbone front suspension and a kerb weight of just under two tons. Does this equate to a viable on/off-road performance blend or a hapless compromise?

On tar the new car is not as sharp handling as Japanese soft-roaders, with typically wandering American steering. Ride is okay – especially the Sport models with their 235/70 tyres and 16-inch wheels – yet the driving position is still ruined with the protruding transmission tunnel vanquishing any left-footrest position.

Both petrol and diesel engines have a languid, yet keen feel to them – they’ve obviously been profiled for longevity instead of instant throttle response. The torque is there, although some of the transmissions are a bit selfish in distributing it.

Considering the 3.7 V6 petrol, especially, the four-speed auto-box is maddeningly obstinate. Slow to shift between any of its four-ratios and brutal when throttle assaulted to initiate a shift-down, it really does the petrol model few favours with respect to drivetrain refinement.

The new diesel is pleasant, the six-speed manual hardly features a performance car shift action, yet sixth ratio is a comfortable cruising gear blending keen economy – Jeep claims 9.4l/100km in the combined cycle.

Off-road the new Cherokee seems markedly more at home. Even the Flintstones-spec petrol four-speed auto-box is of little hindrance, the engines low-down torque allowing stress free throttle modulation to climb obstacles.

Obviously ground clearance is hardly boulder-crossing, but with the front air-dam removed you end up with a keen 38.2-degree approach angle, and the Selec-Trac all-wheel drive system traction is very secure.

Although feeding in throttle when you feel wheels spinning and traction slipping is counter-intuitive the Selec-Trac system thrives on it, modulating wheel slippage and torque distribution masterfully. After a few runs on the Jeep obstacle course in the Drakensberg I was subtlety impressed.

All new Cherokee automatic models also feature hill-decent control, ready to be engaged when in four-wheel drive low-range. The system is quite severe, able to slow the Cherokee down to 1.5km/h in extreme downhill situations driving through first-gear in low range. It works a charm, and should be of great solace to many off-road novices when tackling composure testing long-range descents.

Soft or not?

The new Cherokee is a peculiar vehicle. With many buyers keen on downsizing from larger SUVs, it finds itself priced in the soft-road end of the market, undercutting most comparably sized SUVs with commensurate off-road ability.

Prices start at R299 000 for the entry-level 3.7 V6 Sport and round off at R369 000 for the Limited 2.8 five-speed automatic turbodiesel. The new Cherokee is easily more capable off-road than any of its Asian soft-road competitors, although on-road composure and interior design still lags behind the Orientals.

While it’s hardly as rugged as a more expensive Fortuner if you’re planning a four-country overlanding trip, it has enough off-road ability to entertain the occasional weekend trail warrior. Now, if they could only marry the 3.7 V6 with a decent five-speed transmission…


Cherokee Sport 2.8 CRD A5 - R349 900.00
Cherokee Sport 2.8 CRD M6 - R339 900.00
Cherokee Sport 3.7 A6 - R299 900.00
Cherokee Ltd 2.8 CRD A5 - R369 900.00
Cherokee Ltd 2.8 CRD M6 - R359 900.00
Cherokee Ltd 3.7 A6 - R319 900.00

Inside Wheels24

Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in SA

Want to experience what it's like to be behind the wheel of a 419kW sports car? Take a virtual tour of the McLaren 570S in our interactive Snapchat video filmed in SA.

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.