New Jeep Cherokee 2018 review

The Jeep Cherokee’s latest facelift brings welcome improvements to safety equipment and infotainment while refining the previously challenging styling. But it’s still a car which, despite bearing one of the most iconic names in the SUV class, is just another indistinct face in the crowd, failing to trouble the best rivals in any area.

The Jeep Cherokee is one of the longest-running names in the SUV world. With the first edition making its debut all the way back in 1974, it’s got 15 years on even the Land Rover Discovery. But has time been kind to it?

This fifth-generation model has been treated to a mid-life facelift: there’s revised styling, mildly updated suspension and an improved infotainment setup in a bid to keep it fresh against both mass-market crossovers like the Ford Kuga and Volkswagen Tiguan, as well as more premium rivals like the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.

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Some of the styling changes will no doubt be welcome. The old car’s pointy face had a whiff of Alec Baldwin in Beetlejuice about it, which didn’t sit well at all on a chunky SUV. By contrast, the new car’s tweaked front bumper and squared-off headlights (now LED) look both more conventional and more rugged, and it’s all the better for it.

There was nothing particularly wrong with the old model’s back end, but the latest car moves the number plate from the bumper to the boot lid, while the tail-lights boast revised graphics, too.

For a car of its size, it’s fairly roomy inside: rear leg and headroom are on par with the Kuga. However, the Jeep’s boot is much larger: total volume grows to 570 litres, which is more than you get in the BMW.

But while it can compete strongly with premium rivals for practicality, it falls well short on interior design. Despite changes to the gear shift surround and interior materials, the dashboard looks like the one in a previous-generation Hyundai Tucson – with just as many hard, scratchy plastics on show. The latest Jeep Wrangler rocks a rugged, chunky dash design to sets it apart from mainstream rivals, but the Cherokee remains stuck with a dull, generic look. It’s the most disappointing aspect of the car.

At least the new infotainment systems are a positive introduction. Depending on spec, you get either a seven or 8.4-inch touchscreen, both of which feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s annoying that some climate functions can only be operated through the display, but loading times are quick and the menus are easy to access thanks to an on-screen shortcut menu.

There’s four trim levels on offer: Sport, Longitude, Limited and Overland, while an off road-biased Trailhawk is due in 2019. All models get forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, rear cross path detection and a rear view camera. The Longitude model offers pretty much everything you’ll need, while the Overland adds fancy extras like soft Nappa leather and a huge panoramic glass roof.

Following the facelift, it looks like UK buyers will have only one engine to choose from: a 2.2-litre diesel with 192bhp. Power delivery is smooth, but it doesn’t feel as quick as the hefty 450Nm torque figure suggests. Making the most of that oomph results in a pronounced clatter under acceleration, too. It’s paired with a nine-speed automatic gearbox carried over from the last Cherokee, but which benefits from revised software. It shifts very smoothly most of the time, but still feels dim-witted in manual mode or when kicking down.

It’s available with both front- and four-wheel drive. The latter is claimed to hit 46.3mpg, though based on the car’s indicated reading during our test, a figure closer to 33mpg seems more realistic.

Whichever you choose – and despite changes to the suspension which Jeep claims improves both ride and handling – the Cherokee feels ponderous through the turns. A hefty, imprecise steering rack doesn’t do the car any favours, and the nose-heavy chassis is prone to understeer.

The ride is reasonable overall, but overly-soft dampers means that it wallows from bump to bump on more undulating roads. It’s stable enough at motorway speeds, but an X3 is more comfortable still – and could run rings around it along a twisty road. More worryingly, the same can be said of the much cheaper Skoda Kodiaq, too.

And the price is the final sticking point. While precise figures are yet to be confirmed, it’ll take a drastic price drop relative to the pre-facelift car to prevent a top-spec Cherokee Overland from costing BMW money. Against a car that is faster, more efficient, more spacious, and much more stylish inside, it’s very hard to justify.

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