Jeep Cherokee V6 Limited review
by David Finlay (19 January 2002)
I drove one of the original UK-spec Jeep Cherokees when they were launched to the press back in the early 1990s and immediately wanted one. In fact, the only car I wanted more at that time was a Mercedes C36 AMG. What was particularly astonishing about this new-found Jeep craving was that I had never even considered myself as the owner of an off-road vehicle; but the Cherokee (for all its faults, chief among which was a lack of interior space) was just irresistible, or would have been if funds had allowed a purchase.
The new Cherokee is roomier than that first model. Other than that, I can hardly think of any reason why it is better.
The styling has come in for a lot of criticism, some veiled, some not so veiled. Probably the most common remark made about the otherwise incognito Suzuki Jimny is that it is the car the new Cherokee looks like an overgrown version of. I miss the simpler but more elegant lines of the outgoing model.
Of course, it's difficult to disguise the fact that the car is high, narrow and short simply by styling it to appear otherwise. The same problem arises in the suspension. Grip levels are reasonable, but because of the basic shape, virtually anything you do, other than drive at a constant speed along a straight and flat road, makes the Cherokee either pitch or lean heavily. Sometimes both at once. This makes it a very uncomfortable car to drive.
Admittedly, it's a problem faced by any manufacturer trying to make the on-road/off-road compromise. What makes it so irritating in this case is not just that other manufacturers are doing the job so much better, but that Jeep themselves did it better ten years ago.
The test car, a 3.7-litre V6 Limited, was the top of the range model, with £1200 worth of optional heated leather seats. It's very well-equipped, it's comfortable to sit in (as long as it isn't moving) and it has a lot of power, the maximum output being 208bhp. Ford Sierra Cosworths had less than that, and turbocharged Subaru Imprezas only slightly more.
On paper, this is reasonably good news, as it brings the 0-62mph down to just over ten seconds (though again that's no better than Cherokees of a decade back could manage). In the real world, you rarely feel tempted to use the potential because you're already suffering from body movement and you're not sure your stomach can take much more of it. And in any case, you have to work significantly harder to get the same real-world results, such as quick overtaking manoeuvres, than you would in a wide range of turbo diesel-powered rivals.
The considerable power, the breeze block aerodynamics and the none too subtle four-speed automatic transmission (there is no manual equivalent available for the 3.7-litre engine) have a ferocious effect on fuel consumption. A combined cycle fuel figure of worse than 20mpg gives you some idea of the problem. During my time with the car I was dismayed at how rapidly the fuel gauge needle swung towards the "empty" mark, and relieved that I had no reason to make a long journey that week.
Almost the only reason for choosing this engine over any turbo diesel would be that it sounds better. And I can't think of a diesel which even approaches the V6 Cherokee's CO2 figure of 347g/km, a figure which suggests that owners are going to be taxed to smithereens.
Considering how good the older-generation car was, I think Jeep has seriously lost the plot with the new version, and anyone considering a decent 4x4 from the Chrysler stable would be well advised to pay no attention and go for the Grand Cherokee instead.
Second opinion: M'yes. That eye-watering fuel consumption is something to think about very seriously, and there's no doubt that if I was running a Cherokee I'd want it to be a 2.5-litre common rail turbo diesel CRD. I quite like the way Jeep has given the latest Cherokee an individual yet obviously American interior; it knows how to do attractive instrumentation, for instance. But although the cabin is a vast improvement on its Kentucky-diner predecessor, it's easy to get misled about how much rear passenger space it offers. One thing to bear in mind about this Cherokee, as was proved in the private-estate section of last year's press launch exercise, is that it's a 4x4 which doesn't mess about when the going gets really tough. It is - correct - seriously overshadowed by the Grand Cherokee, but I'm not troubled by the new styling approach. Jeep is very consistent about that, and there have been several concept cars developing the basic theme, which is intended partly to get away from the Grand Cherokee and partly to get to something like a 21st-century roofed and road-going version of much earlier models. Ross Finlay.