A few short months on from the original local launch of the all-new Jeep Cherokee, the bold new styling continues to polarise opinion. That said, the styling has certainly grown on me the more I see the Cherokee on the road. It’s not pretty as such, but it doesn’t look as ‘out there’ anymore either.
Now, Jeep has completed the new Cherokee range with this, the 2015 Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel model. Priced a tick under 50 grand at $49,000 plus on-road costs, the diesel Cherokee sits above the Trailhawk petrol model, which costs $47,900. It is also $5000 more than the equivalent Limited petrol model.
A five-star ANCAP rating is standard for all Cherokee models and this Limited Diesel also comes standard with adaptive cruise control, automatic headlight levelling, front and rear parking sensors with stop and a reverse-view camera.
We know the Cherokee Limited Diesel isn’t as affordable as some of the competitors within the segment, but we also know that the Cherokee is impressively loaded with standard equipment across the range. We also know about the Cherokee Limited’s biggest weapon that no other mid-sized SUV has – serious off-road ability.
You can read our full pricing and specification breakdown to get the lowdown on the facts and figures. The important point on that spec list though is the fact that the oil burner, unlike the petrol Limited, gets Jeep’s dual-range 4WD system, which the company calls Active Drive II. What that means in practice is that the Limited Diesel gets genuine off-road prowess. Cherokee diesel gets low range and Select Terrain as part of the Active Drive II package.
While the system adds to the Cherokee’s off-road chops, a clever feature means it disengages the rear axle on-road, helping to deliver an impressive fuel usage figure. On the ADR combined cycle, the Cherokee Limited Diesel returns 5.8L/100km. The figure is also helped by the Diesel engine being matched to the exceptional nine-speed auto and, for the first time in the model range, engine stop/start. Compare that to the 8.3L/100km figure for the petrol (FWD four-cylinder) and 10.0L/100km for the petrol (AWD V6) Cherokee Limited and the Diesel starts to make even more sense. That’s even more relevant if you cover long distances regularly.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine is impressive both on-road and off, and generates 125kW and 350Nm. Already class-leading, the towing capacity of the Cherokee Diesel has been stretched out a little further, up to 2393 kilograms. Whether most owners will use that tow rating or not, the fact remains you can move a decent sized boat, or small caravan with that capability. The Nissan X-Trail and Honda CR-V are the closest to the Cherokee Limited Diesel with a 2000kg rating.
In our original launch drive of the petrol Cherokee models, Tony described the smoothness and effortless performance of the nine-speed ZF transmission (standard across the range) especially as a highlight. He was bang on then, and it’s more of the same with that transmission assisting the diesel engine. 125kw and 350Nm aren’t massive numbers really, but pair an efficient engine to a high tech auto and you get real world ability on-road. Our road loop is short, but the Cherokee Diesel is a comfortable cruiser that you can easily picture covering large distances in. The gearbox shifts between ratios seamlessly and forward progress is smooth regardless of how fast you’re travelling. From a standstill, the Cherokee Diesel will get up to highway speeds as fast as you need to.
As Tony encountered on his launch drive, you’ll rarely see 7th
through to 9th
gear around town, such is the ratio spread, but out on the open road, the engine drops into the higher gears to aid fuel efficiency. Whereas, with the petrol engines, the general consensus is that we’d opt for the larger V6, the four-cylinder diesel seems to be just right on-road. It’s not a rocketship, but it never feels tardy either.
Riding on polished 18-inch alloy wheels, I was also impressed with the tradeoff between comfort and handling on the open road. The Cherokee soaks up all the usual country ruts, bumps and coarse chip bitumen with aplomb, leaving me wondering as to how insulated it would be when we headed off road.
Testament to Jeep’s trust in the vehicle, our drive programme included some serious off-road terrain. My initial concerns with off-road comfort (after the road drive) were wide of the mark too. The Cherokee Diesel displayed an incredible resilience in soaking up all manner of rocky trails and rutted dirt tracks. Take a look at out video review. The in-car footage is shot over a properly rocky, bumpy trail and you can see just how comfortable the Cherokee is in the cabin. Even cameraman Glen couldn’t believe how composed the Cherokee is when you head off-road.
The Trailhawk models might be the range toppers in the off road portfolio, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Cherokee Limited Diesel. There’s little doubt that it will go way further and into far nastier terrain than any owner will point it toward. It’s a category punctuated by soft-roaders, this mid-sized SUV segment, but there is nothing soft about this Cherokee.
Aided by impressive approach, departure and ramp-over angles, the Cherokee is willing to climb into – and out of, crucially – the gnarliest off-road territory you’d find on most weekend jaunts into the bush. The low-range system isn’t there for show and it shifts into and out of low range quickly and smoothly. There’s no nasty clunking or hesitation while the system decides how to go about doing what you’ve asked it to do.
Approaching a few steeper inclines I was almost positive we’d see some scrabbling and loss of traction as the Cherokee worked its way up the hill. Firstly, that never happened, and secondly, it was almost comical how easily the Cherokee crested the hills. It wasn’t wet, so we didn’t have to contend with tyres clogged with mud, but the Cherokee Diesel nonetheless made light work of the steep climbs.
Another point Tony noted in his review is the absence – thankfully – of a silly foot operated parking brake. The electric switch fitted to the Cherokee is a much smarter addition, especially when you’re punting around off-road. The last thing you need getting in your way is a brake lever in the pedal area. The petrol Trailhawk model is capable of being handed a serious beating off-road, but the low down torque of the diesel, delivered so seamlessly in high or low-range, makes the case yet again for a clever diesel engine off-road. Jeep traditionalists might still prefer the petrol, but I’d go with a diesel every time.
Across the CarAdvice testing team we’ve been impressed with the new Cherokee’s interior. Jeep claims the company aimed for the cabin to be class-leading and there’s no argument that the Cherokee is right at the top of the pile. It’s another counter argument to the price point, especially on the high-end models like the Limited where the cabin feels luxurious, comfortable and well appointed. Our medium SUV mega test proved that point as well.
Interior highlights for me include the excellent 8.4-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation that is easy to use and visible in nearly every lighting condition. Add that system to the driver’s 7.0-inch TFT colour display and you’ve got a premium combination. The leather front seats are both heated – a welcome feature in the Victorian high country where the launch took place. The nine-speaker Alpine audio system is also excellent. I connected my phone to test the Bluetooth audio and it worked seamlessly, delivering an impressive sound stage via Bluetooth audio streaming.
The only counter argument to the cabin ergonomics and comfort that we discovered in that medium SUV test is space. The Cherokee Limited, especially in the luggage area, isn’t the most expansive SUV in the segment. It’s not tiny, but families comprising two children might find it short on storage space. The second-row seating, though, is comfortable and large enough for two adults.
As we also found in the medium SUV test, Jeep remains one of the only mainstream players to not offer a capped-price service program for its models. As with all Jeep vehicles, the Cherokee has a three-year/100,000km warranty.
The Jeep Cherokee Limited Diesel is a relatively expensive SUV within the medium segment but it’s also the most capable by some margin. If you need to tow regularly, or head off-road, the Jeep is – as you’d expect – the best available. The Trailhawk model might be slightly more hardcore in an off-road sense, but for me, the Limited Diesel is the pick of the Cherokee range – budget permitting.