Road Test: All Jeep But No Willy

The Jeep Cherokee is a classic American all terrain vehicle.

Jeep is arguably one of the most iconic American 4×4 brands. The mid-1940’s Willys Jeep is instantly recognizable the world over, and was the vehicle that inspired the original Land Rover Defender.

Sadly, throughout the years, Jeep has seen its times of hardship, but it has continued to produce an ever-expanding range of SUVs. The spirit of Jeep is still alive, and they offer affordable luxury in an automotive category of extremes.

They are big, they are robust, and they perform.

Perhaps the most iconic modern Jeep is the Cherokee. As a staple model since 1984, almost everyone has a memory of this car in one way or another, so as the new Cherokee Limited is delivered outside my house, I’m excited to see how much it has changed since I was a young boy.

Ok, so Jeeps have never been the most beautiful cars, but the exterior of this model pleasantly surprises me. It’s simple, uncluttered and modern, all while retaining its classic Cherokee styling.

On the Limited edition, you get enormous 18 inch alloys, revolutionary park assist and whole host of gadgetry, but that’s of little importance to me. What I want to discover is how it drives, and what better way than a long journey to the depths of Devon and into the wilderness; I want to know if the Cherokee’s all-terrain promise is true.

Driving through London, I’m pleased with the agility of such a large vehicle, and it certainly feels sturdy. On the motorway, it is comfortable, smooth and unexpectedly economical.

The 2017 Jeep Cherokee is a classic four wheel drive car.
An interior view of the 2017 Jeep Cherokee

However, I do feel overwhelmed by the inundation of automatic-functions on the car. The lane sensor, whilst a novel, nice idea, is overtly frustrating. So too are the automatic headlights, amongst other things. But these can all be switched off, so it’s really a matter of preference here.

What I particularly like are the four driving modes; Auto, Snow, Sand/Mud and Sport. What this shows is Jeep’s determination to remain an all-terrain vehicle manufacturer and not simply to become an urban trawler.

I’m really impressed by the Sport mode. You really do feel a noticeable difference to the way the car handles. Acceleration increases beyond measure, as does its agility, especially on winding country lanes.

When I first set out, I didn’t think I’d have as much fun driving it as I did, and surely that’s a good thing.

And now onto its off-roading capability. Well, this comes up top trumps too. Heading down a rocky, pitted green-laning track through some of Dartmoor National Park’s most breathtaking scenery, the Cherokee never falters.

It tackles slippery rock with grace, powers through mud with ease, and climbs steep inclines without breaking a sweat. A local tells me that a short while beforehand, someone had taken a new 4×4 down the same lane and struggled so much the gearbox was smashed open. I think this is evidence enough of the Cherokee’s pedigree.

With a price tag of just over £40,000, the Jeep Cherokee is certainly not cheap, but I would hasten to guess that it will give you pleasure for many years to come, and that’s where its true may lie.