What is it?
When the fifth generation (KL) of the Jeep Cherokee was launched last year, it was powered by a humdrum 168bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine that was all too gruff and struggled to propel the car’s 1878kg mass with any reasonable level of performance.
The American car firm recognised this inherent flaw and, as a result, has dropped that oil-burner from the line-up in favour of a gutsier 197bhp 2.2-litre diesel powertrain.
It has 25% more torque than the previous engine, at 324lb ft. Jeep also claims this car accelerates almost two seconds quicker to 62mph, at 8.5sec, and has an extra 10mph added to its top speed – now 127mph.
Combined fuel economy is claimed to be improved, too, from 48.7mpg to 49.6mpg, while CO2 output has dropped from 154g/km to 150g/km.
The new, fifth-generation Cherokee finds itself in a highly talented class, with strong performers such as the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Volvo’s XC60. And it’s clear that Jeep aims to offer a similar premium feel with its mid-size SUV, but for a lower price.
Two trim levels are available on the Cherokee with this engine – Longitude and Limited – and here we’re testing the range-topping Limited 4WD model, paired with the nine-speed ZF automatic gearbox.
What’s it like?
Gutsier, for starters. Credit where it’s due: this new 2.2-litre Multijet engine has addressed the shortage of oomph suffered by the 168bhp version.
Plant your right foot and there is some initial lag, but the engine soon gets its act together once the revs get closer to its 2500rpm peak torque sweet spot. From this point upwards, you’ll seldom be wanting for more grunt in real-world driving.
There’s enough power on offer to make light work of overtaking in the countryside, and when the time comes to ease off the throttle, the Cherokee settles down to an acceptable cruise.
It’s quite a refined powertrain, too. Only the slightest hint of vibration gets filtered through to the cabin, and you have to rev the engine hard beyond 3500rpm before it emits any sort of gruffness.
When we last tested a fifth-generation Cherokee on UK roads, it was a right-hand-drive model that left the brake servo on the opposite side of the car and resulted in our tester noticing considerable thudding every time the brake pedal was released. The model tested here was a left-hooker, so we’ll reserve final judgement on refinement until we bag ourselves one with the steering wheel on the correct side.
The first thing you notice about the nine-speed automatic transmission is how smooth gearchanges are when left to its own devices – to the point where you aren’t aware of them taking place at all, such is the seamlessness. However, take matters into your own hands by flicking the gear selector over to manual mode and it soon becomes apparent it’s a Jekyll and Hyde gearbox.
Swapping cogs manually is greeted with disdain, as the ‘box reacts far too slowly and then delivers hurried gearchanges with all the delicacy of a heavy-handed nightclub bouncer. Best to leave it in auto mode, then.
For a mid-size SUV with a modicum of off-road capability, the Cherokee handles competently enough. The ride is composed for the most part, except for some choppiness over ripples, but tip the Cherokee into a corner and there is noticeable body movement, especially on undulating roads, where it takes a moment to settle.
The electrically assisted power steering is accurate and you can place the car exactly where you want, but there’s a hefty weight to it that feels inert and doesn’t improve the connection between your palms and the front wheels in any way.
Inside, you sit in a commanding driving position with a steering wheel that has a natural tilt closer to horizontal than vertical. The seats themselves are comfortable but offer little lateral support.
Cabin ambience has been lifted compared with previous Cherokees, with the exception of the fake wood trim on the inside of the doors. The soft-touch plastics and centre console are decent enough to touch, but certainly not special enough to trouble the Jeep’s German rivals.
Standard kit is generous, with this Limited model getting an 8.4in touchscreen multimedia system, Bluetooth, sat-nav, reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats and leather upholstery.
Should I buy one?
There’s no doubt that this new 2.2-litre Multijet engine has improved the Cherokee’s driveability and, as a result, it’s a more rounded package than before. The fact that it’s a genuine 4×4 and that it comes with generous standard kit will appeal to some buyers, too.
However, in this price bracket you simply can’t overlook the Land Rover Discovery Sport, in 2.2 SD4 SE Tech guise – which costs the broadly the same, is dynamically superior and is in a different league when it comes to perceived quality.
Jeep Cherokee 2.2 Multijet 200 4WD Auto Limited
Location Newington; On sale Now; Price £36,795; Engine 4 cyls, 2184cc, diesel; Power 197bhp at 3500rpm; Torque 324lb ft at 1750-2750rpm; Gearbox 9-spd automatic; 0-62mph 8.5sec; Top speed 127mph; Kerb weight 1878kg; Economy 49.6mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 150g/km, 28%
What is it?