The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Longitude
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Longitude Contributedcontributed

Jeep Cherokee Longitude road test

JEEP'S much-anticipated new Cherokee range is already making an impression on Australian buyers, cutting a swathe through a tough market as it attempts to emulate the success of the Grand Cherokee.

This new Cherokee is just that - new - redesigned from the ground up and restyled both inside and out, it bares only a passing resemblance to its predecessor.

The entry-level 4x2 Sport is powered by a 2.4-litre MultiAir four, while the 4x4 Longitude, Limited and Trailhawk, house a 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 petrol paired with a ZF nine-speed auto box.

While the Cherokee's new looks may not be to everyone's taste, the excellent drive offered combines well with real-world off-road capability and a generous inclusions list to present what head of the design team Greg Howell calls a car "for the future".

Comfort

Inside the Longitude is impressive - modern, tactile and instantly comfortable.

It is obvious that Jeep has an edge here with easy-to-read instrumentation, rubberised dials and buttons and a soft-touch textured dash.

The touch-screen infotainment system is easy to navigate, Bluetooth pairing is a cinch and the brush-metal highlights add to a feeling of quality.

Seats, with on-trend fabrics and contrasting stitching, are not just nice to look at but also offer support in all the right places, both on long highway trips and testing off-road forays.

Leg room is generous, with an on-rail rear pew able to move to and fro to increase comfort.

The rear seat, too, is nicely padded and will easily hold three adults provided of course that they are happy to jiggle around for shoulder room.

The second row can fold flat if you require, as can the front passenger seat, which is handy if you want to transport a surfboard.

There are plenty of sensible storage options, including a compartment on the dash and a fairly sizeable one under the front passenger seat, but the boot, at 700L with all seats in place, is a bit on the small side for our liking.

On the road

Standing on a Compact US platform that it shares with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta and powered by a 3.2-litre petrol engine more than ably mated with a first-in-class nine-speed gearbox, the Cherokee Longitude delivers a drive that is, unless you are nit-picking, hard to fault.

It is equally capable both on long highway runs, where it opens up easily keeping pace with illustrious companions and calling on a burst of speed when needed, and on tight busy inner-city roads where a nimbleness under foot and a good turning circle does it the biggest favours.

The Longitude is nicely balanced, keeps its line around corners and dishes out very negligible body roll. It takes direction well, although as with much of its ilk, steering feel could be more interactive.

Its Active Drive I technology allows the vehicle to automatically and seamlessly switch between four and two-wheel drive as the need arises.

Off-road, the Cherokee is true to the adventurous traditions and rugged ability of the Jeep brand, with high ground clearance, excellent departure angles and enviable poise making for a thrilling bush experience.

The Selec-Terrain system which allows you to select from Auto, Sport, Snow, Sand/Mud gives you the grip you need in tight situations.

What do you get?

Jeep is certainly not stingy when it comes to inclusions, with the Longitude claiming amongst others, a 12.7cm touch screen with voice control, Bluetooth connectivity with audio control, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers, powered driver seat and tailgate, reversing camera, rear parking sensors with park assist, three 12V power outlets, roof rails, rear cargo-net and fog lamps as well as an active drive 4x4 system with a select terrain drive mode selector.

Push button start is available as part of an Electronic Convenience Pack ($900) and also includes a 230V auxiliary power outlet and a wireless charging mat.

The Cherokee has a five-star ANCAP safety rating courtesy of its seven airbags, ABS brakes, speed and traction control, electronic roll mitigation and hill assist.

The Technology Group package ($3000) will get you blind spot and cross path detection, forward collision mitigation, lane departure warning-plus and parallel and perpendicular park assist with stop.

Other options

There is not much room to move in this medium SUV segment, with the main competition coming from the Mazda CX-5 (from $36,620), Toyota RAV4 (from $38,190), Nissan X-Trail (from $36,190), Subaru Forrester (from $43,990), Honda CR-V (from $36,290) and Mitsubishi Outlander (from $36,490).

Running costs

Jeep offers economy figures of 10l/100km which we found pretty accurate and even slightly better on long highway stretches.

There is a 3 year/100,000km warranty with free road-side assist for that period.

Practicality

The Cherokee's prowess, both on and off the road, coupled with the interior space on offer makes it an ideal fit for young families or couples who like a bit of adventure to break up the working week.

We found the inclusions list pretty handy and liked the engine, with enough grunt to move its considerably heavy body but were less enamoured with the climate control system which sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own and the fuel consumption which appears to be a bit on the thirsty side.

The latter may be negated by the diesel which will be available soon.

Funky factor

The designers at Jeep quite plainly know how to make a statement, and have done so with the unique exterior style of the new model.

While this new Cherokee retains some semblance of the model's traditional features - the blackened seven-slot grille, high ground clearance and trapezoidal wheel arches - the curvy sculpted exterior with fluid modern lines is all new and certainly distinguishes this model both from its outgoing boxy counterpart and a number of rivals.

The lowdown

The Cherokee Longitude makes for an impressive package both inside and out, with very real off-road capability the icing on the cake. It will move the goalposts in this segment with the range likely to find the same success that the Grand Cherokee is enjoying across Australia. It is a must-drive if you are in the market for a medium SUV, and even if you are not.

Jeep Cherokee Longitude road test

What we liked: Impressive drive, off-road prowess, value proposition.

What we'd like to see: Better economy figures, better steering feel.

Warranty and servicing: Three-year/100,000km warranty with free roadside assist.



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