You won't beach a

new Cherokee

Jeep Cherokee, front static
Jeep Cherokee, front static 2
Jeep Cherokee, front static 3
Jeep Cherokee, side static
Jeep Cherokee, rear action
Jeep Cherokee, boot 2
Jeep Cherokee, boot 3
Jeep Cherokee, off roading
Jeep Cherokee, dashboard

IF you get that sinking feeling in your new Jeep Cherokee don't despair - a little skill and some innate ability in the American made off road icon should see you through.

So it was when Jeep previewed the updated version of the Cherokee and chose the corner of a Sicilian beach to demonstrate their car's prowess when you turned off the hard stuff.

Except a relentless wind had piled up sand as fine as dust and deep enough to lose a lower leg. The Jeep wasn't happy and buried its front wheels up to their rims and pronounced ‘no further.'

But with the traction control switched off, letting the engine rev freely when otherwise it would (sensibly) have kept engine speeds down and twirling the steering wheel from lock to lock we scrambled out on to firmer terra.

And then you take in that this had all happened in a version of the Cherokee that drove only its front wheels. Imagine what a pukka 4x4 version would do⦠which was ride over the shifting sands as though they were not even worthy of a scoffing aside.

And most of the gently reworked Cherokees heading our way soon, at currently undisclosed prices, will be the full fat four-wheel drivers and customers need fear nothing this side of a ravine will slow their forward progress.

But we take for granted a Jeep's ability away from Tarmac. What this latest model aims to do is keep the car high up a potential buyer's wish list by giving it the sort of mid-life tickle most car makers favour.

So, there's a mildly new look to the front with powerful LED headlights across the range and a fresh approach to the lighting at the rear too. Although it is gently done, to the extent that moving the rear number plate from bumper to boot hatch helps the car ‘look a little more capable.'

Inside, there are plusher materials on the dash, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the big touch screen, with satellite navigation and a bit more space for odds and ends. A thorough look at the boot design has freed another 70 litres of space, taking luggage room to a capacious 570 litres.

Jeep will initially bring in the top two trim levels of Cherokee, Limited and Overland in early 2019 with a cheaper Sport arriving later next year and the even more off-roady Trailhawk under consideration.

Power comes from a single 195 horsepower diesel engine carried over from the current Cherokee but losing five horsepower as emissions targets tighten.

A 2.0 litre petrol engine with a chunky 270 horsepower will be added to the UK range at some juncture, while transmissions remain a mix of six-speed manual and nine-speed automatic.

The diesel puts out 175g/km of tailpipe pollution and takes the Cherokee to a top speed of 125mph, the sprint to 62mph in 8.8 seconds and has a claimed overall economy of 38mpg. All pretty well spot on for the class, with takes in rivals like the Land Rover Discovery Sport and Audi Q5.

Owners of those two vehicles happily pay north of £40,000 for their driveway displays and you'd have to expect the Cherokee to follow, at least until the lesser trimmed models arrive.

They may be lacking some of the first cars' goodies but there is no lack of safety and security systems available from launch, taking in active forward collision braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning (happily, easily turned off for drivers who like to make their own decision) and rear cross path detection.

The latter warns if you are backing out of a space and the rear view camera misses the car, or pedestrians approaching in the car's blind spot. Potentially useful in a crowded car park.

Out on a mixture of Sicilian roads - from UK shaming motorway to unmaintained village street - this latest Jeep felt thoroughly capable but in a way that retains the feel they have just come off the line in Illinois (which they had).

So they were plenty plush inside but not in the more severely honed manner of a German rival or the slightly and deliberately understated way of a Land Rover. If ultimate finish matters most you'll find even this upgrade Cherokee still more resolutely Chicago than Cologne.

On the right road and at a steady speed the Cherokee is near enough silent, its tyres only grumbling on coarser stuff and its engine thrumming a bit when provoked into a speedy pass of a dawdling Sicilian native, of which there were plenty.

Journey's end showed 32mpg on the trip. Which means the Cherokee is bang on the money in the market for tough off-roaders with a bit of good ‘ol cowboy attitude.


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