The days of hard-core medium 4WD wagons are numbered – almost all are now soft-core all-wheel drives (AWD), good for a bit of mud or snow but that’s it. Jeep’s new KL Cherokee Limited Diesel is a soft-roader with a twist – it looks like a latte-sipping AWD city car, but beneath the skin are all the right bits to crawl up a steep offroad track. Well, mostly. As we’ll see, it’s not everything to everybody.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The transverse 2L turbodiesel is a smooth, responsive and thrifty engine. The nine-speed auto has, on previous tests of the Limited Diesel, shown itself to have a good choice of ratios (with nine, how could it not?) and to be smooth in operation. However, with this particular example, some driveline lash and clunky shifts occurred. Because it is an adaptive transmission – it adapts to driver inputs, so is more aggressive or relaxed accordingly – and the vehicle had been sitting for a while prior to our test, perhaps it needed more time to adapt to smooth shifts.
The low-range gearing and excellent traction control allows the Cherokee to crawl along on offroad tracks but lacks the clearance, approach angle or underbody protection to feel truly at home on the dirt.
The monocoque body, rack and pinion steering and all-independent suspension provides a car-like driving experience in the Limited Diesel. The steering lacks the feel, weight and precision of competitors such as the Freelander 2, but otherwise this is a composed and comfortable point-to-point tourer.
The ride feels smooth and well-damped on smoother roads or those with progressive undulations, but once you get onto less ideal road surfaces, such as chopped-up bitumen or corrugated dirt, the Cherokee begins to transmit some road shocks.
The front suspension tends to top-out, too, when travelling over an aggressive speed hump or after exiting a dip at speed on the highway, for example.
The Fiat-sourced turbodiesel is a very economical engine, with an average of 6.8L/100km of mostly freeway driving when solo. With an 1885kg caravan behind, the fuel consumption rose to 12.3L/100km.
The Cherokee Diesel may not be a LandCruiser 200 able to tow a house behind it but, within its reasonable 2393kg capacity, it appears to be a very capable tow tug. It pulled our 1885kg test caravan very well, with good off-the-mark performance and strong overtaking performance at up to the 90km/h speed we tried. Climbing our test hill, the Cherokee was able to maintain its 90km/h speed and engine braking on the descent was also very good.
Stability when towing our test van was very good. The Cherokee maintained a level attitude and did not suffer sway or fore-aft pitching.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Cherokee Limited Diesel is a sophisticated, abundantly-equipped medium SUV. It also has great fuel economy and its towing performance is very good. It may not be the best offroader out there, but for occasional use on sand or smoother tracks, this would suit perfectly.
The full test appears in Caravan World #537, May 2015.