Let’s tackle the elephant in the room – the new KL Cherokee looks different. It has a unique style that sure is polarising, but love it or hate it the new Jeep is unique for more than just its looks. For a start, the KL Cherokee could be the only all-new 4x4 wagon launched in Australia this year. That’s all-new, not an update or revised powertrain – that’s something that comes around on ever decreasing occasions.
It replaces the more traditional looking KK Cherokee that hasn’t been sold here for some months so the new car fills a hole in Jeep’s range.
The Cherokee has its own place in the 4x4 wagon market in that it’s smaller than most others, almost a compact SUV, yet in true Jeep style it still offers offroad capability with a choice of three drive trains including single range all-wheel drive; dual range AWD; and dual range 4x4 with a locking rear differential.
This makes it a difficult vehicle to pigeonhole but if you were looking for comparative wagons, you could consider the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Suzuki Grand Vitara, although they are still very different rigs. On looks alone the Cherokee is in a world of its own.
Kl Cherokee arrives in four specification levels, initially with two different engines. All grades get the new nine-speed automatic transmission with no manual offered at all.
The Cherokee Sport is 4x2 only and also the only model in the range to feature the 2.4-litre four cylinder petrol engine.
The Cherokee Longitude is single range, part time 4x4 (Active Drive 1) and gets the 3.2L petrol V6 engine. This is a smaller bore and stroke version of the excellent 3.6L Pentastar engine as found in Grand Cherokee and Wrangler Jeeps.
The Cherokee Limited is mechanically the same as the Longtitude but adds features and a bit of bling, while the Cherokee Trailhawk is the 4x4 enthusiasts’ model with the most offroad potential.
The Trailhawk runs the same V6 engine and nine-speed auto powertrain but adds Active Drive Lock with a 2.92:1 low range in the transfer case and a manually selectable locking rear differential. It also rides 25mm higher than the lower spec models to give it 221mm of ground clearance.
The Trailhawk is the most visually striking of the Cherokees with its bold fender flares, bonnet black out panel, unique grille treatment and stand out red recovery points at the front and back. Incidentally those recovery points are rated to 1-ton (US) each. Underneath the Trailhawk, skid plates protect any low lying mechanicals.
All of the 4x4 Cherokees get the Selec-Terrain system with modes for Auto; Sport; Snow; Sand & Mud while only the Trailhawk adds a Rock setting to the dial.
Trailhawk also gets a Selec-Speed feature that controls vehicle speed downhill just like hill decent control but also operates on the flat and uphill with the set speed adjustable from one to nine km/h via the gear shifter. It’s a system that works extremely well, with smooth progress and not the noisy, jerky activation that some similar systems have. Hill descent control is also included but really redundant with Selec-Speed.
In fact, almost everything on the Cherokee works as you would hope it to. Both engines offer plenty of power especially the 200kW/316Nm V6 which, it should be noted, runs happily on regular ULP. The nine-speed auto is smooth when you are cruising and precise and sporty when you ask it to be. Behind the petrol engine, it makes plenty of use of the ratios to keep the motor as efficient as possible.
Manual gear selection is via the floor shifter with no steering wheel paddles offered. Even when gears are selected manually it only prevents the transmission from self shifting past that ratio.
The suspension is full independent and works nicely on both sealed and gravel roads. It shows its passenger car origins when the track gets tougher though, as it has very little downward travel and picks up wheels with regularity. It relies on the tractive systems, both mechanical and electronic, to pick up the slack.
The ride is firm without being rigid and a good compromise between dynamics and comfort. We did note excessive road noise on some surfaces but it was quite refined on others. Nothing unusual there from today’s new cars and tyres.
Cherokee Longitude and Trailhawk ride on 17-inch alloy wheels and tyres while the Limited gets 18s. The Trailhawk gets 245/65-R17 Yokohama all-season tyres on its bespoke alloys but they are very tame tread by offroad standards. Spare wheels are full size steel.
If you’ve been waiting for the diesel Cherokee you’ll have to wait a little longer. It’s due to get here in the third quarter of the year and will be offered in Limited spec only and powered by a 125kW/350Nm 2.0L turbo diesel also backed by the nine-speed auto.
It will have Active Drive II 4x4 system which is like Active Drive 1, but with low range but no locking rear diff as in –Trailhawk. There will be no diesel-fuelled Trailhawk model at this time. It seems that just like the petrol-only Wrangler Rubicon, someone in Jeep USA thinks that petrol engines will better serve the offroad market. We also think that there would be a market for the 2.4L four-pot petrol in the higher-spec 4x4 range as the one we drove got along alright on the open road of northern South Australia.
Even without up-spec four cylinder models or a diesel engine, the Cherokee, especially the Trailhawk, offers buyers something not available in showrooms today. It’s a compact SUV with a modicum of offroad ability and rugged construction.
The Limited and Trailhawk both have a premium feel to them and if you’re not put off by the looks they’re worth considering. We’re even thinking of swapping our Grand Cherokee Overland for a Trailhawk, so you’ll see a bit more of it in 4X4 Australia.
Jeep KL Cherokee specifications
- Engine: Transversely mounted V6 petrol
- Capacity: 3239cc
- Max Power: 200kW @ 6500rpm
- Max Torque: 316Nm @ 4400rpm
- Gearbox: 9-speed automatic
- Crawl ratio: 48:1
- 4X4 System: Part time/on-demand with locking 4x4 and low range
- Construction: Monocoque 5-door wagon
- Front suspension: McPherson strut with sway bar
- Rear suspension: Independent with 4-link, coils and sway bar
- Wheel and tyre spec: 245/65-R17 on 17 x 7” alloys
- Kerb Weight: 1862kg
- GVM: 2495kg
- Payload: 633kg
- Towing capacity: 2200kg
- Seating capacity: 5
- Fuel tank capacity: 60L
- ADR fuel consumption*: 10L/100km
*Australian Design Rule ‘Combined-Cycle’ claim
Jeep KL Cherokee 4x4 range and prices
- Cherokee Longitude $39,000
- Cherokee Limited $44,000
- Cherokee Trailhawk $47,500
Click here to read the review on the full Jeep Cherokee range