Building a Jeep can’t be an easy task. Mixing 67 years of brand DNA with all the modern practicalities and technologies demanded by SUV buyers is no simple feat. But Jeep has built a reputation on being rugged and uncompromising in both the vehicles it produces and its attitude towards gaining success in a segment that was once a niche but is now brutally competitive. To combat the competition Jeep has a solid range of off-road inspired vehicles to cater for a variety of needs. Sitting in the NZ line-up between the top dog Grand Cherokee and the pureblood Wrangler is the Cherokee Sport. This mid-size model is currently in its second generation and with a recent facelift is set to continue its assault on the NZ market. Car and SUV got some seat time in the revised Cherokee to see if it’s well positioned to invade the consciousness of Kiwi car buyers.
Little has changed in terms of looks for the updated Cherokee, much of the chrome work has now given way to colour-coded paint cutting down the visual bling. Our test vehicle looked smartly uniformed with door handles, roof rails, mirrors and even the iconic 7-slot grille finished in black. Wide wheel arches, a high waist and distinctive angular lines give the Cherokee a bulky presence while continuing Jeep family styling traits. A chunky front bumper and indicator lights built into the guards create a squared jaw look while at the rear it’s more about function with vertical jeweled lights and a split tail gate. Standard wheels are 5-spoke alloys which are good looking rims but at 16-inches don’t really fill out the arches. Overall, the Cherokee has a boxy charm that’s distinctly Jeep and appears well screwed together.
Step inside the Cherokee and you’re greeted with a darkly themed dashboard consisting of hard black plastics broken up by silver and chrome-look trim. A wide centre console houses sparsely laid out switchgear and there are plenty of cupholders and useful storage areas for small items. The silver ringed instruments are easy to read and the leather-trimmed steering wheel is suitably thick with a variety of control buttons. The seats are wide with good cushioning and are finished in a new stain-resistant cloth that feels durable. When it comes to legroom rear passengers are well catered for, in the front there is a wide transmission tunnel that significantly limits space in the driver’s foot well. The handbrake is also fairly awkward being positioned a long reach away from the driver. That said, the Cherokee offers practical value in a 60:40 split fold flat rear seat that when down opens up the cargo capacity from 419-litres to a massive 1404-litres. There is also handy tie down loops and a waterproof storage bin under the loading floor, perfect for muddy boots. Standard equipment on the Cherokee Sport includes a 6-Disc, 6-Speaker stereo, voice-controlled Bluetooth connectivity, keyless entry, cruise control and a rear park assist system. Ultimately, the Cherokee cabin is a mixed bag; it’s basic, practical and durable but is unfortunately let down by hard untextured plastics and a narrow driver’s foot well.
Packed under the Cherokee’s long bonnet is a 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine providing 151kW of power and 314Nm of torque. While power output hasn’t been increased in the refresh, refinements have been made to enhance low-speed torque and smoothness. It’s a willing engine but doesn’t move the 2-ton vehicle with any real pace, however, it is fairly smooth and capable of keeping up with traffic. Mid-range torque is good enough to make for easy open road driving and safe overtaking. It’s a thirsty motor and although most of our driving was suburban we could only achieve a fuel economy of 17.5 litres/100km in 2WD mode.
The V6 engine is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission that has a sequential shift option for manual changes. While it’s not as modern and can’t provide the economy of the five- and six-speed gearboxes used by competitors it does shift smoothly even on steep hills.
The suspension on the Cherokee has been refreshed for the update and includes a new front independent front, and five-link rear set-up. It’s resulted in a settled on-road feel and with a long track it feels grounded and balanced during cornering. The power rack-and-pinion steering is light but precise and adds to what are generally good manners on the tarmac.
Liberate the Cherokee into off-road conditions and it comes into its own. It makes use of the Selec-Trac II 4WD system that offers three modes, 2WD, 4WD and 4WD low. Electric shifting between the modes is accomplished with a console-mounted switch allowing on the fly operation. The 4WD auto mode can be used full-time regardless of road surface and has sensors to redirect torque between front and rear axles. When greater traction is required the 4WD low mode makes use of lower gearing and multiplies engine torque by 2.72 times for serious grunt. Combined with short front and rear overhangs and a minimum ground clearance of 19cm the Cherokee is a serious mud-munching machine.
When it comes to safety the Cherokee has all the features expected of a family hauler and includes multi-stage driver and passenger airbags with side curtain airbags, a full electronic stability program including electric roll mitigation and hill start assist. There’s also hill decent control for navigating slippery downhill passages.
The powertrain on the Cherokee sport isn’t as modern or economical as most competitors but the vehicle still has appeal. The styling will attract badge fans and those looking for something familiar but different to most SUVs on NZ roads. It’s a very safe family vehicle thanks to both electronic aides and its sheer size. What it can also offer is genuine off-road prowess and really needs to leave the tarmac to unleash its all-round potential. It’s also competitively priced at $46,990 and as a practical family-friendly workhorse offers value for money. If you’re in the market for a mid/large SUV the Cherokee Sport is a unique alternative to the more obvious options.
What we like:
- Well priced
- Distinctive Jeep styling
- Off-road ability
What we don’t like:
- Hard interior plastics
- Poor fuel economy
- Four-speed Auto Transmission
Words and Photos: Adam Mamo
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Jeep Cherokee Sport (2010) – Specifications
Displacement (cu cm) 3700
Horsepower (kW @ rpm) 151 @ 5200
Torque (Nm @ rpm) 314 @ 400
Sequential multipoint electronic fuel injection
4-speed automatic with overdrive and lockup torque converter; electronically controlled
FOUR-WHEEL-DRIVE SYSTEM (transfer case)
Selec-Trac II MP3022 Active full-time; 2-speed with 2WD and 4WD auto high range, low range (2.72:1) and neutral, variable with 35/65 front/rear default torque split, electronically controlled clutch pack coupling in centre differential and open front and rear differentials Std.
CAPACITIES/WEIGHTS (kg unless otherwise specified)
Fuel Tank (L) 73.8
Base Curb Weight (kg) 1935
Max Cargo Weight (kg) 590
Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (kg) 2540
Towing Capacity (with/without load-levelling device) 1600/2270
Tongue Load Limit (with/without load-levelling device) 160/227
UniFrame construction: All-steel body sheet metal and frame structural members
welded and bonded into a single unit Std.
Independent short/long arm (SLA) with cast-iron lower and forged steel upper A-shaped control arms, coil springs, stabiliser bar; low-pressure gas-charged shock absorbers; 1247 kg gross axle weight rating
Rear – Five-link solid axle with tubular track bar, upper and lower trailing control arms, coil springs, stabiliser bar, low-pressure gas-charged shock absorbers; 1451 kg gross axle weight rating rear
Overall Ratio 17.4:1
Turns (lock-to-lock) 3.4
Turning Diameter (m) curb-to-curb 10.8
Power-assisted; ventilated disc brakes; 302 mm rotor diameter Front
Power-assisted; solid disc brakes; 316 mm rotor diameter rear
Electronic Stability Program (ESP) Four-channel, four-wheel antilock with active wheel-speed, vehicle-speed, steering-wheel angle, yaw-rate, and lateral-acceleration sensors, vehicle stability management with two-stage activation switch, all-speed traction control, Brake Lock Differentials, Brake Assist, Electronic roll Mitigation (ErM), hill Start Assist and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD) Std.
Hill Descent Control Std.
INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (mm unless otherwise specified)
Head Room, front/rear 1024/1027
Leg Room, front/rear 1036/982
Shoulder Room, front/rear 1449/1436
Hip Room, front/rear 1338/1229
Cargo Volume (L), rear seat up/folded 419/1404
Seating Capacity,front/rear 2/3 Adults
EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS (mm unless otherwise specified)
overall Length 4493
overhang, front/rear 744/1055
Body Width 1839
Track, front/rear 1549/1549
Height with/without roof rack side rails 1797/1736
Ground Clearance (at base curb weight)
Ground Clearance, front/rear 189/196
Water Fording (at 8km/h) 483
Approach Angle /Departure Angle 38.2º/30º
Breakover Angle 21.7º