The iconic Jeep brand has its roots in World War II. As war raged in Europe, the US military realised that it required an update for its reconnaissance vehicles, and invited 135 manufacturers to submit their ideas. From this competition, a design from Willys-Overland Quad prevailed, and soon became known as the Jeep, though it’s still uncertain exactly why – some people believe it was named after the popular Popeye cartoon character Eugene the Jeep.
Whatever the reason, it was a success, and more than half a million were produced for action. The name was trademarked by the company after the war, and was first turned into an off-road vehicle for farmers, swiftly followed by a civilian version. The rest, as they say, was history, and in the following years, the recognisable brand has remained the same at least in spirit, and Jeep has become a by-word for 4x4s or SUVs in Ireland.
Looking at the new Cherokee, which comes after a ten year hiatus, you sense a coming together of past and present. The iconic front grille is still there, but has been pulled over the bonnet somewhat; the boxier shape and simple headlamps replaced by flowing curves and aggressive daytime running lights. Stitched into the leather steering wheel which features voice activation control is the phrase ‘Since 1941’. It’s all very nostalgic, but not over-the-top. It’s likely a divisive overhaul in the looks department, but you really need to see it in the flesh before you make up your mind.
Jeep haven’t been the biggest sellers on this side of the pond, but they’re hugely popular in the US, similar in some way to the success of Land Rover here and moreso in the UK. My test version was the Limited 2.0L turbo diesel with FWD and 138hp, married to a six speed manual gearbox. You can also get 4×4 versions of the Cherokee with either 140hp (six speed) or 170hp (nine speed auto). Once you get behind the wheel, you’ll quickly realise that it’s a car built for comfort rather than performance. Max speed is 187, 0-100km/h takes 10.9 seconds (which, to be honest, feels a little sluggish). It’s good for overtaking, but you won’t be winning any drag races (if that’s your thing).
Annual road tax is €280, given CO2 emissions of 139g/km, and we averaged a combined 6.5L/100km (43mpg) which isn’t bad for the class, and better than rivals from BMW or Volvo. In 4×4 models, the Cherokee has a rear axle disconnect feature – basically speaking you don’t expend as much energy when you’re not using all four wheels leading to better fuel consumption, and the car does the switching for you.