Driven: the Jeep Cherokee

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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.

Redesign

Jeep_1929_FSLooking 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.

Continue reading “Driven: the Jeep Cherokee”

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Brabus’ Biturbo monster

Brabus LogoApparently there’s a madness in the water when it comes to the world of powerful estates. Early this year we saw the launch of Audi’s RS6 Avant, while Swedish car maker Volvo have also got in on the act with their Polestar V60 estate.

While Mercedes themselves have the AMG E63, Brabus – the German high performance aftermarket company specialising in MB, Smart and Mayback – have upped the ante with the 850 Biturbo – a 6.0L 838 bhp version of the E63 AMG.

The original wasn’t exactly underpowered but this version is bonkers – a bored 5.9L engine with forged pistons and custom crankshaft, new turbos with larger compressors, special exhaust intake manifolds and an ECU upgrade gives the beast the ability to churn out a breathtaking 838 bhp and 1,069lb ft of torque (limited to 848lb ft, to ensure ‘longevity’). 0-100 takes just 3.1 seconds with a top speed of 217 mph.

Just imagine your kids’ faces when you decide to put your foot down on the school run.

Swedish Madness

While the design of the Volvo has evolved over the years, from a boxy tank on wheels to something which is increasingly moving136115_4_13 toward automotive design beauty, the Swedish car brand isn’t exactly world-renowned for its sporty credentials when compared to other brands, the likes of the S60R and the earlier 850 Touring Car notwithstanding. The iconic Volvo driver is probably the school-run mum, toddling along in her nondescript Volvo estate, or older drivers who feel secure in something which would probably come out on top in a run-in with a bus.

The new Polestar V60 estate is a totally different kettle of fish however, another Volvo set to tear more shreds from the company’s sensible image. Exactly how much power does it have? If you said lots, that would be a good start.

The 2.9L engine delivers 345 horsepowers at the optimum speed, for one thing. Then there’s the 0-62 time – 4.9 seconds, for another. 155 mph limit, 369 lb ft of torque at 2,800 rpm. Lots of very impressive figures, none of which you would generally associate with a car which is also capable of carrying a load of your latest flat pack purchases from IKEA.

But it’s not just the components lurking out of sight which rail against the Volvo stereotypes – the whole design is sleeker, sharper, sportier and desirable, words not generally renowned for their use in conjunction with a Volvo estate.

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It’s not by any means the first high-powered estate from a car manufacturer, it’s not even the first this year – Audi got in ahead with their RS6, a true mechanical beast with 568hp and a 4.0L twin turbo V8. Thankfully, Volvo has recently confirmed that the Polestar V60, along with a revamped S60 saloon, will go into production. One things for sure – the school run will never be the same.

Our response? Mental. We’ll take two.