The new Jeep Cherokee that debuted late last year not only presented a bold new look, it also introduced two new engines, new suspension and steering, and a number of new features. In this report we test the Sport version, powered by the all-new 2.5 litre DOHC direct injection common rail turbo diesel engine built by DaimlerChrysler. The previous diesel engine was an Italian-made 2.5 litre OHV unit with indirect mechanical fuel injection.

The Sport also comes with a 3.7 litre SOHC V6 that produces more power and torque than the previous 4.0 litre OHV in-line six. The more upmarket Cherokee Limited comes only with the V6 petrol engine. There’s no choice of transmissions - if you buy the V6 you get an automatic, if you buy the diesel you get a manual. The diesel model comes with Command-Trac part-time 4WD while the two V6 models have Selec-Trac (selectable) full-time 4WD. Prices start at $43,990 for the Sport V6, the Sport diesel is $1,000 more at $44,990 and the Limited V6 costs $47,990. Suspension changes include a switch from rear leaf springs to links and coils and a revised coil spring independent front suspension. There’s also a new aluminium front diff housing, designed for use with the IFS. A rack and pinion steering system replaces the old recirculating ball system. Though this latest Cherokee’s braking system retains a front disc/rear drum set-up, both the discs and drums have been enlarged for greater cooling capacity. The Limited model’s ABS has been refined and electronic brake force distribution introduced.

Equipment levels in the Sport version aren’t quite as extensive as those in the Limited, but it still scores pretty well. In addition to items already mentioned, it has dual front airbags, air conditioning, power windows, remote central locking, engine immobiliser, stereo system with single CD player, exterior mirrors that are heated, electrically adjustable and fully foldable, a tilt steering column and roof rails. The Limited adds ABS, alloy wheels, leather trim, power adjustable front seats, an alarm, front fog lamps, an overhead console with trip computer, a cargo compartment cover, a higher grade sound system with 6-stack CD changer, cruise control and front seat map pockets. Though the Cherokee is quite a competent off-road performer in standard form, there is the option of an ‘Off Road Group’ pack which includes heavier duty tyres, and fuel tank and transfer case skid plates, for $1,090.



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