It’s one of those auto-shows that doesn’t exactly make European hearts flutter with joy. It’s held a few weeks after Geneva, the premiere event on the European and world calendar. What’s more, the majority of the latest products released in the Big Apple are, for the most part, strictly local in character. Not that the American market is not interesting in its own right, particularly when it demonstrates a decisive awakening with respect to the lethargy and nightmares that rage in Europe currently. But New York is not Detroit, so it wouldn’t usually pique much of our interest.
A NEW WORLD
But then you happen to trip over the all-new Jeep Cherokee. And while, traditionally, the Cherokee hasn’t sold much outside the US, the model that debuted on the banks of the Hudson is one that marks an epic, revolutionary turning point for the brand.
The revolution is in what you see here – a design that marks a significant departure from the past (though the brand’s designers care to highlight that the DNA is untouched). But the revolution is also in what’s hidden under the ground-breaking new bodywork – the C-Wide platform (based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, and made in Italy), along with an equally Italian 2.4 litre MultiAir engine. Some markets will also likely see the 2.0 litre turbodiesel. The US market, meanwhile, will get the 3.2 litre Pentastar V6 as well – an absolute novelty within the brand. Plus, for the first time, an American SUV will adopt a 9-speed automatic transmission.
In short, this is an unprecedented Jeep, and a true product of the transatlantic collaboration that unites Toledo (USA, North America) and Turin (Italy, Europe). It’s a Cherokee that ventures into a new world, abandoning the familiar territory of ‘A still slightly off-road SUV,’ and crosses over to the frontier of being a ‘Proper crossover SUV.’
This Cherokee presents itself as far more enjoyable on the road, thanks in part to the adoption of independent suspension, and in part to the diverse driveline systems. The Active Drive automatically distributes torque between the two axles according to the driving conditions, intervening electronically to correct over and understeer. The Active Drive II adds the Lock mode, so as to increase the ground clearance by a further 2.5cm over the standard version. In other words, the driver enjoys the selections of either version according to the intended use of the vehicle. And if you’re an off-road fan, there will be a third model designed with you in mind, in the West at least – the Trailhawk. This model, more than the other two, stays true to Jeep tradition.
The debate that ensues goes something like this – if the new Cherokee resolutely hurls itself into the third millennium with its sleek mid-size crossover features, can it simultaneously satisfy the hardcore off-road buffs and purists in the States who, for some time now, have been decrying the arrival of anything that could be a mere update to the existing model – known in Europe as the Cherokee, but in the States as the Liberty.
So, will the Trailhawk be enough to appease everyone? More aggressive in its look, with approach angles of 30° in front, 32 in the back, 22 abundant centimetres of ground clearance, and a lockable rear differential, along with the off-road mode control knob that allows five modes ranging from Auto to Rock. The baddest of these Cherokee’s doesn’t spare a trick in its goal to move at will on the kind of terrain that the faint of heart wouldn’t even dream of.
Perhaps, in addition to its design, the revolution that truly lies in this Jeep is that it’s increasingly less-and-less American, and dedicated to being just an off-road beast, and more European and better suited to the road than ever. Ah, globalization…
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