CRUNCH TIME FOR JEEPWhile all the smiles on the Jeep stand in Geneva must have been around the exciting new 2015 Renegade and cheeky new Panda 4×4 Cross, the more serious expressions came with the first European showing of the forthcoming Jeep Cherokee. This can be described as the first ‘Euro’ Jeep, and undoubtedly the most important model produced yet from the partnership between Fiat and the iconic US 4×4 manufacturer. This is one vehicle that you feel just has to be a significant sales success for the joint venture to progress. It needs to be the basis for a growing market share when the Renegade arrives in 2015.

On paper it looks like being a vehicle that should appeal to more than ‘just’ the Jeep enthusiast. Indeed, it’s possible that the European design of the model will actually be something of a turn off for those deeply entrenched Jeep enthusiasts. As with the Renegade, this is something of a completely new look for Jeep, but it has some interesting claims. It will be the first mid-size SUV with a nine-speed gearbox, for example. To improve fuel efficiency, the rear axle is actually disconnected (again said to be a first), and it comes with two 4×4 options; the fully automatic Active Drive I and the two-step Active Drive II. It has a ‘best in class’ Euro NCAP five star safety endorsement. Power will come from the new 2.0-litre MultiJet II turbodiesel engine in two formats; one producing 170bhp and an impressive 350Nm of torque, or the more modest 140bhp version (which gets a six-speed manual transmission as opposed to the nine-speed automatic option).

The new Jeep Cherokee will be in UK showrooms in the second quarter of 2014, in either Longitude or Limited trim levels – sadly we don’t appear to be getting the more interesting Trailhawk option at launch (nag your Jeep dealer today!). There will, however, be ‘more than 100’ Mopar accessories for this new Jeep, so some personalisation will be possible. The model has proved a success in the United States, but of course the brand has a much stronger presence on the other side of the Atlantic. Fiat needs that success to extend to continental Europe. The two new small SUVs, the Renegade and the Panda 4×4, add some style and fun to the range, it’s the Cherokee that needs success today in one of the most competitive market segments there is. From where we sit, things are looking good for the Fiat/Jeep partnership, as an iconic 4×4 brand makes a significant statement.

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