Yes, we got a Jeep

OurGarage

DAVID HASSALL

Hass gets a taste of red, white and bling

OurGarage

LETíS face it, with a mouth like that it was never going to be love at first sight. I might be on the rebound after Fev (my Mitsubishi Outlander PHeV), but Iím not about to be swept off my feet by some brash Yank with flashy teeth and a big butt, even if she does have a soft side. At least I donít think I will.

First impressions were not good. Iíd seen the photos, but this was the first new Cherokee Iíd seen in the metal, and it stood out like a beacon against the drabness of grey skies and murky, churning water down on Melbourneís Mornington Peninsula. On a nicer day, its bright smile may have been less distracting and more inviting.

Adding to the bling quotient, our new long-termer is also fitted with highly polished alloy wheels that scream ďlook at me!Ē Frankly, Iíd much rather people didnít look at me, or remember me, given the way I drive. So I was relieved to see the big blue Cherokee has no personalised number plates, just an entirely forgettable 1BR-8GJ.

So much for the old days when youíd make up words by reading peopleís number plates to break the monotony of traffic jams or long freeway trips.

Perhaps Iíd become too comfortable with Fev, but stepping into the Cherokee felt foreign. I just couldnít get comfortable, despite an apparently limitless number of seat and steering wheel adjustments fore, aft, up and down. Perhaps there were too many choices. I fiddled for days before giving up and just leaving it. Seems that in every relationship you have to reach a point where you need to stop trying to change things. Now Iíve adapted and Iím perfectly comfortable.

From the outset Iíve been unsure about many aspects of the Cherokeeís driving experience. Stepping out of the similarsize Outlander, the Jeepís suspension feels soft and busy, the throttle lifeless and the steering squirmy.

It was the steering that bothered me most at first and I couldnít work out how it could be so bad; I could feel the wheel squirm in my hands even on gentle curves. Surely there was something wrong. There was, sort of. What I was feeling was not inconsistent steering pressure, but a lane-keeping function that Ė while impressively subtle for its primary purpose Ė had to go. Living out in the hills with a mini-Bathurst road to work, you canít have a system that tries to push you away from the white lines as you set up for the perfect line through a corner.

Thankfully, it was easily switched off. Now the Jeepís steering feels fine.

Of more enduring concern is the throttle, which seems to have a split personality. You squeeze it after picking up the apex and nothing happens. So you squeeze a bit harder, and still nothing. Harder, nothing.

Harder, WAAAAAHHHHH! Suddenly itís all revs and downchanges as you listen to petrol gushing past from the tank to the injectors. Itís almost impossible to smoothly keep up with traffic; you feel like youíre on an elastic band as the cars in front ease away before the 3.2-litre V6ís full 200kW and 316Nm seem to kick in, thrusting you away so youíre back onto the brakes.

Itís exhausting.

I understand it will take time to get familiar with the feel of this new Cherokee squaw and learn to push the right buttons, but that dopey throttle may just be the deal-breaker. Weíll have to see if that toothy grin ultimately turns into a grimace.

Luxury like this is so cool

BEING seen in a Sunoco Blue (now that shows my age, and my fascination with all things Penske and Mark Donohue Ė look it up, kiddies) Jeep with chrome-look wheels and grille might be cool to some, but whatís really cool are the ventilated seats. They are part of a $1500 Luxury Group package fitted to our long-termer that also includes Nappa leather upholstery. The warming and cooling controls are easily accessed on the big 8.4-inch touchscreen. The only downside with this option is that you lose

INVITING

No question the new Cherokeeís interior is a marked improvement, and it gives great value for the money

the passenger-side under-seat storage facility, which can be handy for hiding valuables. Heated seats are one thing, but getting a nice dose of air tickling your back and butt is most welcome on a hot day.

JEEP CHEROKEE V6 LIMITED

Date acquired: November 2014 Price as tested: $48,915 This month: 1954km @ 11.0L/100km Overall: 1954km @ 11.0L/100km