By adding a diesel to the Cherokee range, Jeep is looking to increase its already healthy market share. The portents are good.
Turn the key, and the 2.5-litre, VM-designed Chrysler turbodiesel sounds like an oil-burner of the old school, aurally reminiscent of a concrete mixer in dire need of tuning.
But the news gets better thereafter. The engine is extraordinarily potent for what it is, and actually provides greater performance than you get from the 2.5 petrol-engined Cherokee. By class standards, 116 bhp at 4000 rpm represents unbeatable output, but it is the exceptional torque yield which most captures the attention: 207 lb ft at just 2000 rpm.
That makes all the difference. In everyday use, this is a truly potent 4×4, with a broad spread of accessible power. On the move, it remains a little gruff, but that’s a small penalty to pay when you take performance and range into account: with care, over 600 miles per 17.5-gallon tank is attainable; 450 miles between refills is a cinch.
Like all Cherokees, the 2.5 Turbo Diesel offers a tempting slab of standard equipment which will raise the eyebrows of those familiar with Land Rover price lists. In £21,095 ‘Limited’ specification, you find ABS, air conditioning, driver’s airbag, cruise control, a potent six-speaker RDS stereo, remote central locking and an armada of electrical aids as standard. Add £2000 to your outlay, and the Limited SE arrives laden with several hectares of leather, upgraded stereo and a few planks of polished wood. To my mind, leather trim is not entirely compatible with a machine that was essentially designed for exploring muddy gullies and climbing mountains. Take your pick.
All of this needs to be taken on board before you consider the fact that the Cherokee is one of the most car-like of all 4x4s in terms of road manners, though it does feel a little woozy under fierce braking.
Unlike many of its rivals, the Cherokee also has a cargo area cover, a simple and fairly obvious fitment which is strangely absent from Nissan Terranos, Vauxhall Fronteras and others of this ilk.
Jeep points out one final advantage the Cherokee possesses over other 4x4s: it is compact enough to fit on Le Shuttle… Common sense says that one should have been sold on the Cherokee’s desirable blend of pace, economy, versatility, comfort and outstanding value for money long before you start worrying whether or not it will fit in a sub-aquatic crate.
In a nutshell, this is one of the most thoroughly sensible cars I have driven this year. Or any other year, for that matter.