The new Jeep Cherokee might just be the most controversial car that no customer has yet driven. However, people will very soon have the opportunity to because its about to be shipped to dealers.
The reboot of the Cherokee was contentious right from the start. A lot of Jeep traditionalists – and other people with eyesight – immediately hated the looks of the new Cherokee. Many deride the brawny American company was too far in bed with Fiat to make a true Jeep.
Then the car got delayed twice. Delays happen, but this was a big one. The new and apparently baroquely complex nine-speed automatic gearbox made by ZF had some problems; mostly that it didn’t work.
Transmission issues are always expensive, as anyone who has owned a used car can tell you any time a mechanic even says the word transmission $2,000 is automatically deducted from your bank account.
Chrysler and ZF had it even worse because their concerned looking engineers were trying to do something both revolutionary and incredibly complicated: build a disconnecting drivetrain.
The idea behind this technology is fairly straightforward. When the engine is not under load the transmission actually disconnects from the axles to reduce rolling resistance. Unsurprisingly, actually making this happen is difficult. Making the transmission reconnect is harder still.
However, Jeep now appears to have sorted it out. Automotive News reports that the biggest change will be a software update for the system that runs the transmission. This is good news both for dealers and for Chrysler’s balance sheet, as thousands of Cherokees have already been made and are currently gathering dust in parking lots outside Toledo Ohio.
Legend has it that if you go there at night you can see Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne leaning on the fence, crying, and cursing God for allowing him to purchase Chrysler.
Once the Cherokees in automotive purgatory receive the software flash – presumably reminding the transmission to work – the cars are taken for a spin on a high speed circuit. Each Cherokee gets at least two laps around the circuit. What exactly such a short test tells Jeep engineers is anyone’s guess, but we can hope that it does tell them something.
All of the delays and problems may not have been for nothing, though, because the Cherokee could actually be a really good crossover. The complex nine-speed transmission means that the car can manage up to 33 mpg with the standard Tigershark four-cylinder, and 29 mpg with the optional new 271 horsepower 3.2 liter Pentastar V6.
Handling and ride are reportedly very good, and Jeep has rarely produced a bad all-wheel drive system.
Styling is likely to remain polarizing. Clearly, many people hate the looks, but – for me – I have grown to appreciate the looks. It is one of the angriest looking crossovers I have seen, and I like that. Besides, given the cars tumultuous upbringing, it has reason to be angry.