The last Cherokee, with its rugged angular lines, was a great success in the UK and the softer, more rounded replacement hopes to follow in its deeply rutted wheel tracks.
But its challenge is to provide the Jeep 'experience' while competing with a generation of more sophisticated vehicles whose drivers and owners are likely to keep them solely on the road.
And, perhaps a result of its American origins, the top end of the petrol range offers an enormous 3.7-litre V6 engine. This might be fine where you pay less than $2 for a US gallon of gasoline (£1 at the current exchange rate) but when an imperial gallon of petrol is close to £4 you must have to really hate diesel to choose one.
This doesn't seem to be an obstacle for customers, as the V6 car sells well, offered only in range-topping Limited trim. It comes with a four-speed automatic transmission as standard, along with its part-time four-wheel drive paraphernalia.
You also get leather seats, heated in the front, with part-electric adjustment and a CD and cassette player, air conditioning, trip computer, electric windows and just about all you would expect of a car costing £23,000.
There is a neat split tailgate opening, taking some of the hassle out of accessing the luggage space, and the interior has a robust feel.
The rear compartment still isn't quite as accommodating as you would expect for such a large car, however, with taller passengers perhaps feeling short-changed for leg room.
Driving the Cherokee is also fraught with compromises. Designed to be capable off-road, the Cherokee lurches severely when taking bends at saloon car speeds and the steering wheel seems to take forever to get from lock to lock. It's light enough when parking, but resistance doesn't really increase with speed so there is always a vagueness about holding a line around a corner.
The Cherokee's V6 engine boasts more than 200bhp, which needs a gentle right foot when pulling out of junctions and on roundabouts. These vehicles should not be driven in four-wheel drive mode unless they are off-road, when power is sent to the rear wheels from a standing start in two-wheel drive, there is occasionally a twitch from the rear end as the tyres struggle to deploy the ample power available.
Despite this, and a choppy ride over undulating road surfaces, the Cherokee proves a pleasant motorway companion, its engine humming away quietly at 70mph, though there is an element of disappointment surrounding the engine note itself. A 3.7-litre V6 in a Mercedes SL or S-class would have an entertaining howl when provoked – the Jeep's engine under hard acceleration sounds like a powerful hair dryer.
These are foibles that most people would be prepared forgive because of the Jeep's charm, image and commanding driving position and I expect drivers choosing one as a company car would become rather attached to it.
Jeep Cherokee 3.7 V6 auto Limited
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £22,822
CO2 emissions (g/km): 333
BIK % of P11D in 2004/05: 35%
Graduated VED rate: £160
Insurance group: 14
Combined mpg: 20.2
CAP Monitor residual value: £8,175/36%
Depreciation 23.65 pence per mile x 60,000: £14,190
Maintenance 4.37 pence per mile x 60,000: £2,622
Fuel 18.90 pence per mile x 60,000: £11,340
Wholelife cost 46.92 pence per mile x 60,000: £28,152
Typical contract hire rate: £489 per month
Three rivals to consider
ALL four cars are equipped with V6 engines and automatic transmissions, but you get the least power for your money with the Freelander, offering 175bhp to the Jeep's 208bhp. The Freelander also looks expensive against the others, which are effectively in top-of-the-range trim for up to £2,600 less than the Land Rover. But perhaps you pay for sophistication as well as the Land Rover badge, as the Freelander is probably the least like driving a truck of the quartet. The Kia is helped by upmarket looks and decent quality.
Land Rover £24,397
A GULF exists between the Cherokee and the Shogun Sport in this category. The expected SMR bill for the Mitsubishi over three years/ 60,000 miles works out at £1,620 compared to the Jeep's £2,622. The Land Rover's unlimited mileage warranty must go some way to keeping down costs with a bill of £1,824 over the same period, while the Kia Sorento weighs in at a hefty £2,196. All credit to Mitsubishi (also with an unlimited mileage warranty) for making an off-roader cheap to keep on the road.
Land Rover 3.04ppm
YOU could probably cover the three-year/60,000-mile expenses of a supermini for the fuel bill of the Jeep over 60,000 miles. All of these cars, with V6 engines and automatic transmissions, have a serious drink problem, with the Jeep expected to cost £11,340. The Mitsubishi is the next worst offender at £10,854, with the Kia costing £10,224. The Freelander, using an MG Rover K-series engine and a five-speed automatic transmission manages to cover itself in glory in this comparison, but still breaks the £10,000 barrier by £92.
Land Rover 16.82ppm
DIESELS would be more likely to find buyers on the used car market than these thirsty petrol versions, but the Jeep Cherokee scores well against the expensive Freelander and the Kia, which lacks the off-road credentials associated with the other brands – something Land Rover, Jeep and Mitsubishi have built reputations on. But the Mitsubishi is the winner, its low front-end price and strong used values giving it a £2,000-plus advantage over the Cherokee.
Land Rover 24.70ppm
THE Jeep comes bottom of the pile for costs, let down by its thirsty 3.7-litre engine and high SMR bills, but the Mitsubishi Shogun Sport appears to be in a completely different race to the other three vehicles. Actual cash difference between the Mitsubishi and Jeep is more than £3,600. The Freelander would have done better had it not been for its high list price but this is as cheap as the five-door V6 gets at the front end. The Kia beats the Jeep, despite its poor depreciation.
Land Rover 44.56ppm
Emissions and BIK tax rates
NO surprises here. If a driver chooses one of these vehicles as a company car, he or she is going to have to take a hit on BIK. Choosing a diesel is not really much of an alternative as the automatic versions (and the manuals of some) are also in the 35% bracket. This test boils down to P11D price, and the Mitsubishi takes the honours again, with the pricey Freelander in last place. A 40% tax-payer will pay £254 a month for the Shogun Sport and £285 for the Freelander.
Land Rover 298g/km/35%
NOT a good score from the Cherokee – easily the worst on running costs and rather unlike driving a normal car, which might put many first-time choosers off. The Mitsubishi is a clear winner, although the driving experience in the Shogun Sport is similarly compromised. Second choice would have to be the Land Rover, with the Cherokee chosen over the Kia for image.