I’D LIKE to think I’m a positive person, though many of my friends and family would suggest I’m perfectly qualified to star in an Australian version of Grumpy Old Men.
The Jeep Cherokee is a good test for looking at the glass half full, and one that’s challenged me from day one. There’s much to criticise – ride quality and throttle response – but there’s also much to like.
For a start, there’s plenty of ‘fruit’ to play with, which makes a freeway cruise more enjoyable. Seat cooling is a welcome feature on a warm day and the sound system pumps the vibes from every corner. I’ve even overcome early frustrations with the iPod connectivity that, as it turns out, resulted from having an original unit. It prompted me to finally update to a new iPod Touch, and now it not only links perfectly, it also displays the album cover. Remember albums?
The soft ride drives me mad much of the time, but it’s great on freeways where the Jeep lopes along comfortably, lapping up the kays. Even the steering feels reasonable at cruising speeds, if a little lifeless.
Not only can the Cherokee’s ‘safety’ systems be turned off, they stay off, even when you next start the car.
I’m not overly fond of the seats, but passengers like them, and there’s plenty of space for rear-seat occupants – even when the driver’s seat automatically slides back when I turn off the ignition.
Adding to the Limited’s equipment list – and therefore its value equation – are the various electronic nannies. It’s just a pity they don’t work very well, in my experience. The lane-keeping assist is a hindrance when I’m trying to place the car for corners, pulling us away from white lines. And the parking sensors slam the brakes on at strange times... like when I’m reversing out of the garage.
Worst of all, though, is the forward collision mitigation system. In theory, it’s a saviour, seeing things and braking if the driver nods off or becomes distracted. In reality, it’s so conservative it intervenes at inappropriate times. One recurring example is when changing lanes and I know the car in front won’t be there by the time we glide past. Hell, one time it braked hard because it detected a car which was parked safely on the outside of a sweeping corner. Thankfully no one was behind me.
These electronic nannies, I’m convinced, need more development, more finesse. They are as simple-minded as our legislators and only know how to dumb things down. The default action is to stop the car, even if it is in the middle of traffic, probably half-way between lanes with cars bearing down.
Thankfully, these systems can be turned off, though it feels wrong to be disabling ‘safety’ features. But honestly, it feels to me like they’re going to cause an accident rather than prevent one.
This article was originally published in Wheels April 2015.