MOTORING / Jeep challenge: Chrysler's Cherokee

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The Independent Culture
CHRYSLER'S all-American assault on the European market is spearheaded by the Jeep, to be sold in Britain by Chrysler Jeep Imports UK - a subsidiary of TKM, the Daihatsu importers. There are basically two models: the big, boxy one, aimed at Land-Rover's Discovery, is the Cherokee. The smaller, faster sports-utility, closer in spirit to the military workhorse that Willys pioneered over 50 years ago (and American Motors subsequently civilised), is the Wrangler, targeted at Japanese rivals.

All Jeeps sold here will have right-hand drive controls, power-assisted steering and transmission systems that give the driver the choice of rear-wheel drive (for road use) or all-wheel drive (when the going gets tough). The pounds 15,345 Cherokee Sport, here in March, is powered by a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine. The Cherokee Limited, with 4.0-litre six-cylinder power, is on sale now, priced from pounds 18,245. Although low-tech and relatively unsophisticated, the 184hp 4.0 Cherokee is a fast and capable mile-eater that outperforms the 3.5-litre Discovery on the road, if not off it. There is an even more potent 5.2-litre Range Rovereating V8 on the horizon.

Despite its formidable size, the Cherokee is not especially spacious (the spare wheel encroaches on boot space in the big Jeep). Nor is its finish up to the best Japanese or European standards. But it is superbly equipped: included in the Limited's price is fourspeed automatic transmission, air conditioning, cruise control and anti-lock brakes. Leather upholstery costs pounds 1,000 extra.

The importers have appointed 80 dealers (from 1,200 applicants) to sell and service Jeeps in Britain. Interest has apparently exceeded expectations, suggesting that the first year's sales target of 2,000 vehicles could be pessimistic.

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