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Three models in Jeep line-up

At a cost: The new Cherokee cost $US1.7 billion to develop.

The all-new Jeep Cherokee will come in three models and a sporting boost is being considered for the Neon

14 May 2001

THE all-new Jeep Cherokee will be offered in Australia in three model guises, two of them powered by an all-new 3.7-litre V6 engine and the other by a new inline four-cylinder, 2.4-litre turbo-diesel.

The petrol variants of the five-door wagon will be badged as the Sport and Limited, replacing the existing Classic and Limited.

The old and new Cherokee will sell alongside each other throughout the last quarter of 2001.

But the new turbo-diesel will not go on sale here until six months after the petrol models.

The Cherokee was the cornerstone of Jeep's relaunch in Australia in 1996 when it sold a phenomenal 4319 units - or 360 a month. It has fallen away dramatically since then, selling just 811 last year - or a monthly average of 68.

"We believe that we can do at least 150 a month," said Chrysler Jeep Australia managing director Judith Wheeler.

"It's not going to do 1996 figures again. There weren't that many competitors in that segment when you go back that far." With CJA aiming to lift from around 6500 sales in 2000 to 7900 in 2001, the new Cherokee will be a vital component in the sales graph climb. The five-year ambition is to increase Chrysler Jeep total sales to 15,000.

New Cherokee prices will rise significantly, if last week's Voyager launch is any guide. When it goes on sale June 1, the big people-mover will be priced as much as 10 per cent higher.

On that basis, expect the Sport to retail for around $44,000 and the Limited for just under $50,000. The turbo-diesel should sit just under the Sport.

Despite such a significant rise, Ms Wheeler is confident the new Cherokee will not be a tough sell.

"We have our pricing locked down and I'm pleased with it. I've given the dealers some idea and their reactions were good. Let me tell you, if they're not happy, they let me know," she said.

The new Cherokee cost $US1.7 billion to develop and shares little with its predecessor. It is of uniframe construction with double A-arm suspension up-front and a live axle at the rear.

The new 90-degree V6 produces 157kW and 319Nm while the inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel is sourced from Italy's VM, like its predecessor. The common rail unit develops 104kW and 343Nm.

Grand Cherokee upgrade

THE Grand Cherokee has been upgraded by CJA. A more urban-oriented suspension replaces the "up country" suspension package, which drops the ride height 38mm, while the gearbox now has a split fourth gear with an overdrive function.

There are also new 17-inch alloy wheels, an in-dash CD to complement the 10-stacker in the boot and white instrument backgrounds where they were previously black.

The Laredo misses out on all these changes, except for the V8, which is equipped with the new gearbox. CJA also raised prices on Grand Cherokee, Wrangler, Neon and PT Cruiser from May 1.

Sporting boost for struggling Neon

THE struggling Neon small car could get a sporting boost soon with the R/T version being tested here. If it goes on sale, it would retail in the low $30,000 bracket.

Another sporty neon, the SLT, is also being considered for Australia.

The R/T features a 112kW, 2.0-litre SOHC engine, mated to a five-speed manual transaxle. That is combined with sports suspension, 16-inch alloy wheels and the appropriately aggressive exterior and interior styling.

If approved, it would play a vital role in giving Neon a profile boost.

"I think the Neon wasn't launched properly initially and I think we could do a little bit better job with it," Chrysler Jeep Australia managing director Judith Wheeler said.

"It's not something we will spend a lot of time on, going after that popular end of the market, but we want to make sure we can assist our dealers in being more viable and if it helps bring traffic in the door then we need to maintain it," Ms Wheeler said.

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