By Alix Capper-Murdoch
Fiat Chrysler hosts the first all-female test drive to launch Jeep Cherokee.
As the clock struck midnight on 24th June 2018, women throughout Saudi Arabia (and around the world) did victory laps in a show of solidarity and celebration for the abolishment of the ban on female drivers.
Nearly three months later, a group of women from across the GCC, including myself, were invited by Jeep to attend the launch of the new Cherokee SUV in Sicily, this was the first all-female trip of its kind. At the airport, the excitement was electric as 7 women set off to test a car that was designed by Irina Zavatski, one of the world’s most prominent automotive designers.
On arrival, it became clear that this car is going to appeal to both men and women. The family-friendly SUV with its high seating position, visibility, comfort, and underpinnings– no need to worry about getting stuck in sand!
The new Jeep Cherokee is recognizable for its beautiful yet strong styling, and will no doubt become famous for its off-road capabilities, awarded best-in-class with its Jeep Trail Rated capability that set the benchmark for mid-size SUVs. All models in the Middle East have the award-winning 3.2-litre Pentastar V6 engine generating 271 horsepower and 324 Nm. of torque plus best-in-class towing capability of 2,041 kg (4,500 lbs).
On the exterior, the ageless redesign on the front end incorporates the safety-conscious daytime running lights and indicators which float effortlessly above darkened headlamps. New for the 2019 model is a lighter composite boot lid with hands-free power operation for ease of access. Bright and instant LED lights, front and rear, add to the exterior’s safety and come as standard. In total, there are more than 80 available advanced safety and security features. Inside Jeep’s mid-sizer, a sturdy dash contrasts perfectly with the soft furnishings and cream faux leather which covers the seats. There’s plenty of room, and the controls are easy to use – no need to spend hours reading the instruction manual! My favorite interior feature is Jeep’s award-winning Uconnect™ system, which operates the entertainment, navigation, and communications systems. The latest system includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and the choice of 7.0” or 8.4” touchscreen with pinch-and-zoom capability.
When it comes to safety, many of the best features come as standard, including eight airbags, as Jeep added airbags to protect rear passengers from any sudden side impact. A rearview camera, hill-start assist, blind-spot monitors and rear cross-path detection are also standard for Limited and Trailhawk trims. The optional Technology Group can be purchased to add forward collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, the lane-departure warning, rain-sensing wipers, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and automatic parallel and perpendicular parking.
All in all, every woman on the trip felt well-placed to assess and review a car that is sure to be a regular feature on the roads of Saudi Arabia and beyond.