IT’S been a while since I last exclaimed “Look! No hands!” in a fit of excitement.
It was probably the summer of ’86 as I proudly pedalled my way across the school field, impressing my parents with my ability to navigate the blades of grass without holding onto my chopper.
Moments later I was crumpled under the handlebars, streaks of green across my chin.
Fast-forward 28 years and I’ve been driving the new Jeep Cherokee for about five minutes, poking at myriad buttons to see what they do.
Mostly, they turn off parking sensors and various safety warnings.
[quote_center]“Look! No Hands!”[/quote_center]
But as I pull into the car park of Motors HQ, I hit a button on the centre console that has a picture of a steering wheel and a P next to it. Its LED lights up. The dashboard beeps a few seconds later. The display at the centre of the wheel changes and all I see are the words “Take hands off the wheel”.
I obey and the car further orders me to put the automatic gearbox into reverse. As I complete the change, the steering wheel starts turning. Slow at first, and then at a thousand rotations a minute as if it has been possessed.
I take my foot off the brake and the Jeep shoots back, turning as it does so to line up with a parking space between two company cars. I quickly realise that taking your foot off entirely is not the correct thing to do, because what’s happening – if you haven’t already guessed – is the Cherokee is parking itself.
And this is a “semi-automatic” process in which it controls the steering but the driver takes responsibility for speed.
Our Head of Field Sales was no doubt looking out of the office window in absolute horror as she watched a maniac reversing at high speed without even holding on to the wheel or looking where he’s going.With the brakes back under my control, the Jeep tells me to fully stop and engage forward gear. A few feet one way, a quick turn, another gear change and we’re back into the space and my mind is blown.I pull out and do it again, just to be sure it actually happened. Colleagues swarm out into the car park to point and shake their heads. Yes, that’s right – robots are here and they’re parking our cars for us.
While some of you may be driving pricey cars that already have this technology, the chances are most people are going to be new to this. And it is incredible.
Likewise, the Jeep’s Adaptive Cruise Control is the best we’ve come across yet – choose a speed and a distance to the car in front, and it will brake and accelerate for you. Where other systems we’ve tried have had a tantrum when cars turn off or change lanes, this one adapts wonderfully.
However, it’s also a gorgeous looking, mean car, with bags of room inside and comfort galore. It’s not short on technology either, with an 8.4-inch touchscreen, electric boot and seats that are not only heated but also vented. It’s big, but not unwieldy.
I’ve never been a fan of some clunky auto gearboxes, but this nine-speed is one of the best I’ve used and there’s terrain modes for snow, sand/mud, sport and auto. Nought to 60 takes 10 seconds and fuel consumption isn’t too shabby either, with 48.7mpg. We better deliver some minor grumbles in the name of fairness. At 6’4″, I felt I couldn’t get the seat as low as I’d normally like and the automatic parking mode can be a bit fussy so doesn’t always detect spaces that you think look just fine.
But it’s hard to be negative about the Cherokee because in our week together it fit me like a glove. The Cherokee can park for me, accelerate for me and even stop the car from crashing into wallies for me. So the only question is: who is going to spend £35,000 and buy it for me?