Jalopnik threw a monkey wrench into Jeep’s plans on Friday when they published undisguised spy shots of the upcoming 2014 Jeep Cherokee, the long awaited Liberty replacement. The photos, found here, were not the ideal way for Chrysler’s next big move to meet the world, and after a few denial tweets, Jeep released 4 official photos of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
The images took much of the auto world by surprise, no one really knew if the iconic Cherokee badge would once again grace the sides of a Jeep vehicle; and no one could have guessed if it did, that it would look like this. The Cherokee is best known in its XJ form, the 1984-2001 5 seat 4X4 wagon. It gave buyers the capability of a CJ (yes the Cherokee predates Wrangler) with the cargo and passenger space of a station wagon. The Cherokee practically invented the modern day SUV. Something I assume Jeep is trying to do again, and likely a reason why this new mid-size Jeep bears its name. The Cherokee was originally planned to be replaced in the early 90’s by the Grand Cherokee, and was eventually replaced almost 10 years later by the Liberty. The Grand Cherokee thrived, and now as the flagship of the brand, it appears that it will be lending certain style and equipment cues to the reintroduction of its predecessor.
Personally, I don’t feel that the appearance of this newest Cherokee is the right representation for the iconic name. And without official power train and four wheel drive specifications, or off road package and equipment options, the appearance is all we can really judge right now. The bold front end boasts a seven slot grille that bends up and onto the hood, oddly positioned headlights, and a few too many curves for my liking. The design of the vehicle may be where Jeep wants to progress to, but I’m not sure if using the Cherokee moniker will help or hurt their newest offering. Jeep and Chrysler social media accounts have been a buzz this weekend, asking critics to wait for the New York Auto Show to “hear the whole story” and “see both models we’ll offer.” I’ll gladly take a closer look in New York next month, and see if the design is better in person.
The spy shots revealed two key features that may help Jeep enthusiasts embrace the new Cherokee. A Grand Cherokee style select terrain knob, and a suspiciously large amount of space inside the wheel wells. The spy shot of the interior showed the same steering wheel as the new 2014 Grand Cherokee, a large touch screen display, and (the first thing I noticed) a select terrain knob for 4X4 selection. The visible ROCK setting suggests low range four wheel drive, and the promised capability of this new Jeep. The spy shots also showed a profile view with quite a bit of room above the wheels in the wheel wells. This instantly reminded me of how the Grand Cherokee looks when its air ride suspension is raised to its maximum off road ride height. An off road ready transfer case with low range, and a built in lift kit, may have some of the critics, myself included, forgiving Jeep for the appearance of the front end. The official photos from Jeep, show a lower sitting Cherokee Limited; perhaps the other model is a more off-road worthy Jeep with a few rugged tricks up its sleeve… we can only hope.
The rumored 3.2L Pentastar V6 and 9-speed automatic could yield a 30+ MPG highway rating, and the speculation about a diesel option could potentially push the Cherokee even further on a single tank. I want to like this Cherokee so badly, but right now I just can’t. Off road goodies, and diesel engines could help me forgive the un-jeep-like front end, but we’ll have to wait for that information to be released in New York for me to change my mind. The recent J12 and Mighty FC concept vehicles gave me high hopes for the new Cherokee, hopefully the pickup trucks are still forthcoming, and will be a bit more like what I envisioned in my day dreaming head. More to come as soon as information is available. What do you think of the new Jeep Cherokee?