The retirement of the Jeep Liberty brings with it the end of solid axles in any non-Wrangler Jeep vehicle. A moment of silence please…
Along with The Dodge Dart, The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is the second all new vehicle from Chrysler to take on a classic name; hoping to give buyers a sense of familiarity with forward thinking vehicles. The Cherokee is the future of Jeep, so lets learn to embrace it.
When I first saw the spy shots of the 2014 Cherokee; my initial thought was: “I guess the first generation Compass wasn’t actually that bad.” At least the Compass had round headlights… I fell victim to the typical Jeep enthusiast response to anything new that comes from the brand. It’s going to be horrible because it’s different than my Jeep. The body lines were too bubbly, the hood sloped in places it shouldn’t, and someone submitted the front end design to the factory before they finished drawing the headlights. I thought it was hideous, and actually sulked around for a week because it was nothing like what I expected. I thought that if this is what they did to the Cherokee, the future Grand Wagoneer is bound to be a nightmare. I did, however, promise myself that I wouldn’t give up hope until I actually saw it for myself.
The first thing to point out is that the Jeep looks a billion times better in person than in any of the images out there (even mine.) The Cherokee TrailHawk’s front end is, surprisingly, somewhat mean looking. Albeit in an Angry Birds kind of way. The lack of chrome on the TrailHawk brings less attention to the creased grille (simmer down YJ Wrangler owners, you have one of those too,) and pushes focus to the black and gray cladding. The smoked headlight housings are almost hidden within the front bumper, so your eye is drawn to the slim upper DRL and running light. The tucked up front fascia, and red tow hooks, also give it an authentic, rugged, Jeep look. After 20 minutes of walking around it, I was surprised that I didn’t hate it.
The TrailHawk is the only Cherokee I’m talking about because it’s the only one worth talking about. Why? It’s the only trim level that has the option for Mango Tango paint, of course. The TrailHawk is also the only Cherokee model to receive the Trail Rated Badge, but is not the only trim with low range 4 Wheel Drive. The key feature, aside from my beloved Mango, is the locking rear differential. Jeep’s new Active Drive Lock includes a two speed PTU, and a selectable rear differential lock. The locker is selectable via a button on the Select Terrain knob, and is automatically locked when said knob is set to “rock.” The Cherokee TrailHawk’s belly is also pretty well protected for trails that require the rock setting, and the 56:1 crawl ratio.
The Cherokee’s interior is promising, although Jeep had all of the sample Cherokees under lock and key at the New York auto show and wouldn’t let the public sit inside of it. I’m not overly excited about the large touch screen, or customizable dash (unless I missed the part of the press release when they mentioned the inclometer setting) but I know others will love the tech infused within. I’m glad that they carried over Liberty’s SkySlider roof, but can do without the auto park function; I can drive my own car, thanks. I couldn’t get a good picture of the cargo area, but did manage to smudge my face against the clean windows while trying to take a closer look. The front and rear seats look comfortable, and the materials look like quality ones, but I won’t know for sure until they hit the dealer lots, and I can pretend to test drive one.
A major complaint with the new breed of Jeeps is the complexity that will go into modifying them. There isn’t much of an aftermarket when it comes to large lifts for fully independent suspensions. I say, leave that up to the aftermarket companies to figure out. If there is a demand, someone will find a way to do it. There is a lift kit for the Compass after all.
I really want to give this new Cherokee a chance, and for what its up against, I think the Cherokee will sell pretty well. The other options for customers that want a capable family offroader are basically non existent. What do you think about this new generation Jeep Cherokee? Will it live up to its namesake, and push Jeep to the head of the midsize SUV segment once again, or go the way of the Pontiac Aztec as an SUV that never should have left the drawing board?