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The 2014 Jeep Cherokee: a past legend gets a future

By

February 26, 2013

Jeep shows the 2014 Cherokee

Jeep shows the 2014 Cherokee

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After a few years of toying around with uninspiring, forgettable designs like the Liberty and the Compass, Jeep is ready to go in a new direction. More accurately, it's going in an old direction. At this year's New York Auto Show, it will revive a name that's been retired for over a decade. The name is old, but the all-new Cherokee looks nothing like the boxy dirt warrior of its past life.

Originally launched as a smaller trim level of the truck-based rambler known as the Wagoneer in the 1970s, the Cherokee (XJ) became a unique model with unibody architecture in the 1984 model year. Because it was designed as an SUV from the ground up, and not simply adapted from truck underpinnings, some analysts consider it the first modern-era SUV.

Thanks to its car-like construction and interior, the Cherokee was more manageable and refined than other SUVs of its time. But it had a split personality, earning a reputation for being more than capable of tackling off-road obstacles. Jeep sold more than two million Cherokees before retiring the model in 2001 to make room for the Liberty, a change that many Jeep enthusiasts were less than thrilled with. It would seem that Jeep is ready to admit its mistake, however tacitly, and change back from Liberty to Cherokee.

A blog post from Rick Deneau, Head of Brands, Chrysler Group Communications, indicates the move comes as a result of listening to its customers. It reads, "... you've got to eschew the traditional and embrace the progressive. ... you've got to listen to the customer, saying keep capability, but give us more fuel economy (and a better on-road driver).

The bit about improving fuel economy and focusing on on-road performance doesn't seem to bode well for the new vehicle's future as heir to the Cherokee's off-road legacy. In fact, that makes it sound a lot like a small crossover, only with the benefit of a Jeep badge on it.

It'll take some time and independent testing before we know how the Cherokee stacks up to its predecessors on and off road. What we do know is that it's a rather radical redesign that definitely makes good on Deneau's claim of progression.

Unlike other derivative designs – we're looking at the Liberty, Patriot and Compass – the 2014 Cherokee steps away from the party line and dares to have some personality. Perhaps most noticeably, the new Jeep reinterprets the classic seven-slot grille with distinctly separated teeth. We think it's successful in giving the Cherokee a grittier, edgier face than the Grand Cherokee, much like the original-generation Cherokee had over its Grand contemporary. It's brand new but still quite familiar.

The new Cherokee will debut at the 2013 New York Auto Show

Outside of a Grand Cherokee-like roofline, nothing on the new Cherokee bears that much resemblance to other members of the Jeep family. The creased nose, the sculpted hood and the slit headlamps look like nothing we've seen on a Jeep previously. Heated arguments are already raging over whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but the new Cherokee definitely has its own identity. That seems like the right move for Jeep, which was starting to feel like it was unable to make a splash with a new vehicle in a market segment it practically created.

Jeep has kept the details under wraps, outside of describing the new Cherokee's attributes as "best-in-class capability, exemplary on-road driving dynamics, and fuel economy improvements of more than 45 percent" over the Liberty. We'll have to wait until the New York show in late March for more information and a look at the rear end.

The Cherokee is the latest 2014 Jeep model to be revealed, following on from the 470-hp Grand Cherokee SRT that was on display last month at NAIAS in Detroit.

Source: Chrysler

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work.   All articles by C.C. Weiss
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17 Comments

It now looks like the ugly child of every other SUV out there.

VoiceofReason
26th February, 2013 @ 10:48 pm PST

They need to stop taking styling ques from melting candy bars and build a competent on road/off road performer and let form fallow function.

Slowburn
27th February, 2013 @ 05:00 am PST

I agree, they should have just modernized the boxy Cherokee design a bit. Those old ones have a substantial following. Now it just looks like a mash-up of other makers current SUVs. They wasted a chance to cash in on the Cherokee's reputation by stripping it of any resemblance other than the name.

Siegfried Gust
27th February, 2013 @ 05:07 am PST

I agree with you, Siegfried, but I'm absolutely thrilled the Cherokee is coming back. I've owned two and still curse the day I sold my last one. I'll certainly be watching for updates and following this closely. It was by far the most fun non-sports car I ever owned.

Clay Jones
27th February, 2013 @ 08:24 am PST

First three comments say it all. However, I'd like to add a hearty...

Ewww!

Dave Mikulec
27th February, 2013 @ 08:25 am PST

But, wait. It does have the 7 vertical bars (er, slots, air vents) of the previous Chero's. I actually think it is a rework of the GM Traverse, Acadia, etc. body, and if so, it just won't perform like a Cherokee. My favorite was the 2 door Cherokee that was in production 1997-2001.

Jon

Jon Loveless
27th February, 2013 @ 08:32 am PST

The first generation Liberty was a very successful seller and also quite popular with owners. It was the generation that came out 5 years ago that was a milk toast bust. In addition, the 2005-2006 Liberty came with a Diesel that was capable of 30 mpg highway, a figure that few SUV's to date can match. This vehicle is a full unibody exercise which is the biggest departure from the old Liberty/Cherokee, and we'll see if it is up to the task.

Bruce D Sherman
27th February, 2013 @ 08:45 am PST

What's up with the Kia grille?

Fairly Reasoner
27th February, 2013 @ 09:34 am PST

Daimler coveted the development process that Bob Lutz and Francois Castaing created with Dessault's Catia. It was the finest process anywhere. They could rapid prototype faster than anyone. That's why they bought Chrysler. And then they came up wit a bunch of poorly designed junk that really hurt the company, so they decided to leave their crap and walk away, perhaps trying to sink one more automotive entity.

Ralph Gilles is a master designer and has in his short lifetime come up with lots of great stuff. The new Wrangler is magnificent and it has a kind of British reserve and elegance not readily found these days.

Ralph is someone to watch. His new Viper is magnificent as well... tremendous refinement. And he brought back the slender side lights.

Let's watch Le Mans this year.

b

Lewis M. Dickens III
27th February, 2013 @ 11:08 am PST

Have to agree with Bruce Sherman... I currently have an '06 Liberty, had it build for me at the factory after driving an '02 for 4 years.. I got the 1st Liberty on a 4 year lease thinking you can never be really sure about a "1st of a model" vehicle.. so it was a lease and planned for it to go back to Jeep..

But, loved it so much I ordered one and had it specially build for me.. The only fault with the initial Liberty series is the name it was dubbed, the "Cute Ute".. Guess it wasn't "macho" enough for men to drive as they called it a women's car.. Makes no difference, my ex who had a '99 Wrangler he ordered from the factory, said my Libby drove and handled as well as his Wrangler..

As for the next series.. they destroyed the Liberty name and reputation.. I had the opportunity to drive one for about a week, when I needed a warranty repair on my '06 Liberty and the dealer didn't have the parts in stock... They loaned me an '08 Liberty until mine was ready.. From the moment I pulled it out of the dealer's lot, I couldn't believe this was supposed to be a Jeep.. It handled like a very awkward pick-up truck. had the worst turning radius of any vehicle I've ever owned or driven and I couldn't wait to get my Liberty back.

Later, I found out that regardless of what they wanted to call it, the new series really wasn't a Jeep.. The '08 thru '12 series was built on a "DODGE NITRO" chassis, not the original Jeep Liberty chassis.. And, it was UGLY... A few years before, Jeep came out with the Commander which was bigger than the Grand Cherokee and very boxy and squared off looking.. It didn't do very well (they no longer make), but apparently when they discontinued the Commander, they applied its squared off body style to the new series Liberty so no one would ever again call it a "Cute Ute".

If Jeep had any sense they would bring back the '02 - '07 series Liberty with a few minor changes for the new series.. It was and still is truly a Jeep and a wonderful vehicle.. I was tempted to trade mine (for something the "ex" had never driven) but after driving the "08, I'll keep mine forever.

Marika Ainsley
27th February, 2013 @ 11:43 am PST

I agree with everything everyone has said. The 02-07 series Liberty was a true standout in terms of capability. Nimble on road, burly off road, comfortable interior, great visibility, and towed 5000lbs. It's one failing was that it struggled to get 17 MPG combined (it could dip to 12 MPG in the city) - way too low for a vehicle of it's size. The diesel was impossible to find in the US, otherwise I would have bought 2.

Car makers seem to forget that capability and performance drive sales more than design. I desperately hope the new Cherokee delivers. A new small to mid size SUV with near 30 highway MPG and 5000lb+ towing capability would be head and shoulders above anything else currently out there in the US.

James Bronson
28th February, 2013 @ 10:16 pm PST

Wow. What an awful design.

I'll just say it. I rarely say it.

It needs a boxier directionality on things like the lights, even if it's going to be more aerodynamic.

By making it non-angular, it's no fun and just looks like a gross crossover.

I'm sick of your s#%t, Jeep! Stop trying to appeal to the masses so much and make something for the off road enthusiast again other than the tiny Wrangler.

Alex Lekander
28th February, 2013 @ 10:50 pm PST

I think its an embarassment to the Jeep name .

Myopinion
1st March, 2013 @ 08:37 am PST

2004 Liberty owner here. I've said many times that I'll hold onto my current Jeep until it's a pile of rust and rubber. Hopefully that will be some time after Jeep execs come to their senses, because this thing is truly fugly.

Mark Lynn Ferguson
2nd March, 2013 @ 08:23 pm PST

This thing is ugly. It'll go down into the halls of worst ever with the Pontiac Aztec. I had no idea they could take the Compass and make it uglier. You can't stick lipstick (grill with no headlights) on a pig (Compass). Ugly ugly ugly.

gizmag.user
5th March, 2013 @ 08:13 pm PST

That is the ugliest Jeep alien I've ever seen. we have owned two cherokees a 94 and a 99 and they were our favorite cars we've ever owned. they were perfect. this year it was time for a new car, we went with a Patriot, because it was so much like the cherokees. yes i know the differences, but it felt right and looked right. now take the Patriot, put it on a unibody frame, give it a 6cyl and a standard tyranny not cvt, and give it a standard transfer case... now you have a cherokee... why is that so hard? why do they keep making these luxury girl suv's? ill stick with my patriot 4 banger until they actually bring back my boxy small cherokee...

Brian Smith
26th March, 2013 @ 10:12 am PDT

They have completely ruined a legend.

John Snook
3rd April, 2013 @ 04:11 am PDT
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