Jeep Releases First Official Photos of 2014 Cherokee [2013 New York Auto Show]
The Jeep Cherokee is back. The sparse release accompanying these images—spat out on the heels of clandestine photos published today by Jalopnik, as well as the rather accurate rendering we published last month—confirms that the Liberty replacement will resurrect the hallowed badge when it debuts in late March. (At least in the U.S.; the Liberty was badged as a Cherokee for other markets.) The name change is something we’ve been discussing as far back as early last summer.
While official details won’t arrive until the New York auto show next month, we have a good idea of what to expect from the 2014 Cherokee. Built at Jeep’s Toledo plant on a version of the front-drive Compact U.S. Wide bones that underpin the Dodge Dart, it’s a solid bet that the engine bay will host four-cylinder and V-6 power. The identity of the former is still a mystery—the Dart’s 1.4-liter turbo four or Alfa’s 1.8-liter turbo four remain strong possibilities—but the V-6 will be a 3.2-liter version of Chrysler’s corporate Pentastar engine. We also expect ZF’s nine-speed automatic transmission, which would more than double the number of forward ratios available in the Liberty. All-wheel drive will of course be widely available. Jeep says that the crossover will be even more capable and far more fuel efficient than was the Liberty, and it also promises “exemplary” on-road dynamics.
As for the new Cherokee’s styling, it’s, er, rather funky up front. The Jeep badge is present, as is the all-important seven-slot grille, but the overall look eschews the old XJ Cherokee’s boxy style in favor of softer crossover lines. It’s an aesthetic philosophy similar to that of the latest Grand Cherokee, but that model has a more conventional front end: The face of the Cherokee features a Nissan Juke–like light arrangement, with LED running lamps and turn signals arrayed up top and the headlights embedded in separate pods below, and then there’s a sharp crease running directly through that iconic grille. These professional shots do, however, cast the Cherokee in better light—as do the dark paint and the fact that it’s an uplevel Limited model with body-color bumpers—than the gray-cladded and presumably base example that appeared on Jalopnik.
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Even without taking the new look into account, it’s likely going to be tough to get the Jeep faithful to accept the Cherokee name on a front-drive-based suburban runabout, no matter how many versions end up wearing a Trail Rated badge. On the other hand, the Liberty’s rough-and-tumble driving dynamics and lack of refinement created few converts. Unfortunately for purists, it’s not hard to predict which approach will prove most successful for Jeep.
By Erik Johnson