By Christopher A. Sawyer
Chrysler officially will reveal the 2014 Jeep Cherokee at next month’s New York Auto Show. Besides saying that it will be a “no compromise” vehicle, about the only other thing that Chrysler confirms is that it will be more capable off-road, have better on-road feel, and fuel efficiency is improved 45% over the outgoing model. That’s not a lot to go on.
What’s unsaid is that the Cherokee will replace the Liberty in the Jeep lineup, and it is based on the lengthened and widened Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform shared with the Dodge Dart. And while the Dart may suffer from an uninspired interior, too many powertrain and stand-alone options, and an indeterminate image, no one will claim it doesn’t sit on a stout platform or have great road manners. The Dart rides and handles well; a nice combination of European and American proad manners.
Where the arguments may arise, however, is with the Cherokee’s styling. Jeep stalwarts undoubtedly will insist that Cherokees are, and always have been, utilitarian off-roaders that look like the box they came in. The 2014 model is anything but square. In fact, one might say that the new Cherokee is a bit too avant-garde, a bit too Japanese looking, and will not appeal either to the average small SUV buyer or, in particular, Jeep aficionados. But if you keep selling to the same people who bought your vehicle the last time, how can you expand sales?
The front fascia is very bold, folding the seven-bar Jeep-trademark grille back onto the upper surface of the hood. (The hood encompasses the entire grille, and extends down to the front bumper.) This is framed by two pair of lighting clusters. The upper lights include a sweep of LEDs (approximately 12 per side) above the turn signals and running lamps. Below them sit the main headlights, and — in the bumper face — the fog lights. And while this is not your traditional Jeep nose, the Cherokee’s design should meet global pedestrian impact standards. This undoubtedly means that the Toledo, Ohio-built Cherokee will be sold globally alongside its Fiat and Alfa Romeo SUV siblings. (As always, click to enlarge photos.)