Jeep has released photos of the 2014 Cherokee, the mid-size SUV that will make a comeback in North America more than a decade after being replaced by the Liberty.
It looks nothing like a Jeep.
The official release is light on details; Jeep will likely publish more information before the SUV's debut at the New York Auto Show next month.
It does say the Cherokee will be a "no-compromise vehicle," with "exemplary on-road driving dynamics" and fuel economy numbers that are 45 percent better than what the outgoing Liberty offered.
Oddly, the release does not even mention how different this Cherokee is from its predecessors. But in a blog post, Chrysler director of public relations Rick Deneau defended the bold choice:
"There comes a Time When..." he wrote:
... you've got to embrace being the SUV leader and lead by design.
... 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).
... you've got to listen to the experts, telling you to further grow and build the Brand that has perhaps the most equity of any worldwide.
The 2014 Jeep® Cherokee is that time.
That's the argument for offering a vehicle that is more of a cross-over than an SUV, a big departure for Jeep from what it's been doing for decades: It's time to do something new.
Nissan made a similar move with the Pathfinder last year, dropping the boxy frame in favor of a crossover body, and we liked it well enough.
Part of the reason Nissan made the change was the improved fuel economy produced by a more aerodynamic body; that may partly explain Jeep's decision as well.
We'll have to wait for more details to make any judgements about the Cherokee, but we do know this is the big question: Will the new ride be good enough — capable, efficient, advanced enough — to convince drivers that change is good?
For reference, here's a late generation Cherokee:
And the outgoing Liberty:
And again, the new Cherokee:
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