Jeep Cherokee returns with a modern look

The Cherokee is back, and you’d never recognize it.

Jeep’s replacement for the midsize Liberty and competitor for the likes of the Ford Escape and Honda CR-V combines a futuristic look with one of the company’s most iconic names.

Based on the same platform as the Dodge Dart, the 2014 Cherokee features a radical front end design with slim headlamps and a seven-slot grille integrated into the hood.

Under it you can get either a 184 hp 2.4-liter 4-cylinder or 271 hp 3.2-liter 6-cylinder engine, both connected to a segment-first 9-speed automatic transmission.

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Front-wheel-drive is standard, but despite its car-based underpinnings Jeep promises it will be the most capable SUV in the class. Three different all-wheel-drive systems will also be offered, including one that includes both a low range transfer case and locking rear differential for maximum off-road performance.

An adjustable Select-Terrain traction control system provides five drive modes for conditions ranging from Snow to Mud and Rock.

The Cherokee is expected to get 31 mpg in its most-fuel efficient models, while the most potent versions will be able to tow up to 4,500 pounds.

The aggressively-outfitted Cherokee Trailhawk tops the line and features 8.7-inches of ground clearance, front and rear fascias redesigned to improve approach and departure angles, standard skid plates, tow hooks front and rear, and Jeep’s Trail Rated designation.

The modern interior is one of the largest in its class and can be enhanced by an available virtual instrument cluster, 8.4-inch Pandora, Aha and iHeart Radio-equipped infotainment system, plus a center console-mounted wireless charging mat for mobile devices.

On road driver assist features include collision and lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a full stop in the event of an impending collision, and a self-parking system that will steer the Cherokee into an open space, either parallel or perpendicular, but probably not on the Rubicon trail.

Pricing has not been announced, but the Cherokee will be in showrooms starting this fall.

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