Jeep Cherokee returns with a radical new look

Jeep has a military history, so perhaps it’s no surprise the automaker is familiar with a strategy of shock and awe.

America’s off-road specialist has unveiled the first photos of the 2014 Cherokee, resurrecting one of its most famous model names.

It’s set to replace the car that replaced the original Cherokee in 2002, the Liberty, later this year.

But unlike its boxy forebear, the new Cherokee sports a futuristic look that’s already stirred up controversy among fans.

With its squinty headlights and a grille replaced by seven individual slots, the Cherokee’s radical look garnered a flurry of online comments from both sides of the aisle, many posted on Twitter by Chrysler’s head of design, Ralph Gilles.

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    From being compared to an early April Fool’s joke and the Pontiac Aztek, to “Jeep is blazin’ the trail! Love the new look of the Cherokee,” the one thing it wasn’t described as is ho-hum.

    Apparently responding to some of the negative comments, Chrysler even tweeted out a don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover message following the reveal that read: “THX for all the 1st impressions on 2014 #Jeep Cherokee. Remember: More than any other vehicle, Jeep SUVs are more than exterior looks.”

    Chrysler’s public relations chief, Rick Deneau, further defended the design in a blog post that said, in part, “... you've got to embrace being the SUV leader and lead by design. ... you've got to eschew the traditional and embrace the progressive.”

    Aside from the view of the front of the Cherokee, few other details were revealed other than a promise that it will get 45 percent better fuel economy than the very thirsty Liberty, which has an EPA rating of 18 mpg combined. Analysts expect the Cherokee to be available with a choice of four and six-cylinder engines, and possibly the world's first nine-speed automatic transmission.

    What is known is that the new Cherokee is an all-wheel-drive crossover built on the same platform as the Dodge Dart compact, but Jeep has promised that all of its future models will be available in at least one version worthy of its Trail Rated designation and says this one will offer best-in-class capability.

    Full specifications for the 2014 Cherokee will be announced when it makes its public debut at the New York Auto Show at the end of March.

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