Jeep stands its ground, says polarizing Cherokee styling won't change

The current Jeep Cherokee looks like no other Jeep every made, and depending on your position, that will either be a good or a bad thing. The Cherokee angers Jeep traditionalists, but it seems to be pleasing a number of mainstream buyers, who have made the model a sales success.

That may be why Jeep isn't planning to change the Cherokee's controversial styling when the crossovers gets a refresh sometime next year. Dollars speak louder than fan angst, after all.

"I think the overall styling, the overall shape, the overall accommodation of that vehicle is spot on," Jeep boss Mike Manly said in a recent interview with Automotive News. He added that he doesn't think there is anything that "dramatically needs to change" in the area of styling.

This styling is a dramatic departure from the previous version, which was boxy and less ornate. Advertising the fact that it is now a car-based crossover (related to the Dodge Dart) rather than a traditional truck-based SUV, the Cherokee now has a sleeker look, including a faster roofline and pointy nose.

The unorthodox front end, which features slit-like headlights mounted atop the fenders and large running lights where one would normally expect the headlights, seems to be the source of most of the complaints, but they are not limited to styling.

The Cherokee's car-based platform and Jeep's decision to offer road-biased front-wheel and four-wheel drive models has led to criticism that the brand is selling out. Jeep does offer the off-road-focused Trailhawk model, which is quite skilled in the mud, but the model commands a significant premium.

In addition to criticism of its design, the Cherokee has been plagued by reliability issues that affect both off-road enthusiasts and soccer moms. Jeep is currently deploying a software update to address persistent consumer complaints relating to the Cherokee's nine-speed automatic transmission.

Quality issues should probably take priority over styling changes. The Cherokee was Jeep's bestselling vehicle through June, so it appears that buyers like the styling well enough.