2014 Jeep Cherokee: Up Close

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Everyone's been talking about this one since the photos leaked a few weeks ago. It's yet another model that was reflexively labeled "polarizing," which is often code for "ugly." In this case, I can confirm it's legitimately polarizing. Some people, including some vocal Jeep faithful, loathe it — quick to blame it on Jeep's foreign ownership. (The platform was developed by, or at best with, Alfa Romeo, a sister brand under Italy's Fiat.) Other people really like its daring evolution — or let's just call it revolution — of Jeep design. I think I'm ready to commit to being one of them.

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I got a sneak peek at this thing in progress a few months ago, and I was intrigued but a bit concerned, mainly because of its passing resemblance to the Nissan Juke, which is, ahem, polarizing. Like the Juke, the Cherokee has slit-like high-mounted running lights, and the headlights are lower and larger. However, the Juke's headlights are much larger and accompanied by an erratic collection of elements from the design parts bin.

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I commented to Jeep brass at the time that I preferred the Cherokee Trailhawk version, whose smoked lenses downplayed the headlights. I am not claiming credit — but would gladly share it if it's offered — for the appearance here of a Cherokee Limited with smoked headlight lenses and dark bezels. This seems a late change, because leaked photos from just a few weeks ago showed chrome and clear lenses.

The rear end is less inspiring (or offensive) because it could be mistaken for any number of other vehicles, such as a dumpier Ford Escape. In fact, the controversial nose might be the only thing to distinguish this SUV, but the same can be said of many vehicles, good and bad. The butched-up Trailhawk version might be an exception thanks to dark lower cladding and bumpers that are shaved to improve the approach and departure angles. They give it a pointier nose and slimmer hindquarters.

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The interior quality is good, from what we could tell under the combined glare and shadows of the auto show stage. We'll need to get a second look to evaluate the instrument panel and giant Uconnect touch-screen.

Visibility is pretty good out the front but definitely compromised to the rear because of the high beltline and rear window. The front seats are reasonably roomy, and the backseat is decent but not exceptional for a supposedly midsize five-seat SUV. The rear seats slide forward and back, a welcome feature for apportioning space between passengers and cargo. However, some SUVs with this feature allow backseat legroom to range from very good at one extreme to meager on the other. In the Cherokee, the optimal legroom is merely decent; the feature seems to be better at giving space to the cargo area than to the passengers.

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Frankly, I'd like to see more interior room. Jeep already has the compact Compass and Patriot, and this doesn't feel a full size roomier to me. It's definitely not in the cargo department: Though the Cherokee is 7 inches longer than the Compass, it has 49.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume. The Compass has 53.6 cubic feet. The Patriot has 53.5.

As for the styling, I support Jeep's daring. The brand’s SUVs can't be lightly tweaked boxes and Grand Cherokee clones forever. Anyone who thinks the Cherokee will damage the Jeep brand can relax. If the original Compass didn't ruin Jeep, nothing will.

Comments 

Matthew Anderson

So true......if the first Compass didn't ruin the brand nothing will. That is a very good point!!! I forgot how ugly that thing was!

WTF

It's Alfa Romeo, not Alpha Romeo.

The interior is not futuristic enough to match the exterior.

Pol

Jeep never produced a vehicle that I'd say was beautiful. Utilitarian, mundane and non offensive sums up Jeeps best. Then comes Jeeps first crack at sub ugly: enter the Compass. The laughingstock of Jeeps rugged heritage. The Liberty was another gaff with its bug eyed expression and ungainly stature. Now Jeep has outdone itself. Creating the loudest laugh track possible: the 2014 Cherokee. Mating a Nissan Juke with a Pontiac Aztek with a Subaru B-9 Tribeca produced one ugly baby! What were they thinking? I know, it's typical Chrysler design malfunction. Chrysler is a class leader in building cars that most people don't want. The 2014 Cherokee will be a big fleet market seller. The rental companies will have them in their lots, and the Chrysler/Jeep dealers will have them stockpiled on their lots with a paltry sum that are sold. Ugly sells unfortunately. Some people are attracted to ugly car designs. Cubes, XB's, Jukes and Souls manage to sell to people with no taste in auto designs; why not the new Cherokee? Why Chrysler didn't close up shop is beyond me.

Norman Prevatt

I like this vehicle. 31 mpg for a 4X4 is good numbers.

larry

Call it a Grand Compass and people wouldn't be as upset. The XJ was a special vehicle that was produced largely unchanged from 1984-2001. In that span it remained true to it's core of being extremely capable both on and off road, dependable, simple, and affordable. I don't see a lifted FWD dodge dart checking all those boxes.

George

@Norman Prevatt
31 mpg is the small tire, tall geared front drive I4 engine.
24-26 is likely to be the V6 + short axle + large tires, and optional low range reduction gearset.

As far as I'm concerned, any "suv" design of today far surpasses the aesthetics of yesterday's design. This is a major improvement.

Sam

The original jeep cherokee was awesome - great handling - fabulous view behind thanks to a massive low window - great handling. You see millions of them still on the road -- why doesn't Chrysler take a hint and remake that exact model with current safety features and a nine speed transmission with the original straight six engine?

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