The Jeep Cherokee Classic, one of the most beloved Jeeps of all time was retired in favor of the Jeep Liberty, which bowed as a 2002 model. Curvier than the traditional Cherokee, the Liberty appealed to a broader audience-especially female buyers-but Jeep purists railed against the softer lines. Jeep responded in 2008 with the second generation Liberty, a more traditionally styled Jeep. The purists may have been satisfied, but sales figures weren’t even close to the first generation Liberty. So, the Liberty quietly slipped into oblivion in August 2012, and is now being replaced with the all-new Cherokee.
And boy, is this a radical departure from the Liberty. Also important, this is the first all-new Jeep since Fiat got their hands on Chrysler. I admit, I’ve always had a soft spot for Jeeps. They are quintessentially American, tough, and maybe even a little crude. I like those qualities, because it gives the Jeep character, personality. As a greying Gen-Xer who once pored over CJ-7 and Wagoneer brochures as a child, that’s romantic and all, but it doesn’t sell a lot of cars to the masses. If the Liberty looked like an old Jeep from the day it was new, the Jeep Cherokee is the exact opposite. This is like no Jeep ever seen before. Yes, the looks are polarizing, but to who? The old codgers?
The new Cherokee may be a risk, but it makes a styling statement, and points a new direction for Jeep. How buyers react is anyone’s guess. But here is what we do know. The Cherokee started production in Spring, and will be arriving in dealers this Fall. Buyers will have a choice of two or all-wheel drive. Four trim levels will be offered: the Sport, Latitude, Limited, and Trailhawk. All Cherokee’s come standard with a 2.4L four rated at 184hp, paired to a nine-speed (not a typo) automatic. With the exception of the base Sport, all other Cherokees also offer an optional 3.2L V-6, rated at 271hp.
The full line of the Cherokee family is described below. Note, all prices show that of the four cylinder, with 4×2. Four-wheel drive Cherokee’s will add $2,000.
Cherokee Sport: $22,995 USD
The base Cherokee comes standard with full power accessories, a 5″ touchscreen, Bluetooth, LED tail lights, and 17″ steel wheels.
Cherokee Latitude: $24,495
Likely to be the volume model, the Latitude adds exterior trim upgrades like body-colored exterior mirrors and chrome door handles, deep-tint windows, ambient interior lighting and 17″ alloys.
Cherokee Limited: $27,995
The top-spec Cherokee from a luxury standpoint, the Limited adds leather heated power seats, heated steering wheel, 18″ alloys. an 8.4″ touch screen, SiriusXM satellite radio, back-up camera, two-zone auto climate control, and an auto dimming rear view mirror.
Cherokee Trailhawk: $29.495
Or, to keep the Jeep purists happy. The Trailhawk is only available as a 4×4, and is the only Cherokee to wear Jeep’s badge of honor: Trail Rated. More aggressively styled with unique front and rear fascias, unique 17″ alloys, rugged interior trim, this Cherokee adds the off-road goodies Jeep fans demand. Add an increase of a 1″ ride height, tow hooks, skid plates, off-road suspension, heavy duty cooling, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, all-terrain tires, and Hill Ascent/Descent Control, the Trailhawk is there for the Jeep owner who demands his Jeep to be truly off-road ready, and to look the part.
For those who complain Jeep is going soft, relax. The Wrangler is still raw and rugged, and remains the face of the brand. The Garage has yet to review the revised 2014 Grand Cherokee, but we remain confident it still offers the same brawn and luxury as it always has. The reality is the outgoing Liberty was a dinosaur that, while being fully capable off-road, presented too many compromises that the average buyer was not willing to make when so many more refined alternatives were available. With current, if not controversial styling, greater fuel efficiency and reportedly vastly improved interior surroundings, the Cherokee could stand to reverse the Liberty’s steady sale slide. Stay tuned, as The Garage will review the new Cherokee.