There's been much talk over the past few weeks about the 2014 Jeep Cherokee -- or more specifically, about its nose. The more I looked at the pictures that had been released in advance of the Cherokee's official debut today, the more it grew on me. Seeing it in person only solidified my conversion: now I'm excited for Jeep's new crossover.
More than anything, I applaud Jeep for being willing to take a risk with the daring front fascia on the 2014 Cherokee. Its designers managed to update the iconic Jeep look to the 21st -- maybe even the 22nd -- century with the fantastic reinterpretation of the seven-slat grille and squared-off wheel wells. While the tri-level lighting is a little kooky, it works better here than it does on the Nissan Juke; thanks to the cladding on Trailhawk models, the headlights are essentially disguised, leading your eye to the jeweled LED indicators and running lights.
This is a car that, honestly, doesn't look that good under the harsh lighting of a convention center -- but it will look great on the streets. Diffused, natural lighting will be better to highlight the subtle body surfacing on the sides and hatch, and it will keep from the front end looking too shadowed and pointed.
The Cherokee shares its CUSW platform with the Dodge Dart, but introduces new powertrain pieces. Most notable is the standard nine-speed automatic that, when paired with front-wheel drive and the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4, should return an estimated 31 mpg on the highway. For those looking for more power, Jeep will also offer the long-rumored 3.2-liter version of the Pentastar V-6 engine. The six-cylinder is good for 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque, and can tow up to 4500 lbs.