The 2014 Jeep Cherokee unveiled today at the New York auto show revives a nameplate from Jeep's past with a progressive design aimed at competing car-like crossover vehicles.
The goal is to reach a broader range of customers, especially younger buyers who may not remember the boxy Cherokee of their parents' generation.
"It's a real different direction for Jeep. It is a much more modern look than I think people were expecting, but that's OK," said Mark Allen, head of design for Jeep. "It's aimed right at the heart of the hottest SUV market, the midsize segment."
In the front, the Cherokee has a new interpretation of Jeep's seven-bar grille and narrow headlamps. The back half of the car looks like a Honda CR-V.
-- Mark Phelan: Cadillac CTS, Jeep Cherokee are new faces of Detroit style
The new Cherokee also is the first Jeep to be built on Chrysler's U.S. wide platform, which was adapted in collaboration with Fiat.
The Cherokee will be equipped with a nine-speed transmission designed with German supplier ZF Group and produced in Kokomo, Ind.
That transmission will help the Cherokee achieve fuel economy of up to 31 m.p.g. on the highway, a 45% improvement over the outgoing Liberty.
The Cherokee also will be the most capable off-road SUV in its segment, according to Jeep. All versions equipped with four-wheel drive will have a Selec-Terrain traction control with up to five modes: Auto, snow, sport, sand/mud and rock.
Jeep also will produce a Trailhawk version of the Cherokee for those craving a bolder look and even more off-road traction, as well as front tow hooks, skid plates and wider fender flares.
The Cherokee's 3.2-liter V6 Pentastar engine produces 271 horsepower and 239 pound feet of torque.
Jeep sold more than 2.5 million Cherokees between 1974 and 2001, peaking in 1999 with slightly more than 200,000 sales.
In 2002, the Jeep Liberty replaced the Cherokee in North America, but it was sold overseas as the Cherokee.
In recent years, Liberty sales have languished, falling to 75,483 last year, less than half the volume of Toyota's RAV4 (171,877) and barely a quarter of Honda's CR-V (281,652).
"We have had a very small share of that segment," said Mike Manley, CEO of the Jeep brand. "What we have done is to produce a vehicle that is very, very capable of regaining segment share for us."
While many industry watchers expected Chrysler to reveal the Cherokee at the Detroit auto show earlier this year, Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for Edmunds.com, said the New York auto show makes sense because New York is the largest market for the Liberty.
In 2012, almost 17% of Liberty SUVs were purchased in the New York metro area, according to Edmunds.com.
Cherokee production begins May 23 in Toledo. The price has not been released.
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