With the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler is once again stirring the pot. This trend goes back nearly two decades, when the redesigned Dodge Ram hit the market in 1994 with its mini big-rig styling. Considered polarizing and controversial at the time, elements of that design have influenced the styling of many competitors since, and the evolution of that design is still present in the modern-day Ram pickup series.
Whether the unique style of the new Cherokee will have the same level of staying power remains to be seen, but there's no denying the Cherokee's unconventional style is working from the standpoint of getting people to talk about Jeep's new mass-market midsizer. Even before its official debut at the 2013 New York Auto Show, enthusiast forums and automotive media sites have been buzzing over the new look.
But the main reason we're here is to review our predictions for the Cherokee, and see how close we came to them. This time, we've got seven "Yes," one unknown, one debatable, and one firm negative. If you're keeping tabs, that's our best record yet. So without further ado, here's our post-prediction scorecard.
1) Bigger Than the Liberty, Smaller Than the Journey - Yes
At 182 inches in length (we predicted between 181 and 186), the Cherokee is almost exactly five inches longer than the Liberty, about an inch wider, and five inches shorter in height than the Liberty. It's significantly shorter than the Journey's 192.4 inches. Our prediction on wheelbase was a tad on the long side at 108 inches. Actual wheelbase for the Cherokee is between 106.3 and 107 inches, depending on drivetrain option.
2) Nine-Speed Automatic, Only - Yes
This one was not going too far out on a limb. We knew the Cherokee would get the nine-speed, and if the recent trend with crossovers and SUVs is any indication, we knew a manual transmission option was as unlikely as Rush Limbaugh joining Greenpeace.
3) 3.2 Pentastar, Only Engine at Launch - No
We predicted the Cherokee would initially be V-6 only, but Jeep will offer both the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 along with the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6. We did predict the Tigershark as one of the possible engine options. Our wish/guess for the 1.4 MultiAir turbo or a four-cylinder diesel option did not pan out, but over the Cherokee's probable five-to-six-year model run, who knows what else we might see under the hood?
4) True Low Range - Yes
We were actually pleasantly surprised when Jeep came through on this one. We put it as a "wish" item on the premise that Jeep was going to go soft with the new Cherokee, and join the rest of the crossover masses with just a one-speed four-wheel-drive system. A single-speed system is offered, but not just one, but two four-wheel drive systems with a low range are also options, including one with a locking rear differential on the rock-ready Trailhawk model.
5) Innovative Cabin/Off-Road Tech - Yes
As expected, the Cherokee will offer Chrysler's 8.4-inch touchscreen display as an option along with multimedia app integration. As far as we know, the ooh-ahh off-road enthusiast tech features we were hoping for like a built-in inclinometer, GPS breadcrumbs, or front camera won't be available, but there are still several months until the Cherokee hits the showrooms, and Chrysler does have a history of pulling last-minute surprises out of its hat. Stay tuned...
6) Slightly Lower Towing Capacity - Yes
This is another prediction where we were expecting the worst, but reality actually turned out to be better than our prediction. The Cherokee's maximum towing capacity of 4500 lb is down 500 lb from the Liberty, but is 1000 lb greater than almost anything else in its class.
7) Significantly Increased Fuel Economy - Yes
This one was not a huge surprise. To begin with, the Liberty was a gas-hog no matter how you sliced it, so things could only improve from there. But the extent of the improvement was a real eye-opener. With the Tigershark on the front-drive model, Jeep is projecting a maximum highway EPA figure of 31 mpg, which would match the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CRV, two major players in this market. Official figures for the other configurations have not yet been released, but all of them, even the V-6 4x4 models, should be well into the high 20s freeway and high teens to low-20s city.
8) Competitive, Not Bargain Pricing - Unknown
As of this writing, Jeep has not released official pricing on the Cherokee. We actually went a little on the high side with our predictions, projecting a starting price of around $25,000, and a top-line model going for around $38,000. After seeing some prototypes, and looking over its size, content and positioning, we'd knock that down by about $2000 on both counts. Count on a front-drive I-4 Cherokee starting around $23,000, and a loaded Limited V-6 4x4 going for around $36,000.
9) "Heritage" Trim Packages - Not Exactly
If your definition of "heritage" is really old-school, in terms of Cherokee Chief, Pioneer, Laredo, etc., then the answer is decisively no. But if you're looking at some of Jeep's more recent trims and variations, then it's a qualified yes, in the form of the Limited and the ready-to-rumble Trailhawk. The official trims for the new Cherokee, at least at launch, are Sport, Latitude, Limited and Trailhawk. Chrysler is masterful about creating new variations of models, so those are probably not the only trims we'll see over the next several years.
10) Premium Comfort and Convenience Features - Yes
The new Cherokee, especially in Limited trim, based on what we've seen so far, will likely re-set expectations for content in this class. Among the many niceties offered is a heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, park assist (a first for a Chrysler product), full LED taillights, a full LED reconfigurable instrument display (some models), wireless mobile device charging, and driver's memory seats. There are far more bells and whistles we could list, but suffice it to say, the new Cherokee shouldn't disappoint in the goodies department.
After seeing all the specs and photos of the new Cherokee, are you a fan? Or is its funky new face just more than you can handle? Share your thoughts below.