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The Jeep Cherokee returns for 2014 with a bold, new face

The Jeep Cherokee returns for 2014 with a bold, new face

Set to make its public debut at the New York International Auto Show in March, the polarizing-looking 2014 Jeep Cherokee has been unveiled online.

The Cherokee name carries much nostalgic weight with off-road enthusiasts, and for good reason. The long-lived previous version was a pioneer that blazed trails on- and off-road long before small SUVs went mainstream. But by the time it was retired in 2001, the Cherokee felt ancient. But the concept struck a clear chord.

Now, Jeep is looking to reinvent the Cherokee as a more sophisticated midsized SUV. The company has released absolutely no information beyond the official photos, leaving us to speculate about its underpinnings and powertrains, and to ponder the reason for oddly shaped, high-tech headlamps. (Hopefully, they are just an auto show diversion.) When Jeep has such a clear brand identity in the seven-slot grille and circular Wrangler headlamps, it strikes me as unthinkable that they would go this far afield with the Cherokee. But perhaps that's the point.

Word is that this will be the first Jeep based on a Fiat platform. Like the Dodge Dart, it is expected to use a stretched Alfa Romeo Guiletta platform. It will be offered in front and all-wheel drive.

While the disappointing Patriot aped the old Cherokee's styling, and to a certain extent its plasticky 20th-century interior, it came up short in the hardware department. Our last tested Patriot and Compass were not much for tough off-roading. Hopefully, this new Cherokee will take after the Grand Cherokee, a quite capable vehicle with good road manners and a refined interior. (Watch our video on the 2014 Grand Cherokee.)

We'll soon find out.

See other upcoming models before they hit the road in our New Car Preview.

Updated: 2/26/13

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