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Nation/World

March 28, 2013

Jeep takes a radical new turn with Cherokee

DETROIT — The Jeep Cherokee is back, with a surprising design that could win some new buyers but lose some old fans.

The 2014 Cherokee midsize SUV made its debut Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show. The remake is so radical that observers might not realize it’s a Jeep.

The new Cherokee ditches Jeep’s traditional boxy look for a more aerodynamic style. It replaces the brand’s signature round headlights with sharply angled slits. The interior is plush and full of luxury options like automatic parallel parking. Even Jeep’s seven-slat grille didn’t go untouched — it’s much smaller and creased in the middle to fold over the Cherokee’s nose.

It’s a look more reminiscent of a Honda CR-V than the model it replaces — the Liberty — and past Cherokees that helped establish Jeep as a symbol of toughness and off-road adventure.

All this isn’t sitting well with some Jeep fans, who say the 72-year-old brand is straying too far from its rugged, utilitarian roots. They bemoan the new styling and softer ride, saying it’s more suited for a trip to the mall than the Rubicon trail.

“It’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen on the road and to put a Jeep badge on it, let alone call it a Cherokee, is an insult to the name and heritage that Jeep has always delivered,” said Micah Myers, a longtime Jeep fan from Lexington Park, Md.

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