After we exclusively revealed shots of the new Jeep Cherokee rolling off the assembly line, Chrysler released the official shots of the vehicle a few hours later and ahead of schedule. The reaction to the car — particularly its nose and headlights — hasn't been as positive as the Mopar folks probably wanted. But the curious thing is that Chrysler seemed to expect this.
Let's start with a post on Chrysler Communications' Facebook page, which was up last night but appears to have been taken down this morning. I grabbed this screenshot around 9 p.m. last evening. The gist of it? "Don't judge a book by its cover," which is kind of an odd sentiment to make in a statement to the public.
Most of the comments on that post were pretty negative. The word "ugly" got tossed around a whole lot. More curiously, there's no mention of the Cherokee at all on the Jeep Facebook page, which seems strange considering what an important model this is for them.
Chrysler made similar comments on their Twitter account last night that remain up.
THX for all the 1st impressions on 2014 #Jeep Cherokee. Remember: More than any other vehicle, Jeep SUVs are more than exterior looks— Chrysler (@Chrysler) February 23, 2013
More than anything else, Jeep SUVs are defined by how they do on- & off-road. #Moparchat— Chrysler (@Chrysler) February 23, 2013
Like I said, the language here is oddly anticipatory of negative reactions to the car. Or maybe they saw how people reacted in the comments to our story, or the Road & Track staff's horrified reaction, or any number of tweets about the car. It's possible they were already in some kind of damage control mode.
The thing is, I feel the need to come in and stick up for the new Cherokee. Okay, those headlights aren't my favorite, but the rest of the vehicle looks pretty great, especially the way they've used the iconic seven-bar grille.
The car is radical, it's modern, it's different, and it evolves Jeep's styling beyond the same language they've been more or less using for decades. What did you want, another carbon copy of the old XJ Cherokee? That Jeep is excellent and much-loved, but it's time to try something new. And we've seen what happens what Jeep tries to copy that styling — we get stuff like the Liberty or the Patriot, and neither of those were particularly inspiring.
I'm not the only one who appreciates what they've done. Here's SRT boss Ralph Gilles' take on Twitter. To his credit, he's also been retweeting some of the negative remarks about the car as well.
Paradigm shift indeed. Good for Chrysler for trying something different.