Ahead of its debut at the Detroit auto show next month, Jeep gave a sneak peek of its updated, Cherokee SUV Tuesday.
It’s had a nose job.
The Cherokee’s polarizing, shark-like face has been to the plastic surgeon and restructured to look more like the rest of the Jeep family.
The vehicle resuscitated the legendary Cherokee name for the 2013 model year as a compact crossover shoehorned between the midsize Grand Cherokee and smaller, compact Compass. Determined to redefine the Cherokee as a compact ute (the Cherokee name was last used from 1984-2001 as a midsize, Grand Cherokee predecessor), Jeep designers gave it a quirky front porch with a narrow, seven-slot grill, and three shelves of lights — the running lights separated from the headlights and hovering above them like angry eyebrows.
Judging by the four pictures released by Jeep, the 2019 model conforms to the style of siblings Grand Cherokee and Compass. The grille is taller and more upright — and the headlights and running lights are reunited in the same lens cover alongside the seven-slot grille. Jeep also released a shot of Cherokee’s rugged, trail-rated “Trailhawk” trim which looks typically fearsome with blackened hood and front tow hooks.
Rear changes are less obvious as the Cherokee retains its horizontal, shard-like taillights. The license plate, like the Grand Cherokee, has been moved up to the center of the hatchback from the bumper.
The interior layout looks largely unchanged, though expect Cherokee to get electronic updates to its award-winning UConnect infotainment system like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
Polarizing or not, the Cherokee was a huge hit when it debuted four years ago. Its sales surged to three times that of the Jeep Liberty — the compact ute it replaced — in the most popular segment in autodom. So strong were sales that it surged past its Grand Cherokee and iconic Wrangler bunkmates to become the best-selling Jeep model in 2015.
But since then its sales have lagged on a ferociously competitive playing field that includes such talents as the Toyota RAV-4, Nissan Rogue and Chevy Equinox. This year, Cherokee sales are off more than 25 percent, trailing the Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.
The 2019 model will make its public debut Jan. 16 at the Detroit show. Jeep promises further details including “more fuel-efficient powertrain options.”
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne. Catch “Car Radio with Henry Payne” from noon-1 p.m. Saturdays on 910 AM Superstation.