Car and Truck News recently posted their take on the 2001 Cherokee spy picture that appeared in an October issue of AutoWeek (you can see that picture here).
The article says that they have reports of the 2001 KJ being a relative of the Isuzu Rodeo and Amigo, positioning the vehicle as a "larger compact SUV". The article also mentions that the prototype has been spotted on the Rubicon trail in California (every Jeep model must be able to drive the entire distance of this treacherous off-road trail before it can wear the Jeep name).
Here's a snippet from the article:
I now understand why the various Buzz Patrollers who've spotted the vehicle out testing have given conflicting reports. The engineers who designed the camouflage for the new Jeep® have done a masterful job of disguising this vehicle.
That said, the photo did tell me a few things. First, KJ doesn't look anything like the four-door Dakar concept, putting to rest buzz that Dakar and KJ are one and the same. I've been trying to track down if Dakar is still a viable project at Jeep®, but have met with little success. According to one source, it may still be in the works, and if it is, it will be a derivative of the next-generation Wrangler.
The photo also shows that KJ doesn't look anything like the Cherokee it will replace, and it seems slightly smaller and taller than the current model. Autoweek seemed to think it has a "cute" look, resembling the Honda CRV and Toyota RAV 4; Buzz Patrollers who have spotted the vehicle out testing have mentioned the Isuzu Rodeo and Amigo. Sources who have seen the undisguised model say it looks like the child of the Grand Cherokee and the Durango -- but with a its own distinct look. I hope it looks like a small Grand Cheroke.
If you decide to check out the full article, be warned - the picture that is displayed at the top of the article is not an image of the 2001 Cherokee - it is a slightly modified (compressed) image of the 1999 Grand Cherokee.