The messages keep pouring in over the recent news that the current model Cherokee is entering a continued production run past its expected end-of-life at the end of the 2000 model year. Word on the street (or, more appropriatly, on the trail) is that the negative reaction to all the KJ spy photos has prompted DaimlerChrysler to contine producing the profit-generating Cherokee while at the same time introducing the KJ as a 4th model in the Jeep line. What will the new KJ be called? Will it even be branded a Jeep? Only time (and hopefully, our spies) will tell. In the meantime, here's some of the messages that we've been receiving.
This first one is from a long-time contributor:
There's no question that the current Cherokee is a timeless design. If you recall, the original Grand Cherokee was to be a replacement for the current Cherokee. Well, that never happened. That also appears to be the case with the new KJ.
As great as the Cherokee has been (and it has been great!), it's time to move on. Like many out there, I'm not sure (from what I've read), that the KJ is the answer. Unlike most people, however, who feel the KJ is too radical a departure from the current Cherokee, my feeling is it may not have gone far enough.
If as has been reported, it only sports an independent front suspension (and not and IRS), for me, it will be a let down. Jeep has been teasing us with concept vehicles like the ICON, Jeepster, and now the Varsity -- all with fully independent suspensions. So, despite Jeep's public pronouncements defending the solid axle design (when the current Grand Cherokee debuted last year), there appears to be a lot of support within the Jeep engineering community for fully independent suspensions. I was (am?) hoping the KJ would debut such a suspension. Contrary to many Jeepers, I do believe a properly designed independent suspension can be as effective -- if not more effective -- than a solid axle setup off road. There's no debate as to it being better on road.
Having the current Cherokee and the KJ (or whatever the future Cherokee replacement will be called) sitting on the showroom floor together is a smart move for Jeep. It will give the old-time Jeepers a chance to get used to the idea of a "new" Jeep while still giving them the option of purchasing what they've comfortable with in the past.
Here's a message we received regarding some ideas on what the new KJ should be named:
Well, DC has a couple of venerable names hanging around if they choose to use them for the KJ ... Wagoneer and Comanche, perhaps the latter if they choose to build it as one of those SUV-pickup hybrids. Or they could build the popular Dakar under the KJ code name. Another possibility is Hurricane; weren't some of the old Willys Jeep engines called Hurricanes?
I don't see them using any of the names of the "fancy" concepts (Commander, Journey, Jeepster) for the KJ. Icon might be a possibility, although it was used for a concept Wrangler.
DC probably owns rights to the old Nash and Hudson product names as well (Commodore? Rebel? I don't think so), and maybe even Kaiser ... which made an interesting SUV-like car called the Traveller around 1950. That's another possibility.
Some ideas for updating the current model Cherokee...
Just wanted to drop you a note about the XJ. As a big fan of the Cherokee, I was pleased to find out that Jeep is going to continue production for 3 more years, and call the KJ by another name (maybe Dakar?). I do hope also that with the extra time they are taking on the KJ that they make it a REAL JEEP just like the XJ (no independant front suspension, please, only solid axles need apply) ... The Jeep Cherokee is an incredible workhorse. Mine has been the best vehicle I have ever owned (even better than the 91 Wrangler I had first). I am glad that Jeep has recognized the incredible market for a decent sized, great performing (on and off road) 4X4 that doesn't cost 30 grand. Incidently, if I was a Jeep engineer, I could redesign the Cherokee in about one day. Give it Quadra-coil suspension to make the ride a little smoother, a split fold down rear seat instaed of the one-piece folding, and put the spare tire on an outside carrier. These are the only improvements it needs. The CJ ran for 45 years with very few changes. The Cherokee could do the same.
As you can see, the solid-axle vs. independent suspension Jeep holy war continues. Comments? jeepnews@OneToMany.com