As most of you probably know by now, DaimlerChrysler has decided to continue to continue producing the current model Cherokee while at the same time, introducing the next-generation Cherokee, code-named KJ, as an entirely new member of the Jeep family. This has caused considerable debate among the Jeep faithful, as many feel that the KJ (or the spy-photos and sketchy information we have so far about the KJ) is not a welcome direction for a new Jeep. We've gotten some pretty interesting emails on this topic, here are some of the more in-depth ones...
As a salesman at a Jeep dealership, a member of several off-road clubs, and a proud Cherokee owner, I do get some feedback from a lot of people from many different perspectives on this topic. I won't dodge (excuse the pun) the fact that the Cherokee doesn't fill all the market demands from it's segment that many shoppers look for. It is an older style vehicle, a bit utilitarian, and not the smoothest of the sport utes, but...............it's a classic vehicle that is loved by many people. It is a choice vehicle for off-pavement trips for it's excellent abilities and good ride. Some people feel that it is what symbolizes SUV's and what they should represent. Lets face it, there are no other trucks in that market segment built like the Cherokee, and that's a good thing.
Where will a independent suspension Jeep fit? It's kinda hard to say, as much as I hate to say it, if it rides well then it might be recieved well as a fourth addition to the Jeep line up. Jeep has a reputation like no other company, and could almost screw up royally (eg. dumping Cherokee line) and still carry on just fine. From what I have seen of the KJ, I don't like it, but it was a biased opinion, I thought it was going to kill a legend. The Rav4 I feel fights more with the TJ then the Cherokee, however, I am sure some people will compare them. I have had people in looking at Neon's only to buy a loaded Jeep, so it's hard to figure out what people want, half the time they don't even know. So.....the question is what do I think they should do? Bring in the KJ, test it, get reviews on it, see what people feel, and as a fourth, it might signify a big change with an old company, without scaring away it's faithfull following. Basically, give the choice, don't take it away, I hope that they listen to people.
Here's another reader who has some ideas about some changes that the current Cherokee could use...
I bought a 99 Cherokee Sport (in fall of 98) not because I couldn't afford a Grand Cherokee, but because they've made that (GC) SUV into a jellybean. I also didn't think it's gas performance was good enough for my taste. It's large, yet it feels suffocating once you're inside. It's not a van from the outside and not a SUV in the inside. Image matters...you can give your 4WD technology whatever fancy name you want...in the end, IMAGE COUNTS. And Cherokee line has the sturdiest, manliest, youthful yet responsible look that Honda, Toyota, Lexus, Mercedes couldn't match.
Yet, Cherokee needs some updating...agreed. But if the updating means stopping the production and introducing a new name, I'm taking my business elsewhere. We have 2 Chrysler made vehicles (SUV, MiniVan) and we love them both because they're different, because they're strong and durable. The only change in Cherokee line I would agree with are follows:
Work on the interior a little more. Give better upholstery. Provide water-resistant synthetic material as options. Provide a heftier looking roof-rack. Throw a couple of fog lights (slightly angled downward) up there facing front. Provide heftier guards as standard. Throw in CD player and possibly changer. Put in hitch-mount as standard. Provide some with Winches too (that'd get raving reviews!). More HP (320+ will be the norm). Integrated GPS system. A moon roof (I believe it can be made to work well with a roof rack). And how about an I-8?? Surely these aren't absurd desires.
The point is you don't need to fundamentally change the Cherokee. A great design is ageless, but to adapt there are only minor, if not only cosmetic things you need to change that keeps it going. Sure the price is going to be a little higher than the current design...I'd _still_ prefer to pay extra for this than pay for the new Grand Cherokee.
The only good fusion IF fundamental design change is inevitable would be to mix a concept model (like Jeepster or Commander w/o the electric) and Cherokee. I think a management/executive overhaul is in order otherwise. And even in this scenario, if they're smart they'd keep the Cherokee and its supposed successor in the market at the same time for a 'short' time and see who the winner is! Let the public decide!
Got an opinion? Email jeepnews@OneToMany.com.