If Sergio Marchionne were taking time out from running an automobile empire to record a rap tune, he might begin with the phrase “haters gonna hate”. I say this because he is about to blow up the Jeep brand design aesthetic. It is not as though the traditional seven-slot grill is gone, but it is bent – some may say melted. The lights are still there, but they are pinched on top; with auxiliary lights on the bottom riffing on the juke’s setup.
The Liberty nameplate looks like it is being mothballed in favor of the Cherokee moniker. With the change comes the watchful – some say vengeful eye of the Jeep faithful. Cherokee says “rugged traditionalism”, which includes large headlights and a blunt front end making a face that evokes the traditional styling cues of Willys / Jeep since the Second World War.
We will see what happens when you combine one of the most beloved nameplates in the automotive world with a complete break in styling tradition. Only the sales results will confirm if this duel gamble will pay off. So far, the change of moniker has received positive buzz, however the styling critique has been overwhelmingly negative. When is a negative a positive? When it gets your model lots of free publicity and gets the Jeep lots of extra page views making it more familiar and less shocking – perhaps softening the blow. It has been referred to in varied circles as an “Aztec 2” and also a “puke Juke” and many other obvious criticisms from armchair designers.
The familiar cry of “I wouldn’t buy it” really doesn’t matter, as sales for the outgoing model were already low. This would indicate that the present styling was not doing any favors to the bottom line of Chrysler. Perhaps a more radical styling approach would add at least one new buyer – and most likely a whole lot more.
The façade is given a modern appearance through the use of aerodynamic LED enhanced units that set off a sculpted hood and upswept fender lines. The main lighting units sit nested in a three-dimensional housing. Overall it gives off a bit of an Audi vibe, which is a good thing. However, unlike Audi, you can’t rely on a giant shield-like grill to give a corporate face. Jeep needed to do something different while keeping some semblance of tradition. Their solution was to give what I would call a wind swept look to the seven-slot front, which gracefully sweeps over the hood shut line.
The result is shocking at first and is still jarring after several looks. I will say though that each time I look, it gets more beautiful. As the saying goes, “first you shock them and then they place you in a museum.” Is this a design that will need an emergency refresh in a year or two? Is this a future classic that will be looked upon as a seminal breakthrough that propelled Jeep design forward? Here is your answer – go back to the top of this post and look at it – and keep looking, because you are going to start seeing it everywhere you go for a long time to come, and you will end up loving it.