Chrysler, the parent company of Jeep and owned by Fiat Group, this week finished production of the 11-year-old Cherokee in the US and in June 2013, starts making its replacement.
The next Cherokee will be a “softer” vehicle based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform - a layout that is also used to create the Dodge Dart hatchback - and will be made both as a front-wheel drive and a 4WD.
It will come with the option of a world-first nine-speed automatic transmission and a new V6 engine. Until then, enthusiasts have a chance to buy the last of Jeep's hardcore mid-size 4WD.
“We will still receive shipments (of the current Cherokee) for the next few months and expect to sell through to mid-2013,” says Chrysler Australia public affairs manager Lenore Fletcher. Jeep is not discussing the look of the Cherokee's replacement.
“We haven't said anything about that yet,” she says. “Mike Manley (Jeep's global chief) was in Australia recently to discuss the design concept but it's too early to talk about details.” But Carsguide has been informed that the new Cherokee - called Liberty in the US but to revert globally to Cherokee - will have a restyled Dart/Giulietta body.
It will also become a single-body car-like construction, replacing the body-on-frame design of the current 4WD. Drivetrain will be the Fiat-derived 136kW/235Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol or possibly a smaller version of Chrysler's successful V6 petrol Pentastar engine.
There is no talk of a diesel engine but as sources are based in the US, which is not a diesel market, it's likely oilburners will be available and made by a Fiat company. More than 50 per cent of Jeep's smaller Patriot and Compass models are sold in the US as front-wheel drive versions.
Jeep says that is too big to ignore, hence the option of a cheaper 2013 Cherokee with 2WD as well as an all-wheel drive for adventure-seekers. The end of the Cherokee also spells the death of its sister, the Dodge Nitro. Chrysler is phasing out the Dodge name and says there will be no replacement for the Nitro.