Before I became an automotive journalist, I wanted to write about sports. And one of the first things I learned from more-experienced sportswriters while I was in journalism school is that writing about a .500 team sucks unless there are colorful personalities on the roster.
This is because it’s generally more interesting to write about really good or really bad teams. I am sure there are exceptions, but generally speaking, mediocre teams were more challenging to cover.
In a decade-plus of writing about cars, I’ve discovered this applies to vehicles, as well.
The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word no Wrangler owner wants to hear: “crossover”. Their plan is to replace the off-road capable Liberty and compete with the RAV4, CR-V and 20 other small crossovers with one vehicle: the 2014 Cherokee.
With two ambitious (and contradictory) missions and unconventional looks, the Cherokee has turned into one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. It is therefore no surprise the Cherokee has been getting mixed reviews. USA Today called it “unstoppable fun” while Consumer Reports called it “half baked” with a “choppy ride and clumsy handling.” Our own Derek Kreindler came away disappointed with its on-road performance at the launch event, though he had praise for the Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. What should we make of the glowing reviews, and the equally loud dissenting voices?
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