The designer of the new-generation Jeep Cherokee has defended its controversial front end, saying the brand needed to break away from a traditional look.
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Jeep unveiled the 2014 Cherokee earlier this year in a series of images that ignited forums and drew much negative comment from US motoring writers.

Comments centred mostly on the trademark seven-slot grille, which has been bent in a similar tradition to the first Cherokee's grille and creates a squashed nose look in combination with the slimline running lights.

“Reaction of any kind is good; negative reaction (though) I don’t necessarily cherish too much,” the vehicle’s lead exterior designer, Greg Howell, told Australian media at the international launch of the new Jeep Cherokee in California.

“[It caused] quite a stir, absolutely. In some ways, when you see some of the comments you don’t know wether it’s because of the [famous Cherokee] name or the design.

Jeep Cherokee grille

Howell admitted the first photos seen of the new Cherokee mid-size SUV didn’t show it in its best light, and insisted it was a vehicle that needed to be seen in the flesh to be appreciated (which CarAdvice hadn’t at the time of the interview).

However, he said Jeep’s global research told the company it was going to be a polarising vehicle from a design perspective, but knew it couldn’t just create just a smaller copy of the Grand Cherokee.

“It wasn’t going to be a first read, fall in love type of vehicle. Maybe for some, but some no…

“There were things on it that got back to our heritage but a very modern interpretation of it and yet very functional. Because that’s what a Jeep needs to be.

Jeep Grand Cherokee pose

“This program had to break tradition. With the aero target we needed to meet, we couldn’t do a Liberty again, couldn’t have made a Patriot, or a Commander type of design.

“We did have Wrangler, and the Grand Cherokee (above) and both are very different schools of thought. One’s very bolt upright.

“The Grand Cherokee comes at a different angle – it’s muscular, flared, in a very mature way.

“This vehicle [the Cherokee] is designed to appeal to a much younger audience.

Jeep Cherokee rear quarter driving

Howell said the design also had to help improve fuel economy through a slippery shape.

“The windshield rake, the A-pillar – a lot of that is designed by science to get wind across this fluid shape.

“The science and reality of the industry were telling us we couldn’t do things the same way.”

The new Jeep Cherokee goes on sale in Australia in 2014. CarAdvice is in California for the launch and will publish a review of the vehicle in the coming days.