I stopped at Los Lupes in Carrollton for lunch before my interview. Service was extremely fast, and the fajitas are very good. On the down side, the tea isn’t great, and I’m not a fan of lime-infused salsa.

Overall, not a bad experience!

Advertisements

PHOTOS: 2019 Jeep Cherokee redesign

A softened Jeep KL Cherokee debuted Tuesday at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. Click through the photos above, then read my first thoughts here.

It’s better, but it’s still not a Cherokee.

That was my immediate reaction Tuesday, as Jeep brand chief Mike Manley took the wraps off the redesigned Jeep Cherokee KL at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

While there are many noteworthy features underneath its steel and aluminum skin, the biggest change for this revitalized Jeep icon is plainly visible. The new-for-2013 Jeep Cherokee had its share of detractors. It’s slant-eyed, beak-grilled facia drew the ire of many enthusiasts of the original XJ Cherokee and other Jeep faithful.

For his part, Manley said the new Cherokee’s redesigned exterior is “consistent with classic Jeep design.”

As someone who strikes a consistent middle ground in the classic-vs-modern styling debate, I can’t let that one pass.

While the 2019 KL certainly is less offensively styled than its predecessor, there isn’t much about it, to me, that says “classic Jeep design.” The bent grille, now laughingly called a “waterfall seven-slot grille”, while more subdued, is still there. And, the new KL’s sheet metal still appears to have more in common with a Kia or Ford than anything that ever wore a Jeep badge.

That said, this refresh is a notable step back from the precipice. The design is less offensive and, given that the KL has sold more than 1.7 million units worldwide since its introduction, will likely perform well from a sales standpoint. After all, mid-size SUVs account for more than two million sales each year in the United States alone. Jeep would be crazy not to want a sizable share of that pie.

But, to fans of the seven-slot brand, not everything is about sales. Out here in flyover country, Jeep was always the brand that knew us. There’s always been something about a given Jeep vehicle that relished being under-powered and having the aerodynamics of a brick — because this is America. And, in America, you take what you’re given, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and you get the job done.

For myself, I can’t help but feel Jeep has lost some of that rugged American spirit over the years. The KL is certainly not the first Jeep vehicle to lean more toward trendy than classic. Far from it! But, in the current Jeep lineup, it certainly is the embodiment of what appears from the outside to be a concerted push away from what we’ve always known as Jeep DNA.

Can you really see one of these Cherokees lifted on 35-inch tires running the Rubicon Trail?

Manley and his peers at Fiat Chrysler rightfully boast a new vehicle that offers three different engine options, including a new turbocharged inline four-banger. They’re well within their rights to be proud of an improved on-road ride and the obligatory host of high-tech gadgets and gizmos. And, it’s understandable that they’d tout a vehicle allegedly as at home taking the kids to school as spiriting the family off on amazing adventures.

But, while they’re congratulating themselves on coming up with the 2019 Cherokee’s five wheel options, 12 color choices and an “elegant” interior (Since when did the words “Jeep” and “elegant” belong in the same sentence?), those of us in flyover country will sigh another “oh, well” and get back to getting our collective jobs done.

This is America, after all.

A slightly better face — I’ll have more thoughts soon …

Well, this should be interesting — I hope.