Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is testing its upcoming 2019 Jeep Cherokee on public roads surrounding its headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich.
The small SUV made its first appearance in front of spy photographers, hinting at the future design that could debut in January at the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The photos show the 2019 Cherokee toning down its controversial styling for a more conventional look in line with its Compass sibling, as well as a modern interior with familiar FCA technology.
Jeep is hoping the new style will provide a boost with U.S. buyers.
The most notable change is in the headlights. The current Cherokee uses an unconventional thin strip of daytime running lights with the headlight mounted below, alongside the front grille. There is also a set of fog lights below that.
The new look scraps the mid-mounted headlights, combining the headlight and LED daytime running lights into one unit in a more standard position.
The Cherokee prototype appears to borrow cues from the Compass. The new headlight and fog light combinations are comparable, and the camouflaged Cherokee may also use the integrated front grille that connects to both headlights as seen on the Compass. The Cherokee maintains the angled bars on the grille—though they may be less dramatic than the current model—and does not adopt the “floating roof” style used by the Compass.
Around back, the off-road crossover sports unique taillights, while the license plate has been moved up from the bumper to the center of the liftgate.
The current Cherokee offers a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.2-liter V6, and the next-generation version could boast a high-performance turbocharged 2.0-liter engine in a Cherokee Trackhawk model—though it will not be as high-octane as its 707-horsepower Grand Cherokee Trackhawk big brother.
Jeep is among the most valuable brands in the automotive industry and could account for 45 percent of global FCA sales and 55 percent of global FCA revenue by the end of 2018, according to Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley Research.
Through the first nine months of 2017 Jeep brand sales have decreased by 12 percent to 622,000 vehicles compared with the same period last year, according to industry research firm Autodata Corp. Sales of the Cherokee dropped 25.6 percent to nearly 118,000 vehicles and sales of the Compass slid 26 percent to almost 54,000 vehicles during the same time.
But those decreases are due to planned cutbacks on fleet sales, said Scott Tallon, director of Jeep brand. Sales of the Grand Cherokee, Renegade and Wrangler are all up compared with 2016, and the company is preparing to launch a revised Wrangler as well as a pickup truck version.