Who knew a small crossover could generate so much buzz?

Dealers eagerly awaited shipping of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which was delayed several times for last-minute changes to its nine-speed automatic transmission programming, the Associated Press reports.

The Cherokee is very different from the older Jeep Liberty it replaces.

Unlike the boxy 1980s and 1990s SUV it's named after, the 2014 Cherokee is based on a car platform. It also features a new slate of powertrain options and, of course, some rather unorthodox styling.

A 2014 Cherokee equipped with the 3.2-liter Pentastar V-6, nine-speed automatic, and base Active Drive I all-wheel drive system is EPA-rated at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway).

Front-wheel drive models get an extra 1 mpg added to their highway rating.

That's a significant improvement over the 17 mpg (15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway) and 18 mpg combined (16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway) achieved by the outgoing Liberty (with all-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive, respectively).

That older body-on-frame vehicle was equipped with a 3.7-liter V-6 and an old four-speed automatic transmission.

2014 Jeep Cherokee

2014 Jeep Cherokee

The Cherokee is also offered with a 2.4-liter Tigershark four-cylinder engine.

Choosing that option boosts fuel economy to 24 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 28 mpg highway) with all-wheel drive, and 25 mpg combined (22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway) for front-wheel drive.

However, the Cherokee wouldn't be worthy of its name without more than a little off-road ability.

Jeep offers it with an optional and more sophisticated Active Drive II all-wheel drive system. That drops fuel economy to 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway) for the four-cylinder, and 21 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway) for the V-6.

The 2014 Cherokee Trailhawk ups the off-road ante even further.

That model also gets the lowest mpg of any Cherokee, mustering just 20 mpg combined (18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway) with the V-6 (four-cylinder numbers are not available).

As of this week, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee is finally on its way to dealers, with a starting price of $23,990, including mandatory destination charges.

New Cherokees may appear in showrooms as early as next week.


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