The auto maker had hoped to keep the mid-sized SUV—and its name—secret until a planned introduction at the New York auto show next month. However, photos of several 2014 Cherokees taken during pre-production at Chrysler's Toledo, Ohio, North Assembly plant were unveiled the morning of Feb. 22 on the site Jalopnik.com.
The auto maker released few details on that day in revealing the name, but included four official photos of the new vehicle and said it will begin arriving in dealerships in the third quarter.
Along with the Wrangler, the Cherokee nameplate is one of the most storied and popular in Jeep history.
Automotive News has previously reported that the Cherokee would be powered by a 3.2-liter V-6 engine based on Chrysler's 3.6-liter Pentastar engine, as well as an all-new 9-speed front-wheel-drive automatic transmission designed by ZF Friedrichshafen.
Online reaction to the leaked photographs was less than stellar. Late in the afternoon of Feb. 22, Ralph Gilles, Chrysler's head of design, tweeted "have faith" to a Jeep enthusiast who had expressed disappointment with the design.
"We are shifting some paradigms around... it is time," Mr. Gilles tweeted.
The Cherokee is scheduled to go into production in May. Chrysler discontinued output of the Liberty in August 2012, a move that has put a dent in Jeep sales in recent months.
Chrysler ended production of the venerable Jeep Cherokee, a mid-sized SUV, in 2001 after nearly two decades.
Reporter David Phillips contributed to this report, which appeared in Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.