DETROIT -- Chrysler Group said it was going for a "polarizing design" with the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.
Mission accomplished, judging from the torrent of comments that streamed into the Twitter feed of Ralph Gilles, Chrysler's head of design. Chrysler released photos of the Cherokee, which will replace the Jeep Liberty this spring, on Feb. 22.
"The tension is good, exactly what we hoped for," Gilles tweeted.
Gilles shared scores of opinions, pro and con, that he received on Twitter. Some accused Gilles of destroying the Jeep brand; others said they couldn't wait to buy a Cherokee.
Gilles urged Jeep supporters to "have faith" that the Cherokee would live up to the brand's off-road heritage despite its front-wheel-drive underpinnings.
The vehicle's front end, with its unusual lighting alignment, attracted most of the criticism.
Many Tweeters did not like the historic Cherokee name applied to such a modern design.
Chrysler last used the Cherokee name on a powerful boxy SUV that Jeep stopped offering in 2001 after 17 years and more than 2 million sales.
Gilles acknowledged that the name was controversial, especially with Jeep enthusiasts.
"I think part of what's going on is that we called it a Cherokee, and that carries a lot of paradigms with it," he said.
Despite consumers' passion for Jeep heritage, Chrysler decided a fresh look was essential.
Rick Deneau, Chrysler's head of brand communication, wrote on its corporate media site that it was time for a bold design shift.
"The 2014 Jeep Cherokee is that time," he wrote. "Customers, through extensive research, are strongly telling us that. Media are saying same. And our dealers -- critical in the past -- are on board as well."