Following criticism of the styling of the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Jeep seems to have started testing Cherokee mules with a new, more conventional front clip. If this is correct, the work was most likely started near the end of 2012, when the car was first shown to long-lead media; the changes would be expensive, involving changes to lighting, wiring, durability, cooling, aerodynamics, and crash behavior.

This Automotive News photo shows the usual Alfa mule standing in for the Jeep Cherokee, clearly labelled “KL” (the Cherokee’s body code). The headlights have been moved from below the grille to a new position, much higher up, integrated with the turn signals and daytime running lights. The result is closer to the critically acclaimed “teardrop” headlights of the PT Cruiser than to the triple-row lighting used by the much-maligned Pontiac Aztek. The hood and grille are also more conventional, rather than having the “Jeep slots” extend into the top of the hood.

The magazine did not capture the rear, which in spy shots from last year appeared to be based on the Subaru Tribeca. Larry Vellequette’s article in Automotive News quoted that Ralph Gilles as saying that most feedback had been positive, but that those who disliked it, really disliked it; and suggested that this might be an earlier design being relocated or scrapped.

Insiders continue to tell Allpar that the new Jeep Cherokee is capable off-road, with the Trailhawk model in particular boasting capabilities that “meet or beat” the current Jeep Liberty, while attaining far greater fuel economy, acceleration, and comfort.

Update: a photographic-software enthusiast provided a blowup of the photo from Automotive News which has remarkably clarity.