The answer is the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, which from first look appears to blend just the right amount of tradition (and off-pavement ability) in with design and packaging that are thoroughly modern--and just as oriented for on-pavement duty as some of those other key rivals.
The original Cherokee that went out of production more than a decade ago was unmistakably boxy. But boxy is, for the most part, gone in this new Cherokee; it has curves. While some might not like the thin-slit headlamps and the curved front end right away (it splits the familiar vertical slotted grille), the rest of the design falls in place in looking, true to its name, like a smaller sibling to the Grand Cherokee, if with a bit more of a smoothed-over wagon look.
But to deliver what Jeep purists want, the new 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk has some serious hardware upgrades. With the new SelecTerrain management system, a locking rear differential, and a true low range--as well as under-body shielding and more ground clearance--this one should be able to go a little farther than most crossovers. Four-wheel drive is available in the rest of the lineup, but those models are geared toward those busy families instead.
A 184-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is standard, and a new 271-hp, 3.2-liter version of Chrysler's Pentastar V-6 is available; both engines come with an all-new nine-speed automatic transmission that should enable up to a 31-mpg highway rating.