Chrysler’s Jeep brand embarks on a new era of design as the wraps come off a revived Cherokee today at the New York auto show.

Many Jeep enthusiasts reacted negatively to the styling of the upcoming Liberty replacement when unauthorized photos of the SUV leaked online. Brand fans flooded Chrysler’s social media sites with complaints about the new model, which departs significantly from its boxier predecessor.

Since the leak, Chrysler officials have worked to assuage enthusiasts, promising the midsize hauler has the same off-road capabilities as the outgoing Liberty.

The Cherokee is crucial to building Jeep’s global presence. Last year, the marque notched a sales record with 701,626 deliveries worldwide.

“The goal that was laid out in 2009 was 800,000 vehicles by 2013,” Jeep President and CEO Mike Manley tells reporters during a recent backgrounder at the auto maker’s Auburn Hills, MI, headquarters.

Jeep’s C-segment Compass and Patriot, which sell nearly double the volume internationally as they do in the U.S., are phasing out in 2014, with a single replacement on the way. Jeep will be counting on that model and the new Cherokee to carry a significant portion of the load in global markets.

The Cherokee employs a number of new technologies unseen on the Liberty, including some firsts for Chrysler. Among those is a rear-axle disconnect, which converts the standard 4x4 capability to 4x2 to save fuel. In more rugged conditions, sensors re-engage the 4x4.

“Let’s say you’re driving up North and the weather turns bad and the roads become wet. If you turn on your windshield wiper, it’ll engage the 4x4,” Chris Barman, lead engineer for the Cherokee, tells WardsAuto earlier.

Two roof options, a panoramic sunroof or open canvas roof, are exclusive to the segment, Chrysler says. Nappa leather seats, a heated steering wheel, an 8.4-in. (21.3-cm) or 5-in. (12.7-cm) touchscreen and parking assist also are available.

Two engine options – a new 3.2L Pentastar V-6 and 2.4L 4-cyl. Tigershark Multi-Air – are available, each mated with a 9-speed transmission. With the V-6, Chrysler says the Cherokee can haul up to 4,500 lbs. (2,041 kg).

Jeep will offer Sport, Limited and Latitude trims. A new Trailhawk model will be built for off-roading conditions, including added performance for traction, ground clearance and water fording.

Built on the same platform as the Dodge Dart, the Cherokee is assembled at the auto maker’s Toledo, OH, assembly plant. Pricing will be announced closer to the vehicle’s third-quarter market launch.

afoley@wardsauto.com