March 30, 2012
With much bated breath, Jeep enthusiasts have been keeping a close eye on what will turn up to replace the Liberty. While most, if not all Jeep-philes have been clamoring for a revival of sorts of the venerable old XJ Cherokee — the SUV the Liberty originally replaced back in 2001 — recent news seems to suggest that Jeep’s upcoming new model will be anything but. We’ve seen the photos of a few mutilated Alfa Romeo Giuliettas running around in hiking boots on stilts. After that, what those images suggested was confirmed; the Liberty’s replacement would use a Super-Sized version of the front-drive CUSW platform that pins the upcoming Dodge Dart compact sedan. It’s that news that has hardcore Jeep fans everywhere worried the brand is catering more to buyers who buy Jeeps just for the “rough-n-ready, tough-n-steady” image, not for the legendary, uber military-grade off-road capability they’re renowned for.
On the upside though, it was also more or less confirmed afterward the new mid-sized Jeep would have a nine-speed auto and a 3.2 liter version of the corporate Pentastar V6. However, that news alone is by no means enough to put any worries the die-hard Jeep guys out there have about the Liberty’s replacement to bed.
Lately, after a media preview of a few new Jeep concepts set to officially debut during the Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, Utah, Jeep’s chief designer Mark Allen spilled a little info about the Liberty’s replacement to the Toledo Blade. And while what’s coming down the pipeline is certainly going to be much different from the current model, Allen says there is no chance the new model is going to disappoint anyone expecting it to live up to Jeep’s rugged image.
“It’s definitely not the old Liberty,” Allen said. “It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a much more efficient Jeep. It’s a much more efficient-looking Jeep, honestly. It’s not what we have now.” Mr. Allen declined to give any technical details about the upcoming model, only saying that he was proud of its design.
Aside from the shrunken Pentastar V6 and umpteen-speed transmission which should help with fuel economy, the Liberty’s replacement should offer all-wheel drive in addition to the front-wheel drive layout expected on lesser trims. Dealers who have been keyed in on the new model’s front-wheel drive offerings aren’t worried it will turn away any potential buyers, though. Neither is Mark Allen, although he is aware of concerns Jeep loyalists have about another front-wheel drive Jeep joining the stable.
“Will it have off-road chops? It will. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far,” he said. “It’s not a Giulietta with a Jeep body on it. It’s not. There’s some specific Jeep hardware in it.”
As for what they’ll call it? While Chrysler officials haven’t said anything, it seems as if they’ll either continue with the Liberty moniker or bring the Cherokee name out of mothballs. When asked about the issue, Jeep’s CEO Mike Manley said, “The Cherokee has a huge amount of equity. Liberty, I think, has built up some equity as well. I don’t think we’re going to invent a name.”
Manley says the Liberty’s replacement will debut early next year, and that only means one venue: the 2013 Detroit Auto Show.
Source: The Toldeo Blade