Jeep Liberty

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Keywords: 2014 jeep liberty, cherokee, suv, crossover, v-6, cusw, compact u.s. wide, all-wheel-drive, off-road, rendering, rendered, future cars

Description: A host of changes are in store for Jeep's next Liberty, including possibly adopting an iconic name. Read more and see a rendering at Car and Driver.

What It Is: An artist’s rendering of what the Jeep Liberty replacement could look like. (Update 2/22: Jalopnik has posted double-top-secret early photos of a production Jeep, and it looks very similar to our rendering. For its part, Chrysler has issued a denial via Twitter .) We say “Liberty replacement” because there’s a chance Jeep could bring back the Cherokee moniker for its smaller SUV. The Cherokee name was used on the outgoing Liberty in Europe and other markets, and many U.S. buyers fondly remember the ravishingly rectilinear 1984–2001 XJ Cherokee, so the change isn’t as radical as it sounds.

Why It Matters: Jeep is in the midst of a lineup-wide overhaul that began with the latest Wrangler and spread to the Grand Cherokee (and, to a lesser degree, the updated 2014 Compass and Patriot ). The current Liberty is out of step with its segment competitors like the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, and Kia Sportage in that it is heavy, thirsty, and unrefined. The new Grand Cherokee has been a big success, so if Jeep can bottle that vehicle’s lightning and transfer its good looks and capability into a smaller, more-affordable package, the company could have another hit on its hands.

Platform: Critically, the new Liberty is switching from a rear-drive-based, reinforced-unibody platform to a new, Alfa Romeo–derived front-drive-based unibody that adheres more with small crossover dogma. (Hence why the myriad spy photos of the next Liberty all show cobbled-together test mules wearing hacked-up Alfa Romeo Giulietta bodywork.) The architecture is the same Compact U.S. Wide fare that underpins the new Dodge Dart, but the Jeep will offer all-wheel drive and even a harder-core Trail Rated version. As depicted by our rendering, the next Liberty is expected to ditch its squared-off styling for a smoother, more aerodynamic body. (So forget a boxy Cherokee redux.) Jeep-specific cues like a seven-slat grille and butch lower-body detailing should help set the new Liberty apart stylistically.

Powertrain: Chrysler hasn’t officially revealed what will power the new Liberty, but the president of the UAW’s Toledo Local 12 said the crossover would get “a 3.2-liter V-6 engine, nine-speed transmission,” plus improved fuel economy. Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6, which heretofore has appeared only in 3.6-liter form, was designed to accept displacements between 3.0- and 4.0 liters, so the smaller engine wouldn’t be a total surprise. Also not shocking is the possibility of a ZF-sourced nine-speed auto. which Dodge plans to eventually put in the Dart. The new engine and transmission would replace the current Liberty’s ancient 3.7-liter V-6 and downright prehistoric four-speed automatic. A smaller four-cylinder could serve base-engine duty, and Jeep would have its choice of either the Dart’s Fiat-derived 1.4-liter turbo or a new Alfa Romeo–sourced 1.8-liter turbo.

Competition: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4.

Estimated Arrival: Teams already are hard at work retooling Jeep’s Toledo Assembly Complex to build the new Liberty. Production is expected to begin this spring, with the new crossover going on sale in May.



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