Spied: 2014 Jeep Liberty

What It Is: A mule for the next-gen 2014 Jeep Liberty caught testing wearing an Alfa Romeo Giulietta shell. The compact SUV replacement for the venerated Jeep Cherokee, the Liberty arrived for 2002 and was revamped for 2008. Despite Jeep’s best efforts, the Liberty never quite lived up to the Cherokee’s reputation for rugged simplicity and suburban chic.

Why It Matters: Although it’s been a fairly consistent seller, the Liberty never was competitive in several crucial areas: Its ride quality, power, efficiency, and refinement have always trailed those of the segment leaders. What the Liberty did have going for it was its Jeep name and heritage, and the off-road prowess they imply. For 2014, Jeep looks to trade the outgoing Liberty’s antiquated but tough mechanicals for a more comfortable overall package, as well as a thoroughly updated powertrain. In doing so, the next Liberty will court not only those interested in the Nissan Xterra and Toyota 4Runner, but also folks who shop for less-rugged compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, the Chevy Equinox, and the Toyota RAV4. Styling should continue to be rugged; it most definitely won’t look anything like a hacked-up Alfa Giulietta.

Platform: According to information gleaned last week from Chrysler’s latest annual report—and backing up our report from last November— the new Liberty will ride on the company’s CUSW platform, which stands for “Compact U.S. Wide.” An evolution of a previously existing Fiat and Alfa Romeo platform, it also underpins the new Dodge Dart. On this architecture, the new Liberty will—in true crossover fashion—swap its rear-drive-based, reinforced-unibody roots for a front-drive-based setup. All-wheel drive will again be available, if not standard, and expect Jeep to stir in at least one Trail Rated configuration. These spy photos show what appears to be an independent rear suspension, but no differential or driveshaft is visible. Although the extra ground clearance and knobby tires pictured here are encouraging (and note the Michigan Off-Road Vehicle permit on the mule), hard-core Jeepers with an eye toward practicality should probably just move along to a four-door Wrangler with a hardtop.

Thanks to: Car and Driver


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