2008 Jeep Liberty: New York Auto Show
And the Show Goes On…
At easily the wettest press conference yet attended by VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents, Jeep revealed their new Liberty outside the Javits Convention Center, home of the New York auto show. Not willing to cancel a press conference over something as small as a constant downpour (quite rightly thinking letting rain scare them off isn’t in good Jeep form), Chrysler’s PR staff simply made sure Frank Klegon, Chrysler Group Executive Vice President, Product Development, had an umbrella to keep the worst of the rain off during his presentation. And the vehicle showing off the new Sky Slider canvas roof still drove up with its roof open, though an umbrella could be spotted sticking out in an attempt to keep the interior a little dry.
Rain aside, the Liberty burst out of the ground as planned. The Liberty doesn’t go on sale until late this year, about twelve months after its new-for-2007MY Dodge Nitro sibling. The Jeep Liberty gets a new look inside and out, more technology and convenience features, and takes up more space outside to provide more space inside. Liberty gains two more inches in wheelbase and overall length and is wider, to improve cargo space and make passengers more comfortable. (While this Liberty is larger than the outgoing car, the Nitro is appreciably larger than the new Liberty.)
Liberty Returns to Square
The new Liberty also goes back to a squared-off look along the lines of old Cherokees, though it isn’t as stiff looking as the new Patriot. This is an interesting choice, given the introduction of the Compass and the company’s current traditional/modern SUV point/counterpoint showroom. Consider: Compass and Patriot, Liberty and four-door Wrangler Unlimited, Grand Cherokee and Commander. Given these almost logical pairings of modern complementing traditional Jeep styles, why did the Liberty go square again?
Quibbles aside, the new Liberty looks good, and more important looks all Jeep. Of the four introductions over the past year, Jeep’s only misstep in the looks department is the Compass. Wrangler maintained and improved its image and capability; Patriot provides a true entry Jeep, in looks and capability; and the Liberty looks all the better for losing its softer form.
Liberty and Nitro: Siblings with Distinct Personalities
Updates from developing the Nitro are applied to the Liberty, though the Nitro offers two V6 engines and an aggressive on-road suspension for the R/T Nitro. The Liberty carries on with the 210HP 3.7L unit, still mated to four-speed automatic or six-speed manual transmissions, and its suspension is balanced between on- and off-road situations. Though a diesel has not been announced, the first Liberty diesel (2005-2006) was a success, though not a high-volume proposition. Another diesel is expected for Liberty.
While the Liberty and Nitro can’t help but have similar profiles and proportions, the Chrysler Group ensured the Jeep is steeped and consistent with traditional Jeep values, just as they gave the Nitro a Dodge-relevant, urban, performance-oriented flair. The Jeep has a traditional seven-slat grille and trapezoidal fender flares, while the Dodge carries the Dodge crosshair grille and rounded fender flares. The two divisions have been successful in giving each product the right visual brand DNA, and based on the Jeep’s specification sheet and our drive of the Nitro last fall, the appropriate performance brand DNA as well.
Still Trail Rated
Jeep describes the 2008 Liberty’s suspension as all-new, with an independent front and five-link rear setup. The Liberty can be had in standard rear drive, with Trail Rated versions taking one of two 4WD systems available, the part-time Command-Trac and the new full-time Selec-Trac. Electronic aids relatively new for Jeep, and not before offered on the Liberty, include standard Hill-Start Assist and a Hill Descent Control system that is standard when either of the four-wheel-drive systems are ordered. Supporting Jeep’s offroad personality versus the urban image of the Dodge, the Nitro’s available four-wheel-drive systems (a part-time system for manual transmissions and a full-time system with automatic transmissions) are not the same as those offered on the Jeep. Among the differences is that there is no low-range or 4WD lock for Nitro, and that Nitro does without hill-assist and hill-descent programs. The Liberty will launch in two trim levels, Sport and Limited.
New features include at least one element not shared with the Dodge, in keeping with Jeep’s open-air Wrangler image. The Sky Slider is an optional full-length canvas roof; it can be left fully closed, opened fully toward the front or fully toward the rear, or opened to any stop between to bring sky to both front and rear passengers. Features new to Liberty, but not new to the latest crop of new Chrysler Group products, include the MyGig integrated hard-drive navigation/audio system, remote start, a rear parking sensor, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and the Trailer Sway Control system (only when the trailer tow package is ordered). The Liberty continues to offer Bluetooth hands-free communication and Sirius satellite radio. While the shorter Liberty doesn’t offer the pull-out load floor of the Nitro, it does get a usable four-inch-deep cargo area beneath the carpet.
All in all, the 2008 Liberty promises to be an interesting package, increasing its features and conveniences while at the same time bolstering the heart of Jeep, its off-road performance.