Jeep Cherokee, not to be confused with Jeep Grand Cherokee, had a long-lasting heritage – over a period of 18 years over 2 millions of them were produced. It was an amazing off-roader loved by all: men, women, rich and poor. Everyone liked the reliability, capacity, and ability to move on any surface (except for shifting sands and swamps 🙂 in this probably first ever ‘SUV’.
But in time Cherokee started loosing ground – looking quite archaic comparing to other modern SUVs that were newer or had undergone more than a single round of ‘cosmetic surgery’. Thus, Chrysler made a wise move – coming up with the new model to replace the seasoned veteran – to be sold under a name of Jeep Liberty in the North America and under traditional name of Jeep Cherokee in Europe.
So what things are different, and are we talking about a brand new vehicle or a slightly modernized Cherokee? Well, first of all, the new SUV looks totally different, more over; it does not look a 100% American, as if the designers were more concerned to please the European buyers, than traditional American customers.
At a first look it seems to be shorter than the old Cherokee, but this is an optical illusion – in reality it is 9.8 inches longer. At the same time this Jeep looks very modern, with its powerful wheel arches, roof luggage rails, and a full-size spare tire on the rear door. Now for the first time in the history of Jeep Cherokee it has independent front suspension utilizing transversal swinging arms suspension and struts.
Comparing the interior of the new Liberty/Cherokee to its predecessor, you feel as if being transferred from an Indian reservation to a mansion in Beverly Hills. High ceilings, large windows, and everything is in light beige and white colors. The materials boast soft upholstery, and when they are not soft they continue to look soft. All the controls are comfortable, the pedals and the steering wheel do not permit you to let them go.
The only complaints would be the inconvenient timer of the windshield wiper and the fact that the keys for the power windows are located in the “blind” zone between the front seats, just like on a Discovery.
There are two “family heirlooms” inherited from the trusted Cherokee. First, there is the wide central tunnel, getting in the way of the feet of the back seat riders. And secondly, we see the same two-stage Selec-Trac transfer case with locking central differential.
But the six-cylinder 3.7 V6 engine is all new. It shares many of the same components used on Grand Cherokee’s 4.7 V8. Certainly, six cylinders will not produce the same power output as V8, but 211 hp is more than adequate for the Liberty. Four step automatic transmission comes from Grand Cherokee as well. European market will see also Cherokee coming equipped with a 2.4L 4-cylinder power train or a 2.5L turbo diesel.
The Liberty/Cherokee rides very well on the road, showing its fine asphalt manners – it is also a passable off-roader although, I wouldn’t exactly ‘jamboree’ in this one!
For some reason Chrysler Group decided to change its looks once again for the 2008 model. So what we have now, is the same model with the same technical aspects, but looking like a Jeep Commander. It is not a minor uplift, but a major design reversal, where the soft and organic round looks are transformed into the more squared-off and chunky design. And certainly the most visible change is in the front grille equipped with square headlights.
Which model looked better is largely a matter for you to decide. But, with all the drastic exterior design transformations Jeep Cherokee/Liberty continues to stand out from the competition by offering a classic Jeep design, refined on-road ride and handling, two four-wheel-drive systems, as well as features typically found on much more expensive vehicles.
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I really do hate the 2008 look of the Jeep Liberty, I personally believe it was fine before the face change. But, if it sells and helps Chrysler out, I will not complain. I love Jeeps and hope they will be around and stay true to their heritage. Though, I recall Fiat is coming in and will be discontinuing the Commander, Patriot and Compass, and the Liberty.
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