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The Dodge Nitro and 2008 Jeep Liberty “KK” were created at the same time; the Nitro came first partly because a new tire-chain requirement on Liberty made architecture changes necessary (the inner wheelhouse opening was the same for both and was unchanged.
2014 Jeep Cherokee / Liberty
The 2008 Jeep Liberty went into production on July 24, 2007. It had two Trail Rated® four-wheel-drive systems – Command-Trac and Selec-Trac II. The interior went to a squarish look, with an optional Sky Slider™ full-open canvas roof. See our launch coverage.
Inside, cargo and storage space increased slightly, while remote start, rain-sensing wipers, memory seats and mirrors, and express up/down windows were added. The four cylinder and diesel were gone, but the six speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission remained. The sole engine, a 3.7-liter V-6, was good for 210 hp at 5,200 rpm and 235 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4,000 rpm. Fuel economy went up by about 2 mpg with either stick or automatic, to 16 city (18 mpg using 2007 EPA standards), and 22 mpg highway (23 mpg based on 2007 EPA standards).
Wind drag remained high but was cut down somewhat, better aerodynamics countering the increase in weight. The starting price at launch was $20,990 for rear wheel drive and $22,600 for four wheel drive, including destination — over $1,000 less than the 2007. The Limited started at $25,175 (RWD) and $26,785 (4x4).
Despite constant upgrades to the standard equipment and interior upgrades in 2011, the “KK” Liberty was essentially a failure. The appearance seemed to turn off the target audience, a fuel crisis made heavy vehicles with poor mileage unattractive compared with numerous car-based or custom-designed non-off-road-ready AWD crossovers, Chrysler itself was a constant target of “will they go bankrupt?” stories (and actually did go bankrupt), and both the economy and competition got worse. Meanwhile, many off-roaders said that the KK was a major step backwards in off-road capability, taking away the car’s raison d’être. The chart below shows the descent — the uptick in 2012 was because dealers were told to order enough Libertys to get them to the end of 2013. (The graph shows US production only.)
The KJ Jeep Cherokee, a front wheel drive vehicle in the same size and price class as the “KK” Jeep Liberty, saw 178,508 sales in the United States alone in its first full year (2014), beating every single year of the KK quite easily. The “new Cherokee” also outsold nearly every year of the original XJ Cherokee.
While many off-roaders complained that the 2008-2012 Jeep Liberty needlessly sacrificed off-road prowess, it did have a number of additions designed to help drivers after the pavement ended.
Standard on 4x4s was the new Hill Descent Control (HDC), used automatically in low gear. It controlled the speed using electronic brake control, supplementing gear reduction and engine braking — but only when turned on manually. It worked in forward and reverse.
Despite the loss of a manual transmission, Jeep added Hill Start Assist (HSA), which held the brakes for two seconds upon the driver’s release of the brake pedal to prevent rollback on hills.
As with all Jeep vehicles, Liberty had antilock brakes with rough road detection, which signalled the ABS to hold the brake pressure for longer pulses — then the deformable surface of the rough road formed a wedge in front of the tire to help in slowing the vehicle. Other features included Trailer Sway Control, tire pressure monitoring, and rain-sensing wipers.
Engineer Rick Reuter had two Jeep Libertys in the family, belonging to his wife and daughter. He said that:
According to Rick, the increase in economy was largely a matter of reducing rolling resistance, better aerodynamics, and lower parasitic losses through EGR adjustments and the electronic throttle control. Rick felt that real world gas mileage increased even more than EPA estimates.
We asked Ralph Gilles whether Jeep was taking too high a risk in such a dramatically restyle; Ralph responded that women, who made the majority of buyers, tend buy man’s cars (but not so much vice versa); they liked the manageable size. It now looks more capable and rugged, which should appeal more to men, while still keeping the form factor liked by its current buyers. He also pointed out the round headlights behind squarish lenses, saying that they made the lamps oversized to scale the vehicle and keep it looking small and playful — the roundness gives it personality, the squareness ruggedness.
The 2009 Jeep Liberty saw a retuned rear axle and shafts, steering gear, springs, shocks, brakes, and anti-roll bars. Floor mats and auto unlock became standard; satellite radio was added; and packages were changed around. The Limited model was enhanced to make the extra cost worth it, with remote express-open front windows and, in Jeep’s words, “soft-touch door uppers, all monochrome/dark gray interior, soft door armrest, leather-wrapped shift knob, dual in-mold film for instrument panel and console and leather-wrapped parking brake, steering wheel and grab handles.”
Manual transmissions were dropped, six speakers and floor mats became standard on Sport (the base model), and YES Essentials cloth seats joined the Popular Equipment Group for Sport. Two new colors, orange and deep-water blue, replaced electric and modern blue. Most Libertys sold were the Sport.
New were active head restraints, interactive Decel Fuel Shut Off (iDFSO), Fuel-Saver with “ECO” lamp indicator in cluster, standard power heated manual folding mirrors, standard air filtration system, standard stain-repelling
seat fabric and front-passenger fold-flat seat, and larger floor mats. Limited Uconnect™ Phone, leather, heated front seats, and power driver and passenger seats with manual lumbar control. Graystone paint was added.
The 2010 Jeep Liberty Renegade was launched in January 2010, priced between the Sport and Limited; it had the Selec-Trac® II full-time, shift-on-the-fly, active four-wheel-drive system, using an electronically controlled two-speed active transfer case and Brake-Traction Control System (BTCS).
The system had an automatic mode, using sensors to redirect torque between front and rear axles in real time. It also had a low-gear mode, which multiplies engine torque 2.72 times and locked the clutch pack.
The Renegade had multiple styling cues including gray wheels with outlined-white-letter off-road tires, dark wheel flares, black headlamp bezels, fog lamps, skid plates, and tow hooks.
Numerous features were added to the interior, as well, including a trip computer, “driftwood” accent bezels, and steering-wheel-mounted radio controls.
As Liberty sales fell, Jeep added standard cruise control, a new steering wheel, upgraded interior trim, and an optional Garmin 430N navigation system with traffic, fuel prices, and weather updates. Eddie Burke wrote: “There is new gunmetal trim on the door panels surrounding window/lock buttons; the same gunmetal finish is on the steering wheel. Instead of a textured silver dash appliqué, it has a dark faux wood trim, which also surrounds the shifter and 4 wheel drive system switch.”
The 2011 Jeep Liberty Jet appearance package was launched in November 2010, and included 20 inch polished aluminum wheels, P245/50R20 all season radials, blacked-out headlamps, and chrome in the lower fascia opening, body side moldings, license plate brow, roof rails and mirror caps. Other features were 9-speaker audio, side-curtain air bags, and rear park assist. The Liberty Jet option package was listed at $1,495 to Liberty Sport and $995 to Liberty Limited models on launch.
The 2008 Jeep Liberty had the MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System™ with a touch screen and voice commands along with a 20-gigabyte hard drive, real-time traffic, satellite radio, and hands-free phone.
The 2008 Jeep Liberty was made at the Toledo North Assembly Plant (TNAP) in Toledo, Ohio, on the same line as the Dodge Nitro. A $638 million investment included more than 160,000 square feet added to the plant floor.
A body shop now used 150 robots instead of vehicle-specific tooling. Only the robots’ end effectors, or “hands,” needed to change to build the different models — and that was done automatically. A third model could also be piloted at the same time.
An inbound part sequencing center in the adjoining Stickney complex managed more than 1,600 different parts (including Wrangler) and provided parts metering, kitting, and container management. Dollies replaced many forklifts to increase safety and productivity.
“Smart Manufacturing” was an attempt to increase flexibility; it also let employees design their own workstations.
Safety features not mentioned above included:
The Jeep Liberty is designed to appeal to customers who are looking for Jeep 4x4 capability as well as comfort and convenience. It is targeted to young couples and new families, as well as professional, young single men and women between 30 and 40 years of age, balanced male to female. Jeep Liberty owners will balance day-to-day responsibilities with their passion for adventure as well as the outdoors. They are athletic, and pursue activities that combine their various interests with their active lifestyle. The Jeep Liberty will be available at Jeep dealerships starting in the third quarter of 2007.
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Steve Legel review • David Zatz review
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