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The Jeep Liberty vs Jeep Cherokee / SpecWar

by Michael (unklemunky) - March 2001

Introduction: The Jeep Liberty, an all-new design, is replacing the venerable Jeep Cherokee. Coincidentally, Chrysler sales literature seems to be under-representing the 2001 Cherokee cargo space, making comparisons with the Liberty more favorable. - Webmaster

I wouldn't blow a fuse over a little change or variation(or even typo) here or there, especially when the line of vehicles is more than 3 within the product brand. Jeep only has 3 products at present, and the XJ model Cherokee has been very popular and in production for nearly 18 years (FAR longer than most car models of vehicles!), and that being a SUV, things like cargo capacity would be stated accurately and consistently(as they are important to customers when comparing vehicles!).

There were changes in the capacity rating from 1984 to present, but usually these coincided with other logical changes. The 1984-86 models had 71.2 cu ft. capacity (seat folded down), 1987-93 models are rated 71.8 cu ft. (the 1987 model year reflected some changes to accomodate the 4.0L engine and some other differences versus earlier models, so there could have been some adjustments in interior as well!). I am lacking data from 1994-97, and knowing that Cherokee was given a facelift in 1997, I'd assume the 1998+ data reflects changes there! 1998-2000 models are rated 69.0 cu ft. while 2001 models are rated 66.0 cu ft.

Here is where my concern is: being that most models see few changes in their last model year, and that the Cherokee has been around for more than just a few years, why did the data get knocked down for 2001!?!? Especially when I've found no indication as to why!?!?

Here is what I gather happened: After DC/Jeep had pressured themselves into believing they needed to replace the Cherokee, and having left almost no room in the lineup for expansion, they found themselves with something called a KJ (Liberty).

See.....they couldn't upstage the Grand Cherokee, so they had to stay below that in many respect, and since the Cherokee isn't a whole lot smaller than a Grand Cherokee, it gave KJ very little room to expand in.

Jeep is touting that the KJ was a Jeepster meets Dakar model, but there's more going on here than most realize. Since wheelbase and length could only be expanded slightly, the main direction for KJ to grow is vertically....thus the roughly 6 higher that they are (should be good news for the center of gravity, which has been a concern for SUVs, mind you!!!!)! If they hadn't done that, you'd have notably less interior room inside.....heck, a sedan might have more room! and.....once they had finally finished the product, and measured things, they probably found that the spare was going to have to go on the outside as a swingout. Nice feature, I agree there, but that swingout isn't added value, it's necessary for any relevent interior room! Heck....the Grand Cherokee has a below the cargo deck full spare and still has more room inside than a KJ!

And, still after all this manipulating, the KJ is maxxing out with 68.7 cu ft. of cargo space(rear seat folded). and.....if anyone was aware of the Cherokee figures, they knew that the Liberty would be less inside yet bigger on the outside. Thus, there was NO model year of Cherokee that had less room than a Liberty.........that is until the 2001 model year figures were either released or corrected....whichever happened last!

See....this way they can say the Liberty has more cargo capacity than a current model Cherokee....and technically they'd be correct. However.....that is misleading in implying that all Cherokee models have less interior room....which is what is likely to be interpreted by the average person from that. If they come right out and say the Liberty has more cargo capacity than a Cherokee....that is INCORRECT and a false 17 of the 18 model year XJs had MORE interior rated capacity. Need I even refer to the 10 model years of Cherokees from 74-83 that were still full size and had like 95 cu feet of interior room!?!?! In 28 model years, only ONE is rated less than a KJ....and that is the 2001 model year! (note though, also that the rear seat up capacity still shows the Cherokee as more in 2001 vs 2002 Liberty...details further below). Which would have been late in the design stage, or AFTER figures for the KJ were calculated.....leaving Jeep in a position that if it was clear (on paper) that a Liberty had less interior room than a Cherokee, they'd be insulting themselves.

There are MANY other points about the KJ that pretty much add up to the same thing: this vehicle is average at best. Quite a change from the break new ground that Jeep had always been known for!

Interestingly, DC has put the new Jeep as the center of their restructuring plan....along with numerous reductions in employees, etc., etc. Somewhere I saw it said that DC needs 3-4 more PT Cruisers....meaning that they need 3-4 immediate home runs in the really turn themselves around. Unfortunately, this new Jeep will NOT be that for them. They are riding way too much on it, and are going to be sorely disappointed.

There is a lot I'm not mentioning here in addition to what I have, but simply put.....there are plenty of SUVs on the market right now, and after viewing considerable data and information, my general synopsis is that the Liberty is average.....and not likely to be a home run for DC at all! I have heard prices for the Liberty will be nearing what Grand Cherokee prices are now......which isn't surprising for a new model.....afterall, it's cheaper to keep producing a vehicle that's been in the lineup for years.....Cherokee profits are pretty much pure profits, where the Liberty is going to have to sell a lot more models than Cherokee does currently to come even remotely close to the profit of continuing the Cherokee.

And.....if they kept the Cherokee and added the Liberty, people would very clearly see that the Cherokee is superior in 95% of all respects, and a far better value! DC will say they can't afford to produce both models and that it isn't sensible when they are too close to competing with one another.

In reality, the Cherokee outshines the Liberty and would show how much of a mistake the KJ model is. the end, it's going to be the consumers (not the oohs and aaahs from auto shows) that will either buy the Liberty or not. When they check a Liberty out and see that the rear cargo room is notably less than a Cherokee (or even less than some other SUVs out there), and that there are numerous other areas where the Liberty doesn't seem to improve a lot, and that it's likely to cost considerably more....more than not only a Cherokee, but also more than a lot of the competition, you're going to see a lot of people looking, but not buying.

Don't forget that the economy is getting tighter and with gas prices higher, people are going to be scrutinizing the EPA mpg ratings in addition to pricing, as well as overall value. I have not seen mpg ratings for the Liberty yet, but I doubt you'll see anything notably better than a current Cherokee (likely the same range), and yet many of the foreign SUVs are touting notably better of the reasons they're selling well! In the end.....unless DC heeds warnings about the mistake that the Liberty replacing the Cherokee is, they will LOSE big time on this!

What's sad is that this situation will ripple throughout the company and since Chrysler is the plank walker, don't be surprised to see a LOT more pressure put on Chrysler lines being reduced or eliminated(more than has already been done). We are already hearing talk of a Wrangler and Grand Cherokee being revised to a similar Liberty platform......hmmmm.....they'd better wait that one out a little more or they will clearly be killing the Jeep name completely. I have never seen a company go so far in the gutters so fast as the Daimler acquisition of Chrysler/Jeep. It's almost amazing. Sad, but amazing.

What Chrysler/Jeep lines do need are another 2-3 Cherokees or Caravans...or PT Cruisers if you wish. These were vehicles that introduced something new....a whole new class of vehicles, and a whole new way of utilizing a vehicle for one's needs/uses. THAT is the kind of vehicle that will be a big seller and turn that will immediately become an industry leader. The Liberty is definitely not in this league! There ARE ways of breaking into new territory, but these have obviously NOT been considered or developed, and we're left with average.....something that is unimpressive on the market!

PS.....cargo capacity with seat folded in normal usable position shows the Cherokee with 34.0 cu ft. and the Liberty at 31.2 cu the 2001 model Cherokee vs. 2002 model the only (cargo) figure lower is the seat down figures for the 2001 Cherokee! I know also that sometimes basis for data can change and that different ways of calculating can be done.......I have not heard of any changes in this respect here yet. I would still like to hear the basis for the numbering being different....I don't think it was a typo. I have actually seen a statement online the Liberty will have more room than a Cherokee...which is incorrect! My concern in this whole issue isn't even about that one's about DC pushing the Liberty as bigger and better when in reality it is only bigger on the outside......yet actually lesser on the inside....and overall, NOT better! Maybe a few things better...including on-road ride, but can probably get that in half the SUVs out there....Liberty just joins the market and doesn't break new ground like the Cherokee did.

BTW...... this does relate to all Mopar fans out there and is, unfortunately, consistent with the way all of us have been treated by DC over the past couple years....old products are inferior and only DC approved products are better......after all...remember Chrysler is the problem we have to change everything they ever did that was good!

Also.....I still believe the K-car was a great design for the times......and it STILL stands as a well made basic car. If the genius approach to marketing and positioning that Chrysler had in the early 80s were being done now, you'd see some amazing things being done.....good things mind you.....and not just dumb things. It's painful for all of us to watch what's been happening over the past couple years. I am having a hard time saying I'm a Jeep fan just doesn't seem right in light of situations we see going on....I still love my old Jeeps, but the new ones are not even closely holding to what Jeep Heritage truly is.....DC only knows how to print that in paper...they have no idea what it means in reality! Jeep is no longer's average!

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