When most people think about the cars Jeep has made recently, they tend to break down into a few key categories: the iconic Jeep Wrangler, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, maybe the Cherokee, and then a sort of amorphous soup of every other Jeep SUV. These other SUVs, with blandly evocative names like Compass, Liberty, Patriot, and Commander all sort of blur together into a tall, blocky nothingmobile with a seven-slot grille. Let’s pick on the Liberty specifically, though, if we can somehow remember which one that is.
If you don’t agree that Jeep has produced an embarrassing run of deeply forgettable SUVs, then do me a favor and picture a Jeep Patriot for me. Ah ha! Gotcha! That’s a Compass! Now it’s a Liberty! Now it’s being driven by your 8th-grade science teacher, and she’s topless. See? Even if I can’t prove I can look into your minds, I’m almost positive I was right.
My point is even a company like Jeep, which has such a strong, well-known and understood identity, is more than capable of churning out completely forgettable, phoned-in vehicles that have that seven-slot grille slapped on, glued in place with a potent adhesive made of cynicism and avarice.
The second-generation Jeep Liberty (known as the KK) is a perfect example of this. At least the first-generation one had a sort of distinctive-looking front end, even if it was almost identical to the face of the about-as-forgettable Jeep Compass—no, wait, Patriot. Well, I guess the Compass, too.
Holy crap, in 2007 Jeep was building all these mostly indistinguishable SUVs at the same time? Why? What was the point?
Anyway, soon those big, round headlights must have proved too stimulating for someone, so they redesigned the Liberty to be even more forgettable, taking some design cues from the notable-because-it-was-so-big-and-had-a-third-row Jeep Commander:
One of those is the Liberty.
The problem with the Liberty is the quintessential problem of all truly Meh cars: who gives a shit? It wasn’t an especially good off-roader, it wasn’t a really comfortable or full-featured SUV, its engine was sort of underpowered for the weight, the re-design got rid of any interesting design cues, and it wasn’t even as crappy as the Patriot or Compass, so it can’t even be notable for sucking dramatically.
The Liberty, like all meh cars, wasn’t horrible: the 3.7-liter Powertech V6 made 210 horsepower and wasn’t that bad, the interior space was about on par with any number of other boring SUVs, and it could do some off-roading, if you wanted. It did its basic job with delirious adequacy.
I asked our resident Jeep-obsessive, David, about the Liberty, and here’s what he told me:
The Compass and Patriot were so bad, they’re memorable.
The Grand Cherokee and Wrangler have strong names, and weren’t THAT bad.
The Commander: a three-row Jeep that can off-road. That’s great! (even if it wasn’t great)
But the Liberty KK:
I’ve got nothing to say.
The idea of a Jeep product that leaves David with nothing to say is about as improbable as having a Taco Bell Crunch Wrap cause your body to defecate live, adorable kittens. It just doesn’t happen.
Until it does. And the Jeep Liberty is to blame.
There actually was one sort of cool thing about the Liberty, the canvas sunroof option that Jeep called Skyslider, but there seems to have been all kinds of issues with that.
When it came to advertising the Liberty, Jeep had two main approaches. One was to try and highlight the present-but-rarely used off-road capabilities of the Liberty by showing a really, really erratic driver:
The other method was to hire some forest animals as talent:
Neither approach made the Liberty all that memorable.
Is the Liberty still in production? It looks like not, but I suspect it’s so forgettable you could get a dealer on the phone ready to sell you one until one of you bothered to look up if it even still existed.
If I had one, I think the best thing to do would be to have a set of chrome badges made for the tailgate that said JEEP COMPASS OR MAYBE LIBERTY OR SOMETHING. And then I’d have a badge for the other side of the tailgate that said PATRIOT?
I look forward to all the emails from people who love their Jeep Liberties and off road them all the time and use them to climb up sheer mountain walls while getting 30 MPG and having ice-cold A/C. I’m happy for you, I mean it. You and your wonderful Jeep Compasses.
No. Commanders. Patriots?
(Note: Sorry for the Meh Car hiatus! I was traveling the past few Mondays, and, well, things happen. I missed you, too.)