Is a stock Jeep Liberty rig off road ready to wheel even with all of the factory 4-wheeldrive goodies?...or...
does it need more aftermarket components and add-ons to give it that competitive edge with other trail Jeeps and competitive rigs like the Toyota FJ?
Before being discontinued from the Jeep family the off road Liberty could be purchased with the "Trail Rated" emblem signifying that it had met the tough Jeep standards for off road capabilities including:
articulation (refers to how well the tires stay connected to the ground and maintains traction in extreme contorted ways off-road)
water fording (relatively deep water crossings)
But...was the Jeep Liberty Trail Rating enough when compared with say a Wrangler which also bears the Trail Rated emblem?
Well...the truth be told...in stock form even with all of the factory goodies, the Jeep Liberty off road performance is fair to good in most mild to moderate conditions...but suffers from some inherent weaknesses especially with its Independent Front Suspension (IFS).
The technical differences between a solid front axle and an IFS are many including strength, durability and flexibility...but the bottom line is that in off road performance the front solid axle Jeeps out-perform the IFS Jeeps every time.
Also, it seems to be very difficult to get Jeep Liberty off road lift kits to go much beyond 1 1/2 to 2 inches without major modifications to the IFS...and that means:
No significant lift = no relatively larger tires = minimal improvement in ground clearance.
However, some Liberty owners have done some radical modifications by replacing the IFS with a solid axle (allowing for significantly more lift potential)...and adding more trail worthy transmissions/transfer cases as well.
Jeep Liberty Modified with a Solid Front Axle and Tall Suspension Lift (among other great additions)
Other factors that seem to keep the KJ Liberty from being all that it can be include its hefty overall weight (around 4200 lbs.) and its very poor gas mileage.
While gas mileage may not be as big a factor in occasional off road adventures...Jeep Liberty's are most often driven on pavement...and poor mileage can put a sizable dent in the wallet at today's prices.
So...is the Jeep Libery a good candidate for off road treks?
I would have to say yes...with the available factory options and some aftermarket modifications such as maximum safe suspension lift and the largest tires to fit. Also, the technology of IFS is steadily improving for off road use.
However, I think that Chrysler/Jeep could have really hit a home-run again if they would have taken a lesson from their successful XJ Cherokee (the KJ Liberty replaced the XJ Cherokee in 2002):
trimmed the fat (reduce the weight a lot by at least 500 lbs.)
offered a solid front axle instead of the Independent Front Suspension...or at least as an alternative option
offered more off road options...even a Rubicon package
improved overall fuel economy
reduced the price (at least on some models) by simplifying or removing many of the non-essential creature comforts like DVD players, leather heated seats, air conditioned glove boxes, 50 speaker power boosted stereo systems...okay, I'm exaggerating a bit (a lot!)...but you get the picture...things not absolutely needed in the back-country.
In the old days (not really that long ago) auto manufacturers offered "stripped-down" versions of a particular model.
Even muscle cars were considered "stripped-down" models at the time and look how successful they were then...and now.
Chrysler seems to have built the Jeep Liberty primarily to attract the ladies and the SUV crowd.
Great idea...but Chrysler/Jeep had an even greater opportunity to expand the market to include the Jeep Liberty off road enthusiasts as well. After all...we enthusiasts keep the Jeep mystique alive...don't we?
Well, for now the Jeep Liberty is history and Chrysler/Jeep still does not seem too interested in making new Jeeps significantly off road ready beyond the Wrangler.
That leaves us with many used Liberty's to modify to our hearts content. With enough demand the aftermarket might accommodate with more specific fit lift kits, axle conversions, and other off road goodies. Let the parts suppliers know what you want and need for your Liberty.
'07 Jeep Liberty Off Road by Rocky Road Outfitters...(click photo for more info on Rocky Road Outfitters Liberty Off Road parts and accessories)
Jeep Liberty Off Road Videos
Nice Look at the Liberty CRD (Diesel) in the Steep Ruts (37 secs.)