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Where are the Liberty vs. Cherokee reviews?

8683 Views 21 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  12Bravo
Hello there, just registered on this forum. I've driven a Liberty (first a 2008 Limited and then a 2011 Limited, both purchased brand new) for literally the past decade, and am now trading up to a 2019 Cherokee Overland, which should arrive from the factory hopefully in a couple weeks. I went with the V6, because I don't like the sound of 4-cyl engines, and I'm not convinced that the turbo is the better choice in the long run. Obviously since it's already being built, I've already made my decision to make the switch, but I've been scouring the internet for info on the Cherokees while I've been waiting, and I've noticed a distinct lack of any real comparisons between the outgoing KK Liberty and the new KL Cherokee. I know the KL is a completely different vehicle than the KK, but it still served as a direct replacement, so you'd think SOMEBODY would think it was a good idea to directly compare the two.

I've been pretty happy overall with my KK, and was planning on driving it a few more years, but am trading up now because it's threatening to cost me potentially thousands in repairs (transmission is making me very nervous, among other things), and I'd rather put the money into something new with better ride, better mileage, and a long warranty safety net. I did test drive a 2019 KL Overland before custom ordering one spec'd to my liking, and it seemed to be quite an upgrade over my KK, but it was a fairly short test drive. I wish I had been more thorough, but I was in a hurry for various reasons, so now I've just been spending my days dreaming about it, and stressing about it, hoping I made the right choice, especially given all the issues with the 9-speed that I wasn't fully aware of before I placed my order. My parents have a 2014 Grand Cherokee, which I've enjoyed driving from time to time, but it's a bit on the big side for me, so I'm really hoping this new Cherokee offers a similar experience in a smaller package.

Anyway, due to the lack of official comparison reviews, I'd like to hear if there are any owner reviews to be had. I'm curious to know if anyone else here has upgraded to a KL from a KK, or even a KJ, and what your thoughts are on how they compare. I'm tired of reading about how the Cherokee compares with other ugly crossovers that I couldn't care less about. I want to hear how it compares to older Jeeps!
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Hi there and welcome to the forum !

I've posted a few times on the subject, here, but nothing substantial and it never took off, so my guess was (is) there aren't that many former KJ/KK owners on here.

I had 2 KJs, a 2002 Limited (the original, with off-road package and Tow group) and a 2005 Sport. When the KKs came out, I was under the impression they were *less Jeep* and more Dodge Nitro. I never drove a KK so I can't comment, really. The KJs made a splash when they came out, with some GC owners jealous of the ride... I loved those Jeeps, the 2002 was totalled so we got the 2005, but I much preferred the 2002 Limited.

Now... fast forward to 2015 : I sell the 2005 KJ and get in a 2015 Cherokee Latitude AWD. Oh my. Apples and oranges, those two platforms are so different, you can't really compare them. The Liberty had a more rigid frame, a more boxy look and feel. The KLs are... more CUVs and very civilized om pavement. The ride is so superior it's not even funny. You sit lower though, the KL does feel more like a car (relatively speaking). The AWD system is awesome in the KL ; I had Selec Trac in both KJs and liked it, but the newer AWD systems are so much bettter, at least for on-road needs (like our winters). Stability controls in the KLs are, to me, a bit too intrusive at times, but the safety factor they bring is so superior to what older technology offered... It's hard to make these KLs skid around, even on very slick surfaces. If you have winters where you are, we'll take again in 6 months ;)

Other that that... the 2005 was 10 y/o when I sold it, not that many miles on it, yet I was starting to spend... on stuff like the water pump, the gas pump sending unit, lower ball joints, sticky brakes at back, broken rear door swtich, etc... and it was starting to rust (normal at 10 years where I am) but nothing major. My KL has had more warranty work done than all my previous vehicles combined I think. Yeah oopsy. But my case is somewhat isolated (I watch and compare here on the forum, haha), so I won't cry here. I love the driveability of this Jeep so much more than the KJs...
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Thanks for all the replies thus far! Frankly I've never felt like my Liberty was unstable on the road, quite the opposite. When I first upgraded to it from a 99 Explorer, by comparison, it felt much more solid on the road, with a much smoother ride, better handling, reduced road noise, and about the same fuel economy. Of course there were better things on the road, but for me personally, it was a huge improvement, and at the time, my specific needs (decent cargo room, Minnesota winter capability) and preferences (LOVED the unique boxy look, and preferred a "heavy" but planted vehicle over a lightweight tin can that gets easily tossed around by wind and semi trucks) made it the obvious choice.

I bought a 2008 first, and traded up to 2011 later to get some of the bells and whistles I had been missing on the 2008. Both of them were bought after factory order cutoff dates, so I had to pick from remaining dealer stock. The 2011 configuration was almost perfect, except that it lacked the full-time Select-Trac 4x4 system, as did the 2008, so for the last decade, I've been manually flipping the 4x4 lock switch on and off as part of navigating icy/snowy roads. I've gotten used to it, and it really does very well on those surfaces, especially once I finally replaced those absolutely HORRIBLE OEM Goodyear tires with Michelins, but I am definitely looking forward to the ActiveDrive I system on my new Overland, which is full-time and far more capable with its different modes.

But yeah, never really felt like the Liberty is a bad vehicle. I knew it wasn't the smoothest ride, but it was good enough, and I know it's not even remotely a sports car, but I've never really thought it handles all that terrible. The only real things that bothered me about it were the rather poor fuel economy and the limited amount of foot room in the front seat, coupled with lack of foot rest, which makes for a more uncomfortable ride on longer trips. Still though, I have gone on some longer trips in it, including one a few years ago from central Minnesota down to Oklahoma City and back. I paid if off a couple years ago and have also put a bunch more money into it for major maintenance items, new tires, etc., and it still only has 50k miles on it, so I thought I'd be good for another few years.

However, I've now been told that the steering gear is starting to leak a bit, which is an $800 fix, and the transmission has been starting to act up lately, with harsher shifts and some jerking that feels as if there's a lot of slack in the drive line or something. Extended warranty is gone too now, so those things and a few other quirks are making me really nervous. I really didn't want to go back on car payments again, but I can handle small monthly payments a lot better than unexpected repair costs in the thousands, and I also realized that it's probably better to put the money into a new vehicle that gets better mileage, better ride, and better tech, and has a long extended warranty on it (going for a 10-year warranty this time).

I was also originally held back by the fact that I could never bring myself to like the KL design. It just looked so alien, and unlike anything I wanted. I chose the Liberty over other things in large part because of its boxy style, and the KL was anything but. However, when I got hit with the news about the steering gear leak, I took another look and found that the 2019s were now out with the front and rear ends completely redesigned, looking much more like the Grand Cherokee style that I love. I've wanted a Grand Cherokee too, parents have a 2014 that I've driven a number of times, just couldn't ever afford one at the trim level I prefer, and frankly it's a bit too big for my needs anyway. The 2019 KL restyle now basically gives me a Grand Cherokee look and feel in a smaller package, so it's practically perfect. Seeing this new design, and faced with the threat of major repairs, and of course knowing that the trade-in value on my Liberty was quickly fading, I suddenly realized that yep, it's time to trade up.

I guess the main thing I've just been worried about is whether the transverse 3.2L and ZF9 are going to be just as good as the 3.6L and ZF8 in the Grand Cherokee. I know the latter is a bullet-proof combo, and I have educated myself on the internal design differences of the ZF9 that have made a lot of people unhappy (dog clutches vs. clutch packs for some gear changes), but there's no substitute for actual experience, and there was no way I could really get a good feel for it on a short test drive. Oh, and I've also been stressing about whether or not I should've gotten the 2.0L turbo, because everyone keeps raving about it, but my reasoning was that I hate the way 4-cyl engines sound, I'm leery of the long-term reliability of the turbo, and I don't like the 91 octane requirement for getting the max advertised horsepower. The V6 is more tried-and-true at this point, and despite people's complaints about it lagging behind the turbo, it has a LOT more horsepower than the old 210 HP 3.7L in the Liberty, so I can't honestly believe it's that terrible of a choice. Just like how I thought the Liberty was a dream compared to the Explorer it replaced, I'm hoping that the Cherokee will far exceed the experience of the Liberty, despite its apparent shortcomings that reviewers love to nitpick at.

The only other thing that's a bummer coming from the Liberty is that the Cherokee has less cargo room, even with the additional cargo room they added in the 2019. The sloping roof line makes the tail gate opening smaller, and I believe the room between the wheel wells is narrower as well. It's not too often I actually need a lot of cargo space, but when you need it, you need it, and I have packed my Liberty pretty darn full on several occasions. I just hope the reduction in cargo space doesn't come back to bite me in the long run. If it does, I guess my next vehicle at some point down the road will have to be a Grand Cherokee. Probably will have to be anyway, because it's highly unlikely the V6 will remain an option in the compact SUV segment for very much longer.

Oh, and for those wondering, I ordered my 2019 Overland in olive green pearl (stands out nice in the sea of black/white/tan/silver/gray/red/blue on the road) with the black/dark sienna interior, the trailer tow package, and the technology group. Now that I finally get to custom order one, I didn't want to cut myself short on anything. The only thing I left on the table was the panoramic sunroof. Almost got that too, but it's an expensive option for something I'll probably almost never use (Liberty already has a moon roof that I practically never use), plus I honestly don't think it's worth all the downsides such as reduced headroom, extra weight, and the great potential for squeaks/rattles and water issues later on in its life. I also skipped the the ActiveDrive II option, which wouldn't have done me any good since I don't really do much off-roading.
Oh crap, the rack and pinion... forgot about that... Yes sir, the 2005 needed a new one at about 8 years old. Very costly repair because of the difficult access... and a known problem with the KJs (didn't know for the KKs).

For cargo room, get some crossbars and a nice roof cargo box ;) My 18 cu.ft Thule Motion XT is perfect for the KL. There are cheaper ones, I got mine as a free warranty replacement for my older and somewhat cheaper Thule box which had peeled badly.
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