Company officials aren’t offering many details about the new SUV, though it’s expected to be a bit more carlike than the existing Jeep lineup—reflecting the general industry trend. Key competitors, such as Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Co., have begun rolling out an array of "cute-utes," which sacrifice some off-road capability in favor of on-road comfort and improved fuel economy.
Inside sources tell TCC that the Liberty project has been the subject of much contention within Jeep. By former president Bob Lutz’ rule, every Jeep must be able to tackle the off-road challenges presented by California’s Rubicon Trail. The Liberty, say insiders, may not perform as well as the current Cherokee under those conditions, and that has already upset some of the off-road enthusiasts among the company’s own engineers.
The 2001 Grand Cherokee recently won Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road "4x4 of the Year" - here's a snippet from the press release:
``The 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee is designed, engineered and built upon the combination of heritage and capability that has made the Jeep brand the most highly regarded name in the sport-utility segment,'' said Tom Marinelli, Vice President, Chrysler/Jeep Division Global Brand Center, DaimlerChrysler Corporation.
This is the eighth time a Jeep vehicle has been awarded Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road's ``4x4 of the Year'' -- more than any other manufacturer.
Initiated in 1983, the 4-Wheel & Off-Road's ``4x4 of the Year'' competition is open to all four-wheel drive vehicles with significant updates and performance differences from the previous year. The vehicles are tested for a full month, both in various on-road conditions and in severe off-road use. Vehicles are evaluated and scored on ride & drive, as well as empirical, mechanical, interior and exterior measurements.
The Grand Cherokee upstaged six rivals to clinch the award. The competition included the Chevrolet Silverado LT 2500HD, the Ford Explorer Sport Trac, the Ford F-150 Super Crew, the GMC Sierra 2500HD, the Mitsubishi Montero and the Nissan Frontier Crew Cab SC.
``This award is unique because of its single focus on only one 'best of the best' from all categories of product available in the 2001 4x4 marketplace,'' said Rick Pewe, editor of 4-Wheel & Off-Road. ``The intense competition in the light truck category over the past decade has made this award even more profound because of the sheer number of vehicles qualifying for this competition.
``With its on-road performance and handling, and its capabilities in treacherous off-road terrain, the 2001 Jeep Grand Cherokee is still king of the hill,'' added Pewe.
In its inaugural model year, Jeep Grand Cherokee first won the 1993 4- Wheel & Off-Road's ``4x4 of the Year'' competition, a second time in 1996 after its first substantial redesign, and again in 1998 with the high-performance Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited. The most recent Jeep winner was the all-new 1999 Grand Cherokee.