I posted the comment about the Liberty not being vastly inferior to the Cherokee.
I must first say that as far as Jeeps go (I've owned many over 30 years), I find the 4.0 liter inline six one of the best engines ever made, and I in fact prefer the AMC designed Jeeps (especially Wranglers) over the Chrysler design.
However - the Cherokee was a GREAT design for the 1980's and aged well - I believe they would still sell today, especially with the 4.0 liter engine.
Okay, I say these wonderful things about the 4.0 engine and the AMC designs, yet I am defending a Chrysler design? - The Jeep Liberty.
First I should say my comments apply to the 2002-2007 Liberty (which I am most familiar with). The 3.7 will never go down in Jeep history as a great engine, but take care of it and it does the job. As a matter of fact, it does it more quietly and efficiently than the bulletproof 4.0. Both are pluses in today's world, and are pluses for a family vehicle.
The suspension is still Jeep rugged/go anywhere, but with the independent front and coil spring rear, it is much more comfortable on road, while still being offroad ready. The rack & pinion steering is superior to the Cherokee's older design as well. The interior, creature comforts, as well as the leather appointments in the Limited make for a nice compact SUV. One as rugged as any on the market today.
The Liberty in reality was the evolution of the Cherokee. Again, the Cherokee was and is a great Jeep, but don't sell the Liberty short.
For a rugged, go anywhere, super dependable Jeep, my choice was a later model YJ Wrangler (I've owned 2 - 1995s, and they both were great). I traded my 1st 1995 YJ for a new 2003 Sahara, and found that although the 2003's suspension was much more comfortable than the old YJ, I actually preferred the YJ. I actually went back to a 1995 YJ for five years - rugged, bulletproof AMC designed.
My wife's Cherokee was getting on in years, and she had a long commute. When we were expecting our first child, she traded it in on a RX 300 (nice vehicle, but I'm a Jeep person).
I suppose I could have gone through the Cherokee and kept it for myself, but I do not regret going to the Liberty when I needed something more practical for my family than my YJ.
The Liberty is comfortable enough for long trips, gets decent MPG (low-mid 20's highway, high teens in town), and will go anywhere and through anything.
I've owned 3 Libertys, all Limiteds, 3.7 with Selec-trac, and they've all been solid, decent Jeeps.
As I've said, I've owned Jeeps for 30 years, and was in the automobile business (Jeep) for much of that time - the Liberty is different than the Cherokee, but it is not inferior.
Still I wish you could get new YJ's & Cherokees today. The Jeep model line up in the mid 80's thru mid 90's was incredible.
Don't forget, before Jeep dropped the 4.0 liter in the Cherokee, the available 6 cylinder was the GM 2.8 liter V6, it was a horrible engine (especially for the Cherokee). Once the 4.0 replaced it - a legend was born.
All points well taken.
You obviously have an extensive history with Jeeps, and I couldn't agree more re: AMC vs. Chrysler.
That said, I do not generally consider comfort a priority when comparing 4x4s. For example, the FJ40 is widely regarded as one of the least comfortable vehicles still on the road, and is also considered by many to be the ultimate in off-road performance (for common, consumer-grade rigs). One can now buy 4wd SUVs with truly luxurious interiors, but would I take one over the FJ40 when rough terrain is common? No way. So, how to compare such vehicles? Obviously, this example is more extreme than the difference between a Cherokee and a Liberty, but I think the basic situation holds. The Liberty is typical of recent trends in so far as suspension and engine are concerned, but I think it offers some unique features (i.e. the available combo of diesel, 4x4, and capacity).
In the end, I think you are right in questioning my description of the Liberty as "vastly inferior." In terms of off-road suitability, I still maintain that the XJ is superior. "Vastly?" Maybe that is a little harsh. In "today's" market, I have no idea. I shop for cars as a militant utilitarian, so I can't provide feedback in regards comfort or new-fangled gizmos :)
Original reviewer here.
At 160,000 miles everything started to wear out. Maybe this is acceptable given heavy use.
I would add the following to "things that have gone wrong":
The hardware on this thing is a problem. Bolt after bolt has seized and they break when attempting removal. Changing suspension was technically easy, but ended up being a nightmare because of the hardware.
I've worked on plenty of older vehicles that have not had this problem.
This is obviously not a big enough problem to turn the XJ into something less than the legend it is, but it is annoying.