Detroit Auto Show 2001 - Day 1 Highlights
DaimlerChrysler unveiled the Jeep Liberty as the first new vehicle introduction of the 2001 North American International Auto Show. The presentation began with a screen of turbulent blue cloud images followed by an outdoors theme of forests and sky. This was followed by a discussion on the virtues of taking the road less traveled. It seemed surprising to hear poetry from the same company that used to drop vehicles from the ceiling or crash them through plate glass windows! The visual and verbal imagery gradually shifted to the nostalgia of pre-Interstate America and then finally to the Jeep heritage story.
The Liberty descended onto the stage from a steep, rocky mountain demonstrating that this is a Jeep and not a soft-roader or otherwise wannabe SUV. The statement was clear and as the new Liberty landed on the stage, several more Liberty models took the stage driving in from the side in less dramatic fashion.
The Liberty is Jeeps and DaimlerChryslers first entry into the very competitive compact sport-utility market. The difference for Jeep is the brands 60 years of off-road experience. This contemporary Jeep design incorporates traditional Jeep cues that have historically set this brand of sport utility vehicles apart from the pack, said Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President, Product Design, DaimlerChrysler Corporation. Beyond the styling cues, traditional Jeep off-road performance has also set this brand apart.
The Liberty has clearly been influenced by two of Jeeps earlier concepts. First, the Jeep Dakar, which was introduced in 1997, influenced the package as well as the bold, functional aesthetics of the Liberty. Secondly, the Jeepster concept introduced the following year seems to have provided some of the styling direction especially for the headlamp to hood treatment.
The vehicle has the unmistakable proportion of a Jeep with a very upright windshield. Short front and rear overhangs provide the ability and appearance of a true off-roader with plenty of approach, breakover, and departure angle. There is also no shortage of ground clearance at 10.1. The stiff body side and obligatory wheel flares reinforce the message that this vehicle is a Jeep. The good wheel to body relationship along with the 60 track certainly give the Liberty a confident stance and a stable look.
Up front, the traditional, seven slot Jeep grille is present although somewhat laid back. The round headlamps are high-set and evolve the Jeep look by blending into the hood with gentle bulges trailing off into the hood behind the lamps. This is one of the designs most unique details and a new interpretation for a production Jeep.
Inside, there are traditional round gauges with more contemporary black on beige graphics. The look is clean, simple and functional although similar to many other compact SUVs already on the market. On the Liberty Limited, the gauges sport chrome trim and metallic accents on the console, instrument panel and steering wheel (for that upscale feeling). There are also large, round air conditioning outlets in keeping with the round theme. The interior door handles also echo the rounded theme and are perhaps the most interesting interior design detail of all.
For cargo flexibility, there is a 65/35 split folding rear seat that can be operated with one hand. And when the Liberty is finished conquering the Rubicon trail, presumably it will find itself in the company of every other compact SUV at the mall and the supermarket parking lot for which there are even handy grocery bag hooks built into the rear seat backs.
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