This odd-looking car is likely a prototype of the 2014 Jeep Liberty, and based on several clues unearthed by our spy photographers, it packs a turbocharged engine.
It’s clear that this model is a Jeep based on the raised ride height, trail-ready Yokohama Geolander AT-S tires, and the familiar Jeep seven-slot front grille peeking out from the body cladding. We had previously heard that the next Jeep Liberty might get a 3.2-liter V-6 engine, but this car seems to have a turbocharged engine. The fuel filler cap has a prominent sticker warning that premium gasoline must be used, while frontal photos appear to show a large intercooler.
If this Jeep mule does indeed pack a turbocharged engine, it could be a number of different Fiat-sourced I-4s, but we’ve heard little buzz about those working their way into the Jeep Liberty. There’s a good chance this engine could be the same 160-hp, 1.4-liter I-4 that will be offered in the 2013 Dodge Dart. Then again, there are rumors that the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 – which will be offered in the Dart – will also spawn a turbocharged variant in the near future.
We already knew that the 2014 Liberty (as well as the next Jeep Compass, Dodge Avenger, and Chrysler 200) would be built off the new Compact U.S. Wide platform. CUSW is used for the Dodge Dart sedan and is itself a variant of the European Alfa Romeo Giulietta chassis. That explains why this test mule wears a hacked-up Alfa Romeo car body, even though it will eventually be a compact SUV.
Selling car-based models hasn’t always worked well for Jeep — witness the lukewarm reception of the current Compass and Patriot — but Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has promised the new models will be different. In January, he told USA Today that the new Liberty will be, “A trail-rated, full-blooded Jeep that has its origins in the architecture of a sports car.”
Expect the new Jeep Liberty to offer either front- or all-wheel drive, with a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission possible on models with the 3.2-liter V-6. Jeep already has confirmed that the new Liberty will go into production in Toledo, Ohio, from 2013, leading us to expect the car to launch early next year as a 2014 model.