We thought we were lucky having seen a pre-production Buick Encore and a never-gonna-be-sold-here Citroen DS5 near the Automobile Magazine offices yesterday, but we must have driven past a few four-leaf clovers because we then spotted this early prototype for the 2014 Jeep Liberty on the highway in southeast Michigan.
Don't let the chopped-up Alfa Romeo Giulietta bodywork fool you – what you're looking at is the next generation of the Jeep Compass, slated to replace the current crossover and the Jeep Patriot. The new Compass will share its underpinnings with the 2013 Dodge Dart, as well as a slew of other new Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Fiat, and Alfa models to ride on the company's new CUSW platform.
There are a couple of clear giveaways that this is the next Liberty: most notably are the jacked-up ride height and the easily-seen seven-slot Jeep grille. This tester also looks almost identical to the car we spotted last April. Despite sharing the same car-centric platform as other models, Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has promised that the next Liberty will still maintain its off-roading credentials and be "a trail-rated, full-blooded Jeep".
Expect the 2014 Liberty to utilize some of the same powertrain options found in the 2013 Dart – most likely the 160-hp 1.4-liter turbo-four. There's also a chance that the Liberty could receive a turbocharged variant of the 2.4-liter Tigershark I-4 also offered in the Dart. However, this prototype didn't have the intercooler visible in earlier spy photos, so there is a good chance that it could be packing the rumored 3.2-liter version of Chrysler's Pentastar V-6 engine that is slated to be paired with an all-new, ZF-sourced nine-speed automatic transmission. Also missing was a gas-flap label calling for premium fuel – the Pentastar can run on regular 87-octane, while turbocharged engines require premium.
We already know that production of the 2014 Jeep Liberty will begin next year at Chrysler's Toledo, Ohio assembly plant, so expect to see the new SUV revealed early next year.