Took a trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for the July 4th holiday and had a chance to take the Jeep off-road. My 2012 KK Sport w/ STII is totally stock right down to the Wrangler A/Ts, so I was impressed by how well it performed. No doubt this vehicle is capable right off the shelf. I took it over some very large (3-5ft) hills/moguls on ungroomed terrain with loose dirt/sand. In 4WD Auto, the Jeep crawled up and over easily. I was worried about my ground clearance, but I only scraped bottom once at breakover going over a steep hill and it was minor. The Liberty's short wheelbase is advantageous when going up and over steep hills.
Next I took her down some wooded trails with thick overgrowth and brush. The Jeep easily maneuvered between trees and around obstacles and kept good traction. The trails were not well-groomed jeep trails but old logging trails that are rugged even for ATVs. The Jeep had no problems.
Next stop was a rocky shoreline along Lake Michigan. The entire terrain is rocks and boulders, mostly sandstone and limestone. Many of the rocks are covered by thick grass and shrubbery, so I had to maintain good visibility to not hit a whopper. The Jeep handled perfectly over the rocks and the ground clearance was sufficient to go over some small and medium sized boulders without a problem. The ride was smooth compared to when I went over the same area in a Polaris Ranger.
I then took her through a small swampish area near the water and switched into 4WD Low. Plowing through weeds and reeds as high as the mirrors, she went through with no problem. My only wish here was that I had a brush guard, although, I got through without any major scrapes.
Finally, it was time for the sugar-sand beach along the lake, which is basically a large dune in the area I was in. This is serious sand that got even a Kabota stuck, so I preceded cautiously, since I have not installed tow hooks. I started off going through the sand in 4WD low and had no problem. Then slowly traversed down a 5-6 ft dune and up and over some smaller dunes. Without better tires and preparation I didn't want to go too far, but I wanted to try to climb the steep dune I came down. About 2/3rds of the way up the tires got to spinning, so I went in reverse and dropped into first gear. This time, she made it all the way up and over, albeit with some labor. Keep in mind, this is probably the most difficult sand terrain around as you sink in a good 6" just walking through it. Even ATVs can stuck here.
Overall, I was super impressed by my KK's stock capabilities. The things I pushed it to do totally stock would have shut down almost every other non-Jeep SUV on the market. Anyone who says this is a mall-crawler has no idea how capable this vehicle is. The Liberty is a true Jeep through and through.
Unfortunately, no pics. My phone was dead and I didn't have a cameraman.
Tires were probably around 40-42psi. I didn't intentionally let air out (though I probably should have), but I had no access to a pump before I needed to get back on the highway. This was sort of an impromptu excursion while vacationing. My friend drove his Unlimited up with me, but didn't go anywhere except down a dirt trail to where we were staying.
I should add that this is the first Jeep I've owned, so I really wanted to see what it could do. I wanted to see if it would live up to the "Jeep" name. Prior to this I've owned all Fords: Expedition (4WD), Mountaineer (AWD), Mariner (AWD), and Escape (AWD). Truly, I would not have even attempted what I performed above in any of those vehicles, except maybe the Expedition. But that truck was so large and heavy, it would not have done well on the narrow trails or in the sand. I will say that I now feel that the Jeep brand backs up its schtick with actual off-road capability and performance. I feel this vehicle in stock form is far more capable than most people (including me) would ever require it to be.
Edit: Yea, definitely had a blast and definitely will be doing it again. Next time, I'm going to be better prepared.
The Liberty surprises another!! It is a great vehicle and does what most ask it to do. The only real area where it suffers is on larger rocks. The ifs barely flexes, but no ifs vehicle is ever going to be a great rock crawler so why should the Liberty have to be?
Glad you had fun since that's all that really matters! Gotta get some recovery gear and a small compressor next time. Then you can air down and see how much better it gets!