Despite its status as an iconic brand, even Jeep has had a few worst-ever moments. In fact, one could politely claim that there have been years in which nearly the entire model line has been bad.
For example, here's the lineup in Not a happy time for Jeep fans, or, I dare say, for the brand itself. Indeed, there was a time in the mids when Jeep seemed lost, straying from its foundation of stout, capable, and creative vehicles.
Born from World War II and forged through the building of many different types of vehicles to do many different types of things, it seemed during those DaimlerChrysler years that the music of revolving ownership had stopped — and this was what had happened: poorly built SUVs for anyone who wanted a seven-slot grille and round headlights.
Thing is, that's not the Jeep we love. For the legions of fans out there, a Jeep is about uncompromising style and performance that completes its mission no matter what. That's not a credo the Compass can live up to, is it? Fact is, except for the Wrangler, none of Jeep's models could make that claim. In fact, five of the six are on this worst-ever list, which says a lot about how great Jeep has been for over 75 years — and how one era doesn't impact the imprint of a great brand and its vehicles.
So, let's take a look back, enjoy, and remember some of Jeep's most compromised vehicles. Our list of the ten worst Jeeps of all time is based on the following: they had to be terrible, dull, weird, pointless, or all of the above. The 10 worst Jeeps are listed below, in chronological order. Really great! I mean, why not jump right in and change up the Jeepster Commando?
After all, it's not like they put square headlights on the first Wrangler or anything. Sure, the powertrains were generally thought to be an improvement, but killing off the Jeepster name was harsh.
Adding 3 inches to the snout? From the C to C, those little inches made miles of difference when it came to the look of the Commando. Add in a grille only Ford Bronco fans would love, and you had a Frankenjeep that effectively destroyed sales. Today, Jeep acolytes split the Commando into two basic eras: The fun and quirky Jeepster years, and the death rattle of a redesign gone terribly wrong.
Far be it from me to snub an eagle sticker. But come on now. If there's one thing about Jeep that has remained consistent over the years, it's the brand's ability to conjure over-the-top and wacky special editions. The original Wrangler Blue Islander is a good example.
And then, especially, the Wrangler Blue Islander remake. The grandest of Grand Wagoneer Grand Cherokees. Some even claim there was once a Playboy special edition of the Jeep CJ So, it should come as no surprise that this list would include the ultimate in tacky special editions: A Jeep Cherokee Chief Golden Eagle.
Take a 2-door Cherokee on a wide track, add a massive eagle on the hood, gold wheels, red and gold decals, a denim interior, and bronzed paint. Somewhere, the person who came up with the idea of square headlights on the first Wrangler is probably still wondering what the heck all the fuss was about. Round headlights…square headlights…round headlights…square…it's still a damn Jeep.
Truth is, the furor over the headlight design on the first-ever Wrangler was indicative of how AMC was replacing a true American legend. This was not simply a vehicle that could be changed based on parts availability, it was an icon of motivation. Hence, when the YJ debuted as a complete departure from the CJ, many fans were not so impressed. According to Jeep, virtually none of the parts were shared. The design was different in obviously critical ways, and the YJ ushered in a more comfortable track and refined interior — not exactly what CJ fans wanted.
As a general rule, when an automaker "brings back" a nameplate, they're usually on the prowl for quick sales at the expense of brand legacy — legacy built off the memories of a formerly great vehicle.
Such is the sad fact around the Jeep Grand Wagoneer, anyway. On the heels of a very successful Grand Cherokee launch one of the greatest ever , in Jeep decided to keep the good times rolling by using the Grand Wagoneer name as the tip-top, luxed-up Grand Cherokee trim. Let's repeat. Jeep ends the Grand Wagoneer SJ in But wait! There's more! They bring back the name two years later and slap it on the top trim of the Grand Cherokee ZJ. Sure, it had woodgrain. And a 5. But really, it was a Jeep Grand Cherokee called a Jeep Grand Wagoneer to trick loyalists into thinking it was some cool retro remake.
I am so confused! Turns out, most people saw through parent company Chrysler Corp. Not that it mattered — the Grand Cherokee sold quite fine anyway. The Jeep Liberty was so bad that it's on this list twice. That's historic levels of worst-ever shame, and pretty well deserved when it comes to the Liberty. It will perhaps be forever known as the soft Jeep for college kids.
Regardless, this first-gen Liberty debuted for the model year as a replacement for the aging but still beloved Cherokee. Where the Cherokee was squared off and timeless, the Liberty was rounded and soft.
Cheap interior bits completed the design fail. It's not that the third-gen Jeep Grand Cherokee was a rattletrap. It's just that, well, it aptly symbolized the slightly awful mids for Jeep. As then-owner DaimlerChrysler looked to impose a more mainstream lineup onto the brand, things got a little weird and discombobulating.
Even a vehicle like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, with a built-in army of loyalists, wasn't immune to dreary models caused by feature confusion. Case in point: For the model-year redesign, Jeep trotted out two V8 engines. Granted, one was a Hemi, but why not delete the 4. In addition, the combination of a new suspension designed for improved on-pavement driving — with just 8 inches of ground clearance — left off-roaders and purists muttering and moaning.
It didn't matter that reviews reported a capable off-roader. It didn't look like a Jeep, and it sure didn't feel like one when you scraped the bottom on a rock. Shoehorn a third row of seats into a Jeep Grand Cherokee, blow out the dimensions a bit, change the styling, and voila! You've got yourself an ugly Jeep Grand Cherokee with a useless back row.
As a bonus, families got terrible fuel economy, a choice of two V8 engines, and interior dimensions that flat-out didn't work. Think of it this way: The Commander was only 2 inches longer than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but about pounds heavier.
If ever there was a car that needed a diet and a treadmill, the Commander was it. Jeep fans call this thing "mall rated. My own experience with the Compass left me sad, shaken, and wondering why Jeep would put its badge on it. As a member of the brand's scary "joint-venture" dreamscapes, the Compass was awful on virtually all counts.
It had a weak engine mated to a joy-killing continuously variable transmission. The interior sported horribly uncomfortable antimicrobial seating material, and miles of cheap plastic. It did feature a fold-flat front seat, just in case you needed to haul two-by-fours or stilts. And a flashlight in the ceiling — important! Worst of all, when it debuted, the Compass was sold as a compact SUV. Not so. It was really a tall, odd-shaped hatchback with all-wheel drive, and didn't really offer the ride height and cargo room of an SUV.
Seriously, if you had to choose between the two, go with the Patriot because it looked like a traditional Jeep and cost thousands less than the not-so-sexy Compass. Otherwise, the Patriot is a slightly different version of the same platform and powertrain, wrapped in more upright design, offering slightly more capable off-roading, and just a tad more cargo room. The Patriot debuted with the same poor driving experience, bad fuel economy, and cheaply made interior.
Looking back, it's just slightly hard to believe that Jeep sold both — at the same time — or ever. In , everyone complained about how the first-gen Liberty didn't properly replace the beloved Cherokee. In spite of its proper circular headlights and genuine off-roading capability, the Liberty was too short, tall, and round, which made grown Cherokee loyalists weep and yard dogs howl. Then, in , Jeep got it right, but more than half a decade too late.
Everyone complained about the redesigned version, because it was too "rough riding" and too "aggressive" and looked like an "old-time Jeep. Fact is that by , fewer car shoppers cared about off-road driving. By then, people wanted car-based crossovers. But that's not why the Liberty is on this list. It simply lacked the quality one would expect, it was powered by a thirsty and unrefined engine, and while the design hearkened back to the iconic Jeeps of yore, it also looked like a miniaturized Commander, instead of a new take on the old Cherokee.
Skip to content. In , AMC was eager to make its mark and came up with the Commando redesign. Not great! What they did do was plenty bad enough. Welcome to the late s.