This isn't the first time we've seen mule spy shots of the next-generation Jeep Liberty in the wild. But it is the first time we've seen it crawling among the red rocks of Moab, Utah. The famed destination in the southeast corner of the state is a haven for off-roaders across the U.S. and around the world, and hosts an annual Easter Jeep Safari every spring. Moab has also historically been a favorite spot for Jeep to unveil new concepts or production vehicles.

The next-generation Liberty (or whatever it will ultimately be called) is a radical change from its predecessor in terms of chassis, being a variation of the CUSW platform that underpins the new Dodge Dart compact sedan, as compared with the outgoing Liberty's heavy, longitudinal chassis, which was a purpose-built SUV.

But just because it's going to a more car-based chassis doesn't mean that it will sacrifice Jeep's legendary off-road capability. Although it may not be the first or best choice for traversing the Rubicon or other challenging trails, it's clear Jeep wants the Liberty's successor to earn its "Trail Rated" badge.

The new Jeep is expected to get a 3.2-liter version of Chrysler's Pentastar V-6, mated to a nine-speed automatic, as well as a four-cylinder base engine, and possibly a turbocharged variant.