to Lower Ride Height of Liberty (KJ)
this the typical Liberty customer?
Or is this?
16, 2002 - Jeep quietly announced today that the
Liberty (aka KJ) is getting lowered. Lowering a Jeep? You
October, the folks at AutoWeek
managed to roll a Liberty during slalom testing. The slalom is used
to test stability and responsiveness to sudden back-and-forth turns
at relatively high speeds. In this case, according to AutoWeek,
it was "490-foot slalom laid out in a level parking
lot at California Speedway. The course uses eight traffic cones
in a straight line, 70 feet apart, for seven gates."
Slaloms are typically used to test cars, so it was no surprise that
taking the course at 40mph in an SUV could be a recipe for trouble,
as it is unusual for a vehicle of this type to do repeated left-right-left
turns, even during an accident.
thereafter, the German magazine, Auto
Bild, had a similar experience and wrote that Jeep should
recall the Liberties (still named Cherokee in Europe).
contends that the Liberty is perfectly stable and that the circumstances
behind the magazine article accidents were not considered "normal"
driving. The Liberty has passed all internal safety tests, including
quick lane change tests.
Liberty has also passed tests done by both the Insurance
Institute for Highway Safety and the National
Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA).
NHTSA gave the Liberty a 2 star Rollover
Resistance Rating, which means, it "has a risk of rollover
between 30 percent and 40 percent."
have done our own tests, both on and off-road and found the Liberty
to have a very typical SUV ride. We have even run extreme trails
with Liberties and have seen them remain stable with all four wheels
on the ground.
the tests may show mixed results, one must remember that the Liberty
is an SUV, and as such has to be driven like one. It's not a sports
car and does not handle like one. An SUV cannot be expected to take
high-speed turns or make high-speed maneuvers without a loss of
some stability. By nature, they are top-heavy and this has to be
considered when driving one.
is this why Jeep is lowering the KJ? Not according to them. With
nearly 35,000 KJs sold through March of this year, Jeep has done
extensive market research, both during the design phases and during
the sales life of the 2002 model. The intent of the Liberty was
never to be the most-capable off-road vehicle on the market. Jeep
already leads the pack with its Wrangler model, which is perhaps
the best out-of-the-box four-wheeler around. Jeep wants to capture
a huge part of the SUV market who were previously flocking to the
likes of the Ford Escape or the Toyota RAV4, for example. The long
heritage of the Jeep badge speaks volumes about its capabilities
off-road but Jeep wants to produce a vehicle that can handle the
streets just as well. With rack and pinion steering and independent
front suspension, the Liberty provides a much nicer on-road ride
while still remaining plenty capable on the trails.
Jeep has found out is that an even lower percentage of Liberty owners
use their vehicles off-road than do the Wrangler. Their market studies
and surveys have shown that buyers actually want a more car-like
ride than the original Liberties have already provided. Earlier
this year, in fact, the steering was lightened up to give an easier
feel to the driver.
as a result of all of this, Jeep wants to provide better on-road
handling, which means that the center of gravity needed to be lowered
a bit to reduce the top-heavy feelings experienced during fast turns.
In the last couple of weeks, Jeep has begun installing shorter springs,
jounce bumpers and shocks on new Liberties coming out of the Toledo
new suspension means a lower ride height at the center line of the
front wheels of 22mm (.87 inch) and at the rear wheels of 19mm (.75
feels that previously-manufactured Liberties are perfectly safe
and does not intend to do any recalls.
"TXJEEPER" Cohn is the Editor and founder of Rockcrawler.com.