this year, we gave you the preview and lowdown on Jeep's new
Liberty. Known internally to the Jeep folks as the KJ, the Liberty
came at nearly the same time as the final run of the beloved
Cherokee. Though Jeep swears the KJ is not a replacement for
the XJ, the timing would surely say otherwise, and the Liberty
certainly fits in the same niche of the market. Note: overseas,
the Liberty has actually taken over the Cherokee name.
has been a lot of discussion in the four-wheeling community
about the Liberty and whether or not it deserves to wear the
Jeep badge. The main reason for this banter is Jeep's departure
from a solid axle in front. Instead, the Jeep engineers have
chosen an all-new independent front suspension (IFS), which
does not go over very well with the hardcore crowd because
of its comparitively low amount of flex.
because the front end has IFS does that mean it's not worthy
of the Jeep badge? Does that mean that the Liberty is not
capable of taking you to the off-road destinations you'd like
to reach? If you ask anyone at DaimlerChrysler, they'll surely
tell you "no". Of course, they are tyring to sell
you a new vehicle, right?
to us! We decided we needed to find out the answers for ourselves,
so we called up Jeep and had them send us a Liberty to play
with. The timing was perfect, as we wanted to head up to Monteagle,
Tennessee for the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association's
quarterly meeting and trail event.
About the 2002 Liberty
Before we tell you about our experiences with the Liberty,
let's talk about the truck a little.
Liberty comes standard with a 150HP/165 lb.-ft torque, 2.4L
4-cylinder motor, however, the optional 3.7L Power Tech V6
is the only way to go, as far as we're concerned. The 3.7L
is a brand new motor for Jeep - sort of. Essentially, it is
very much the same motor as the Grand Cherokee's 4.7L with
two cylinders lopped off. Optional on the Sport and standard
on the Limited, this new motor churns out 210HP at 5200 rpm
and 235 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm, which gives the Liberty
the highest ratings in its class. Of course, these numbers
come at the high end of the tach. where most of us don't spend
most of our time, so don't expect a speed demon.
us that the 3.7L shares many features with its big brother.
Chain-driven overhead cams provide long-term durability and
reliability. Premium gaskets and seals are used throughout,
which are said to result in a completely "dry" motor
on the outside. No leaks are expected, not only saving on
motor wear but also helping to save our environment, as well.
balance shaft is used to help minimize engine vibrations and
an active knock sensor system places sensors on each cylinder
bank to increase mid-range performance, even using the recommended
87 octane fuel.
on claims 16 MPG in the city and 20 MPG on the highway. During
our week of testing, we averaged around 19 or 20 combined.
the 3.7L runs a 136 amp alternator (124 amps in the 2.4L)
and an automatic tensioner is used on the serpentine poly-vee
belt, which eliminates the need to adjust the belts.
The low-end base model Liberty running the 4 cylinder
motor comes with an NV1500 5-speed manual transmission and
no automatic is available. The next model up, the Sport, comes
with the NV3550 manual and offers the Grand Cherokee-proven
45RFE Multi-speed Electronic automatic.
Wheel Drive Systems
Liberty is offered with either the NV231 Command Trac part-time
transfer case or the NV242 Selec Trac part/full-time unit.
Both options offer a 2.72:1 low range. A very interesting
feature is a new sensor which works in conjunction with the
transmissions. On the automatic models, when you shift into
low range, the shift points are changed on the transmission
for better off-road operation.
manual tranny versions, the clutch-starter interlock is automatically
bypassed when in low-range to allow clutchless starting. 4LO
also recalibrates the motor for better idling and compression.
if equipped with Anti-Lock Brakes, when shifted into low-range,
the ABS is set to a different calibration, aiding off-road
front axle uses a familiar Dana 30 center section and the
rear axle is an 8 1/4" Corporate model. Theoretically,
both differentials should easily accept current models of
lockers and gears already on the market for other Jeeps, though
we have not confirmed this. A Trac-Lok differential is optional
on the Liberty and is part of the Off Road Group package.
wheels on the base model are 16 x 7 inch steel with 215/75R16
tires. Aluminum Mesa wheels are optional. The Sport and Limiteds
get the 235/70R16 All Terrains with optional 16x7 Cast Aluminum
has a 104.3 inch wheelbase and boasts a very impressive 38
degree approach angle and 32.3 degree departure angle. Weighing
in at a wee bit over 4,000 pounds, the 3.7L Liberty is said
to have a 5,000 pound towing capacity, though we wouldn't
recommend towing much more than half of that.
as clearance goes, the Liberty's lowest points come in between
7.8 and 8 inches in the front and rear. Interestingly enough,
the exhaust's downpipe from the motor seemed to hang lower
than anything else and was somewhat unprotected.
Liberty Sport was an attractive Dark Garnet Red Pearl
Liberty looks great and has very smooth lines. We like
new 3.7L V6 is the little brother to the Grand's 4.7L
what separates the Liberty from the Cute Utes. A genuine
Liberty came with a Class III receiver hitch and a 5,000
pound towing capacity. It was also pre-wired with a
7 to 4 pin connector.
new IFS has raised a whole lot of eyebrows in the off-road
The rear end uses drum brakes, unlike the front end's
exhaust's downpipe hung rather low and is unprotected,
however, we never hit it during our off-road portions
of the testing.