learned that we were getting a new Jeep Liberty for testing
and review, I had mixed emotions. I was excited about having
a chance to check out Jeep's new creation, thrilled to be
taking it off-road to see what it could and couldn't do, and
hesitant about what our readers would say about us having
one on Rockcrawler.com.
test-driven one in May when they first hit the market, and
I will admit I was the Liberty's biggest enemy. I couldn't
understand who it would appeal to, and wondered why anyone
in the market wouldn't just get a TJ instead (so I bought
a TJ). We kept seeing a few Liberty's around town, however,
and the look started to grow on me (secretly).
learned the Liberty was on its way to us, my first question
was whether or not we would really be able to take it off-road
and test it the way we wanted to. I know the vehicle was not
really designed for serious off-road use, but also remembered
the salesman back in May who described going over the Rubicon
in them for testing. Of course, I know there are plenty of
go-arounds there, too.
Liberty pulled up in our driveway, it was as if we had purchased
it ourselves. It was brand new, with around 1600 miles on
it, a 2002 model, in a really nice reddish-plum color Jeep
calls "Dark Garnet Red Pearl Coat". The neighbors
all came out looking at it, asking lots of questions and not
understanding that we just had it for the week. When asked
if we liked it, we told them we would get back to them the
made plans to take it to Monteagle, Tennessee for the Southern
Four Wheel Drive Association's quarterly run. While packing
up, we couldn't help but notice how nicely it held everything
we needed for the trip. The back door opened up to the side
or you could open up only the "flipper glass" to
drop something in at the last minute.
feature was that when you pulled on the latch for the door,
the glass actually opened up by itself with hydraulics, so
you only needed one hand to operate everything if you were
loaded up. For more storage in the the back seat, you simply
take out the headrests and then you can lay the seats down.
They do not lay all the way flat, however, but this did not
end up being much of a problem since we were carrying suitcases
and things that could lay at an angle. It could be an issue
for some items, although there is lots of flat space behind
the seat that can be used for things like coolers, flowers,
packed to the roof and headed out for Tennessee. On the way
we stopped to grab a bite to eat and couldn't help but notice
how there was nowhere to put anything down on the dash or
console. All the surfaces on the inside of the vehicle have
been rounded, which does look really cool, but leaves you
no place to set your ketchup or napkins. I don't know if this
is a big priority to you or not, but to me, oh yeah! There
were two cupholders in the console and for the backseat passengers,
also, in the doors (as sometimes seen in mini-vans).
the highway, eagerly awaiting the improved Independent Front
Suspension. My husband and I both drive TJ's and have ridden
in Cherokees and Grand Cherokees, as well, and were anxious
to see what the Liberty was going to feel like on our sometimes
felt great! It felt firmly gripped to the road and handled
the normal road bumps deftly. They have been "repairing"
the interstate we were traveling on here in Alabama for about
six years now and there are places where a lane will be scraped
off for repaving that goes for miles. The Liberty handled
these places more smoothly than our TJ did when we drove the
same road a few months ago, and I felt overall that the suspension
those of you who fear change, fear not! The Liberty is just
as noisy and loud as any other Jeep! Ok, not as loud as a
TJ but the wind sounded like it would come right through the
doors. And the seats! I honestly believe that they are more
uncomfortable than any Wrangler I have ever driven or ridden
in. They were hard and flat and could not be adjusted in any
way suitable for the human musculo-skeletal system.
we had was a Sport package, and I understand the Limited has
different seats. I really feel like for the list price of
this vehicle ($27,440), the seats should be upgraded - several
it to Monteagle and woke up the next morning ready to go to
our first event. We pulled in to the Smokehouse parking lot
and went back to the pavilion to start meeting people. I guess
we didn't really think too much about what we were doing.
I've been to many events since I met my husband and there
is always that buzz of excitement pulling up in the morning
and seeing who you know that came to the event, checking out
all the rigs you will be watching today, meeting new fellow
patrons of the sport and sharing stories of trails past.
like it when we meet other people who visit our magazine,
are familiar with us, have our stickers on, and maybe we took
it a little for granted this time. We pulled up in the parking
lot with our Rockcrawler.com windshield stickers proudly displayed
on the Liberty's front and back glass. We stepped out of the
shiny, stock plum Jeep with the Michigan tags and it was like
those parties where everybody knows everybody but you and
you have the feeling you wore the wrong thing.
big rig drivers kind of hmmphed and hmmmmmmmed at us while
we unloaded our stuff to put out at the pavilion for the sign
up. They looked out of the corners of their eyes then looked
back at their own rigs quickly. We sat down at the tables
obvious everyone in the area wanted to see the Liberty, but
no one wanted to admit it. It was like an invisible field
surrounded it and anyone who got more than four feet would
be repelled back toward their own vehicle. They were even
leaning over this invisible line, looking at it, but not wanting
to get too close. Finally Mike went out and spoke to them,
breaking the ice a bit.
a few people inside, saw our good friend and loyal reader
,Neal, from back home, and tried to hook up with a run. We
took the Liberty over a few feet and posed it for some promo
shots, as well. Some guys with a very large truck and trailer
were watching and when we got within earshot I heard, "I
know you're not taking that thing on the trails." "Well,
that was the plan," we replied, and had just seen foreshadowing
for the weekend ahead.
up with some really nice guys from Middle Tennessee Trail
Runners who were willing to take us out. "It has tow
hooks," they said. They warned us that the trails would
not be trimmed since we were on private land and that we would
most-likely take on some scratches.
kind of funny being incognito, so to speak. We realized that
nobody thought we had ever been on a trail before. It was
like pulling up to a Harley Davidson shop on a hot pink scooter
and saying "Hi guys! Going riding?" We put the Liberty
on the RTI ramp and that really got them going!