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ROCKCRAWLER.com
2002 Jeep Liberty

By Mike "TXJEEPER" Cohn
Photos by Mike Cohn and Jenifer Cohn

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Our Test Vehicle
Our brand new, 2002 Jeep Liberty Sport showed up on a Wednesday, which gave us a few days to drive it around town and get a real feel for it before heading off to the trails that weekend. Our KJ was the Sport model and was a very attractive Dark Garnet Red Pearl Coat, with Taupe interior. (See sidebar for full specs)

The Sport model starts at $17,960, however, the Liberty we got was maxed out with options and had a sticker price of $27,440. We had to wonder why they didn't just send us a Limited, considering the price difference would have been only $1095 more for a similarly-equipped model. The Limited would have also gained us leather seats ($250 more gets you heated seats), HomeLink® Universal Transceiver and mini-trip computer, and a fancier interior.

Options on Our Test Vehicle
- Trailer Tow Group - Class III Receiver and 7 to 4 pin electrical connection
- Security Group - Alarm, Sentry Key, removable rear cargo cover
- Off Road Group - Trac-Lok, P235/70R16 OWL Goodyear SR-A All Terrain Tires, Fuel Tank Skid, Transfer Case Skid, Tow Hooks, Heavy Duty Engine Cooling
- 27B Package - A/C, power windows and locks, powered mirrors, keyless entry with remote, roff rack, tilt steering, full-size spare tire, illuminated vanity mirrors, floor mats, cargo trim panel with storage net, rear power outlet, illuminated entry
- Brakes - 4 Wheel Anti-Lock
- Air Bags - Side, Supplemental
- Transmission - 4 Speed AUtomatic (45RFE)
- Selec-Trac Full Time 4WD System (NV242)
- 3.7L Power Tech V6
- Glass - Deep Tint Sunscreen
- Mirrors - Power heated, Fold-Away
- Sunroof - Power
- Fog Lamps
- Engine Block Heater
- Speed Control - Leather wrapped and cruise control
- Radio - AM/FM, Cass/CD/Equalizer/Changer Control
- Speakers - Six, Premium Infinity with controls on the steering wheel
- CD Changer - 6 Disc with remote swing gate control, trim panel with storage net
- Wheels - 16x7 Cast Aluminum

Getting In and Checking it Out
As I was taking delivery of the Liberty in a parking lot downtown, people began to circle the Jeep and ask questions. This would turn out to be the norm for the next seven days.

What I found once inside the Liberty, was that the interior is somewhat spartan. While the Limited model offers a slightly fancier dash than our Sport, there was a very current look and feel to everything. The instrument cluster has white-backed faces during the day and at night you see green digits and needles. Very sporty, indeed. The dash had a sort of grayish carbon fiber texture to it, which was kind of odd. Real "fake" carbon fiber would have looked stellar, but this just had an odd look it. Not a bad look, mind you, it just struck me funny, I suppose.

Also worth noting is that the Liberty has little to no storage space for the driver and front passenger. Because of the round styling throughout the dash, there are no flat spots to sit anything. We had nowhere to put our GPS or even a set of sunglasses or a tube of Chap Stick, for that matter. You get two cup holders and that's it. Nowhere else to put stuff, other than the glove box or center console. In fact, if you have two large drinks, the cups sit against each other, causing a real and present danger of knocking the lid off when you pick one up. This is also the case in the new TJ's.

Everything inside the Liberty is within arm's reach and is laid out well with the exception of the power window controls, which are clustered in the center console. Even after a week, reaching for them in the right place and pushing or pulling them in the right direction never became second nature. It was weird and I didn't like it. There's just no other way to put it. Windows are part of the door and that's where the controls belong.

One feature which I really enjoyed (after figuring it out) was the wheel-mounted radio controls, which are on the backside of the steering wheel. Once I learned the buttons' functions and could think through them each time, it became a joy to make volume changes or switch CD's, tracks, or radio stations. To top it off, the six speaker Infiniti stereo rocked. Turning up the stereo to hearing-damaging levels proved to be a very clear and powerful experience. In fact, I swore there was a subwoofer on-board, but there wasn't.

So we've got tunes, what's next? Jeep claims that the air conditioning in the Liberty is a newer, quieter model. I guess I just can't imagine how rushing air under pressure can be any quieter, but I suppose the sound level of the a/c was just fine. What mattered was that it blew cold, and it certainly did that just fine. The circular air vents in the center of the dash worked well at aiming the air where I wanted it, however, I wished that they rotated like those found in a Grand Am, for example.

Before taking off, I also played with the sunroof. I've never had one so I had to read the directions to understand its two settings, which were either vent or various states of open or closed.

Jeep Liberty Interior
The interior of the Jeep is round and stylish, but rather spartan in the places-to-put-stuff category.

Jeep Liberty Interior
The interior of the Limited model is a little snazzier than the Sport's.

Jeep Liberty Front End
The front facia of the Liberty has the familiar 7 grill slats and an updated look derived from the Icon and Jeepster concepts from the late 90's

Jeep Liberty Front End
The fog lights are surrounded by lots of plastic body-cladding.

Jeep Liberty Back Side
The rear of the Liberty is quite different than anything else in the Jeep lineup. We like it.

Jeep Liberty Flipper Gate
The rear "flipper gate" is a neat new conept. Just watch your chin!

Jeep Liberty Front End
The tail lights are a very distinguishing feature of the new Liberty.

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