let's hit the road. With any new vehicle, you first want to
know what it's going to be like to drive around in your every
day life. I drove the Liberty around for the next two days
both downtown and around the suburbs. My personal vehicles
include two TJ's and a Chevy Tahoe. Our Project TJ, of course,
is miserable to drive around town, while our 2001 stocker
is a fun get-around Jeep. The Tahoe is huge and bus-like,
and just isn't as nimble for running errands. The Liberty
turned out to be the perfect in-the-middle vehicle. It was
fun to drive around town in and would prove to be a great
utility vehicle during the next week.
the 3.7L V6 is by no means a speed demon, it proved to be
a very nice match for the just over 4,000 pound Liberty. Anyone
buying a vehicle like this isn't looking to make record-breaking
0-60 times, so you shouldn't be surprised that the Liberty
does this in roughly 11 or 12 seconds. However, the Liberty
seems quick enough for a daily driver and did offer some fun
when tossing it in and out of traffic.
interesting to drive a vehicle with a 104.3 inch wheelbase
and a height of just a hair over 6 feet. Though the Jeep felt
stable when hitting sharp curves or darting in and out of
traffic, it did tend to feel like it wanted to wander on longer,
faster curves. This was most prevalent on the highway at speeds
over 50 miles per hour. At times, it did feel like I needed
to back off in order to keep body roll to a minimum. But let's
face it, it's sport utility, not a race car! The sooner people
get this through their heads, the better off we'll all be.
front suspension was added to the Liberty with the idea of
improving the ride on the street for the every day drivers.
Trucks like the Ford Explorer and just about everything else
in it's class have had IFS for years and are selling like
hot cakes. Jeep has been behind the times in respect to giving
the mass market what they want. The days of using the "It's
a Jeep" excuse for poor ride handling are over and Jeep
wants everyone to know about it.
a definite feel difference in the IFS'd Liberty compared to
its solid axle brothers, the Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand
Cherokee. The steering is very easy - dare I say, too easy.
When driving around town at speeds of 20-40 miles per hour
you could feel many of the bumps and potholes in the roads.
When hitting them, the wheel would jiggle a bit. It's almost
like there was a touch of bumpsteer going on. Nothing serious.
Don't get me wrong here. It was just something I noticed,
so it's worth mentioning.
came and it was time to pack up the Jeep and head to Monteagle,
Tennessee. Unlike our Wranglers, the Liberty's 60/40 split
back seat folds forward and provides cavernous space for all
of your junk. The headrests in the rear seats are removable
with a little bit of physical coersion, which allows the seats
to go down even when your front seats are back all the way.
Unfortunately, the seat bottoms don't fold up like they do
in the Grand Cherokees, so they do not lay flat. If you have
anything that has to sit flat it must stay all the way in
the back. The seat backs do have some built-in tie-downs,
as well does the floor. We crammed a TON of stuff in the back
of the KJ and would fit even more in there later in the week.
into the rear is an easy task. You can press a button on the
remote to release the rear glass or use the door handle. The
Liberty has an interesting new back door design. The rear
is split in the middle, horizontally. The "flipper glass"
goes up and the bottom swings open to the driver's side. Opening
this way seems odd to me, considering most of the time I would
get in the back, I would be the driver. Walking around the
gate seems a bit inconvenient to me.
the back is a neat new experience. Pulling slightly on the
handle or hitting the remote button pops the rear glass. No
hands needed! Pulling the handle all the way brings the door
open as the glass flips up automatically. One hand is all
that is needed. This was great and convenient once I learned
to keep my chin out of the way!
had the Jeep loaded up, we set out into the darkness for the
night ride. The ride would take a few hours and would be all
interstate driving. The Liberty had very good night visibility,
however, the fog lights really didn't do as much as I'd hoped.
Having a TJ, I'm used the driving lights which throw a wide
beam to the sides of the road. This is not the case with the
KJ. However, the big round headlights did quite well at lighting
up the road ahead.
the Liberty is not going to win at your local drag strip,
it did come alive on the highway. There was a very noticable
vibration at 77mph and above, though, even with the dampers.
But doing 80 mph through the rolling hills of Alabama, Georgia,
and Tennessee were not a problem at all. In fact, there is
a four mile stretch of road heading toward Monteagle that
is a 6% uphill grade. The road has many turns and will put
any vehicle to the real test. The Liberty passed with flying
colors, pushing us up the hill at a 60 mph clip, which was
fast enough to make us nervous on some of the sharper turns.
ride was quite nice from a drivability standpoint. The Liberty's
suspension sucked up most of what the highway department left
unfixed, providing us a very smooth ride. Keeping in mind
that this is a SUV and not a car, the Liberty was more than
acceptable and we really enjoyed driving it.
was doing a great job at covering up what we found to be a
very high noise level inside. Though we couldn't feel any
air rushing through the seals, we could certainly hear it.
Compared to our built TJ, of course, the Liberty is deathly
quiet, but compared to our Tahoe, it was very loud. It's all
a matter of perspective, but there was a very notable amount
of wind noise.
real beef we found with the Liberty on the road was the seats.
There's no other way to say it but to be perfectly honest.
The seats were very uncomfortable. For $27,000 we expected
comfortable seats. The seats in our Sport model were worthy
of a car half its price. The only adjustments were manual
fore/aft and recline. The seats felt hard and the lumbar supports
were supportive to the point of feeling like hard bulges in
narrower folks may find the lumbar just right.
I think that even a manually-adjusted lumbar would have been
a big plus.
time we got to Monteagle, we were stiff as boards and once
we did a weekend of trailing, well, forget it. I haven't sat
in a Limited yet, but judging by the photographs, they look
to be worth the price of admission.
us space and we'll fill it! More than enough room for
Liberty was perfect for our ready-for-Fall trip to the
local do-it-yourself emporium. That's 4 giant pots of
mums, 2 bags of soil and 2 60-pound bags of mulch in
there. Plenty of room for more!
P235/70R16 OWL's did great on the road. With more aggressive
tires, the Liberty would do great on just about any
trail it could physically fit over.
with a balancer at the transfer case and a vibration
damper at the rear differential, the Liberty had plenty
of vibes around 77 mph.
pre-runner-style skidplate up front is very functional,
though, we'd later find out that it's a mud trap.
rear end of the Liberty should accept a handful of aftermarket
goodies, including lockers and lower gears.
Independent Front Suspension has been the hottest topic
of debate surrounding the Liberty.
Time Videos courtesy of Cole Ford and Master