<%@LANGUAGE="VBSCRIPT"%> ROCKCRAWLER.com - 2002 Jeep Liberty Review

2002 Jeep Liberty

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

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So after all of this discussion of what the Liberty is made of, what are our overall thoughts and feelings about Jeep's new middle-weight?

We really liked it a lot. In fact, we didn't want to give it back. The Jeep Liberty is a near-perfect middle-of-the-road sport utility. It can hold tons of stuff, weave in and out of traffic, and get you just about anywhere you'd want to go off-road, within reason.

Is it a serious rockcrawler? No. Do we expect people to be running it in next year's ARCA series? We doubt it. Is it a Jeep? Oh yeah!

If it's not a serious rockcrawler, then why do we feel that it is worthy of the Jeep name? The same question could just as easily be asked of the Grand Cherokee, Cherokee, or the Wagoneers of old. Sure, you can lift them, shove bigger tires underneath and lock the axles, but certainly, by next year, you will be able to do that to a Liberty, as well. The Wagoneers were never intended to be hard trail rigs, but nobody ever protested them wearing the Jeep badge. So why are die-hard Jeepers so up in arms about the Liberty? Just because it doesn't have a solid axle up front? That's a little silly, we think.

The Liberty in stock form can take you anywhere that old Wagoneer of yours can go, and maybe even further. It will even keep pace with stock Cherokees and Wranglers on some of the less-extreme trails. We'd bet on it.

OK, so it sits a wee bit low to the ground and doesn't flex like Arnold, but the aftermarket should take good care of that soon enough. Simply replacing the tires with some new BFG's would do wonders for its off-road capabilities, both on the rocks and in the mud. Unfortunately, Jeep hasn't put much creedence in putting off-road-worthy tires on its new vehicles lately because over 90% of the buyers will never take them off the highway, anyway.

The Liberty is being positioned in the market against SUVs like the Ford Escape, Nissan Xterra, RAV-4, and other similar "Cute Utes" but it is really very much unlike its competition for one single reason - a real low range 4WD. Yup. For real trail use, you've got to have a real transfer case and a rig that knows how to use it - and the Liberty has just that. Heck, it's even got two choices.

So if you are in the market for a mid-sized sport utility and you like to take the road-less-traveled now and then, the Jeep Liberty should be at the top of your list. If you just want a little sport utility and never go off-road, then we'd still recommend the Liberty. It's got style, room, and it has seven grill slats. What more could you ask for?

Jeep Liberty  hits the trails
The Liberty carried us up this very long, steep hill without spinning a tire, once again proving that this is, indeed, a Jeep.

Jeep Liberty  hits the trails
Hills like this were a blast in the Liberty, proving that trails can be a whole lot of fun when you're not out breaking stuff!

Jeep Liberty  hits the trails
Though not hardcore, this type of trailing appeals to a very large part of the 4-wheeling community and we think the Liberty is right on the money for that crowd.

Jeep Liberty driveline
No caption necessary.




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