While doing fine with the Grand Cherokee, Jeep dealers were probably none too sorry to see the end of the boxy, asthmatic, shivery Cherokee, particularly when its 2002 replacement was the new, not-quite-cute, not-quite-butch (but just right) Liberty.
Seven inches longer on a three-inch-longer wheelbase, the Liberty was a bit larger outside than the boxy Cherokee and roomier inside. While no Lexus, the Liberty had way improved interior materials and shapes compared with those of its predecessor. Sculpted front flanks integrated bold fender flares, while the round headlights carried forward from twin character lines on the hood, bracketing a trademark Jeep seven-slot grille. Handsome and pert where the Cherokee was not, the Liberty sold well from the start.
The initial powertrain options were the 150-horse, 2.4-liter inline-four and the 3.7-liter V-6; the latter was essentially three-quarters of the 4.7-liter V-8 used in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and shared with the Dodge truck line. The V-6 made a respectable 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, not a lot less than those of the V-8 from which it was derived. In 2005, a 2.8-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel was offered with 160 horses and a prodigious 295 pound-feet of torque. Tougher diesel-emissions standards sent that engine packing after the 2006 model year, while the gas four-cylinder got the heave-ho after the 2005 model year.
Downstream you'll find a five-speed manual, six-speed manual (2005 on), or four-speed automatic trans. The manuals were available with both gas engines, but the diesel got only a five-speed automatic. Libertys are rear or 4WD with one of two systems, the standard part-time Command-Trac with two-speed transfer case or the full-time electronically controlled Selec-Trac system. Locking center differentials and limited-slip rear diffs were available as options. You're likely to find a V-6/automatic/Command-Trac Liberty on the corner lot.
Although the Liberty received a coil-sprung control-arm front suspension--wonderful compared with the Cherokee's solid front axle--its chassis is optimized for off-road use. It has a superb reputation as a lightweight off-roader and will outperform a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4 in the slimy stuff. For that, the Liberty gives up on-road refinement, something its supporters hail as the right decision on Jeep's part.
The Liberty also gives up some reliability to the seemingly bulletproof Japanese. Though far ahead of the Cherokee, online reports show a raft of electrical gremlins, particularly with the instrument cluster and some complaints of growling drivelines. Owners also swear under their breath at the poor mileage, especially considering that the Liberty has a smallish engine. The EPA lists the 2WD V-6 at 16-city/22-highway mpg (using today's measuring standards); the four-banger is good for two additional mpg across the board, while the turbodiesel is rated at 19/24. But the Liberty goes where the soft-roaders don't and looks the part doing it, so what's a couple mpg among muddy friends?
|2002-2007 JEEP LIBERTY|
|Body type||Four-door SUV|
|Drivetrain||Front engine, RWD/4WD|
|Airbags||Dual front, front side|
|Engines|| 2.4L/150-hp DOHC I-4;|
3.7L/210-hp SOHC V-6;
2.8L/160-hp turbodiesel DOHC I-4
|Brakes, f/r||Disc/drum (disc/disc 2005-on), opt ABS|
|Price range, whlsl/ret (IntelliChoice)|| $4050/$ (2002 RWD Sport);|
$10,265/$14,591 (2007 4WD Limited)
|Recalls||Too many to list, see www.intellichoice.com|
|NHTSA frontal impact rating, driver/pass||Five stars/four stars|