As SUVs are getting more civilized and carlike, Jeep bats one in the opposite field and revamps the Liberty, a truck that feels like a truck. Why? Call it an accident, call it strategy, Jeep figures there are still quite a few customers out there who want exactly that.
So, can people who are shopping for a RAV4 or an Escape find something to like about the Liberty? Well, yes, but drive them back to back, and you'll quickly feel as tough this Jeep is on a different mission.
|As SUVs are getting more civilized and carlike, Jeep bats one in the opposite field and revamps the Liberty.|
The 210-hp 3.7-liter V6, with single overhead cams and 2 valves per cylinder, is hardly what you'll call modern technology. Fire that baby up, and the Jeep comes to life with an agricultural sound. The shifter of the 6-speed manual vibrates constantly, even at idle. Drop the heavy clutch and its long pedal travel, and blast off; the slow-revving engine will get the Liberty to 100 km/h in 9.5 seconds.
The 3.7 being the only engine choice, the Liberty is no match for the 269-hp RAV4 V6, the 261-hp Nissan Xterra and even this Jeep's close cousin, the Dodge Nitro, which gets the 255-hp 4.0-liter V6 in R/T trim. The 3.7-liter V6 also consumes quite a bit of fuel, averaging 14.4 L/100 km in our hands.
Our test vehicle is equipped with the Command-Trac II four-wheel drive system, which is standard on all Liberty variants. With this setup, you can leave it in 2WD mode under normal conditions, or choose 4WD by flipping a console-mounted switch; doing so distributes power in a 50/50 split between front and rear wheels. You can also flip the switch again and select low range to go off-roading.
A second 4WD system is optional; for $475, you can opt for Selec-Trac II which is a little more capable; it sends power to the wheels that have the most traction and also includes a low range. If you're really afraid of winter, you might want to choose this setup.
|The slow-revving engine will get the Liberty to 100 km/h in 9.5 seconds.|