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2008 Jeep Liberty North Edition Review

Truck lovers, this one's for you
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.

Rugged powertrain
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.