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GIVE ME YOUR HUDDLED MASSES

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, May 31, 2009

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO THE FAIRE By Jeff Mathews The first-generation Liberty was a successful product for the Jeep brand. It combined the off-road prowess for which the name is known, with the on-road amenities that attracted suburban buyers of SUVs. With the second-generation Liberty, Jeep improves on-road ride and handling with a new independent front and new five-link rear suspension systems. Styling also takes a leap forward, with an all-new exterior, functional interior space changes, and upgraded amenities designed to broaden its appeal to consumers. First thing I notice taking temporary ownership of the new Jeep is how cool the exterior looks. After taking a brief walk-around the outside, I hop inside and started the engine. Second, I notice is how comfortable the seat is, and how easy it is to get into it. There's plenty of headroom and legroom here (I'm a few ticks over 6 feet). There is a slight bit of cramping up front for the feet on the side-to-side due to a wider than normal center console. This isn't a deal-breaker, just a minor issue. But despite this, even my 6 feet 4 colleague can slip into the passenger seat with no problem and still have a few inches of headroom to spare. This makes driving so much easier.

For a rather large 4x4 vehicle like this one, the new Liberty drives and handles almost like a passenger car. It has a good turning ratio, the interior is quiet (even above 60 mph), and the ride is relatively smooth. I am impressed. On the other hand, the Jeep Liberty's punch factor comes up a bit short. From a standing start, the Liberty has good power and accelerates quite well up to 60 mph. Not sports car well, but adequate to keep up with most average vehicles on the road. On the other hand, passing power is sluggish, hesitating for the first few seconds. Not that I need to go from 50 mph to 70 mph in 1.3 seconds, but a little more pep would be nice. That said, the Jeep is still fine for its intended purpose - hauling people and cargo, and tackling rough roads both in and out of town. On the inside, all of the features (and there are lots of good ones) are within easy reach. I especially love the audio system, with touch screen. Over the course of several days, I had a chance to try out all of the audio features. Even without consulting the owner's manual (much), it is easy to learn to use the audio features and controls. This test vehicle is also equipped with a hard drive, where you can download your music from a CD onto the car's audio system for easy playback later - without having to utilize the CD again. It stores a lot of music in there. The navigation system is simple to use, intuitive, and provides clear directions to my destinations - one of which was the Renaissance Faire in Irwindale, CA. Knowing the "parking lot" at the Faire is one very large dirt flatland with lots of potholes, bumps, and loose soil, I switch to the 4x4 mode and pulled in to park. This isn't exactly the backwoods or mountainous terrain, but the Liberty handled the potholes and bumps and loose soil quite well - certainly a heck of a lot better than my daily driver (a Dodge Charger) would ever have. The 4x4 feature is located on the center console, and allows for quick switching between 2x4 and 4x4 modes.

Are you sure this is the way to the Faire? Did I mention that on the day of the Faire it was really hot? Say in the mid 90s. Getting back into the Jeep after a few hours I am met with the usual hot car interior. I turned on the AC and cranked it up. The Jeep - which seats two in front, up to three in the second row - cools off completely in less than a minute. That is awesome. As for the rear seating, the rear seats are not as comfortable as the front, so I wonder whether they would be less comfortable to passengers on a long drive. On the other hand, the rear seats fold down, creating a rather cavernous overall storage area. Given that storage and hauling are both key elements for this type of vehicle, the Jeep doesn't disappoint. Even in the front seating area, there are lots of cubbies and pockets to store this and that, which I always appreciate. Speaking of hauling cargo, this Jeep can normally tow up to 3500 pounds. With the Trailer Tow Group option (not included on this test vehicle), weight can be increased to 5000 pounds. I'll wager this Jeep can tow a good sized boat someplace fun. There is, in fact, a Tow/Haul button next to the shifter, designed to improve vehicle performance and fuel economy while minimizing the engine noise during trailer towing or heavy-load hauling. It also inhibits fourth gear and allowing upshifts to third gear during higher speed and lighter loads.

A few times while making the local drives I open up the sunroof. Though I'm not sure you would call this a sunroof exactly. Nearly the entire roof section (made of a resilient heavy canvass material) can be rolled all the way back (or all the way forward - a dual feature), creating a large open area to capture lots of sunlight. It was fun driving with the roof section rolled all the way back. I noticed at street speeds (talking up to 40 mph) the noise through the open roof is tolerable and not too distracting - either for my music or just on general principles. On the downside, when closed, there is a faint wind-induced noise at speeds above 60 mph. It's not clear if this is a design issue or just happens with this particular vehicle - either way, it's a tad distracting. During my time with the Jeep I kept track of the fuel efficiency. Having traveled over 200 miles during the week (using a little more than a half tank of gas) in both city and highway conditions, I averaged 20 mpg the entire time. Not bad for a fully off-roadable SUV.

SUMMARY JUDGMENT A quiet and comfortable ride, with superior audio and multimedia features, and a solid look and feel. A good daily driver offering great value. For more information about Jeep products, see www.jeep.com

SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2009 Jeep Liberty Limited 4x4 Price: Base $27,430; as tested $32,985 options include: Customer Preferred Package 28F (Leather-wrapped shift knob; Trailer Tow Class III Group $395; Skid Plate Group $225; Premium Group (heated front seats, 6-way power driver and 2-way power passenger seats, memory package with memory seat, radio, and mirrors, remote start system) $995; Selec-trac II active full-time 4WD system $445; Sky Slider full open roof $1200; uConnect GPS (includes hard disc drive, touch screen display monitor, and SIRIUS satellite radio with 1-year service) $1550. Engine type: 3.7L SOHC V6 Horsepower: 210 Torque: 235 lb-ft EPA mileage estimates City/ Highway (4X4): 15 / 21 (19.5 gallon fuel tank) Drive configuration: Front engine / 2-wheel and 4-wheel drive Transmission type: 4-speed Automatic Transmission Suspension: Independent front suspension, live-axle rear Wheels and tires: 17 inch Victory Aluminum Wheels (Painted Sparkle Silver), P235/65R17 VSB All Season Tires Brakes: 4-wheel discs with ABS Variable assist power rack/pinion steering Overall length/wheelbase: 176.9 inches/ 106.1 inches Overall width: 72.1 inches (excluding mirrors) Overall height: 71.1 inches (with roof rack; about 68" without) Overall weight: 4058 lbs Warranty info: Basic Manufacturer's 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper

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