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2008 Jeep Liberty

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SUV REVIEW: The Jeep Liberty sits in the middle of a rapidly growing lineup of SUVs from the company that has made them for a very long time. Now all new for 2008, the new Jeep Liberty assumes more of the chunky, squared-off look of the Jeep Wrangler.

Some critics derided the original Liberty as being too soft or feminine. This rugged new version is carefully designed to appeal equally to men and women, especially young families and singles between 30 and 40.

Showing just how far SUVs have come as day-to-day transportation, you can actually buy a Liberty that is not Trail Rated. My Green Metallic two-wheel-drive Liberty Sport was one of those. Strictly for on-roading, it drove firmly but comfortably on paved surfaces, thanks to a new independent front suspension and five-link rear suspension, along with power rack-and-pinion steering.

If you want more capability in your Liberty, you can order four-wheel-drive in two levels: Selec-Trac II, an advanced full-time system, or Command-Trac, a part-time system. Selec-Trac II, the leader in the midsize SUV market segment, anticipates and prevents wheel slippage, even on dry road surfaces. And for steep grades you just switch to 4WD Low.

Command-Trac is a traditional system that keeps the front wheels disconnected until you lock them. In 4WD Lock they work in tandem with the rears, splitting torque equally at 50/50. This system is meant for use in mud or snow conditions only.

All Libertyís use Jeepís 3.7-liter V6, which puts out 210 horsepower and 235 lb.-ft. of torque. You can mate it to the standard six-speed manual transmission in the Sport or the standard four-speed automatic in the Limited. The automatic transmission is optional in the Sport and my tester had it for $825 extra. The V6 provides adequate power to move the two-ton vehicle along well, if not like a rocket. My tester dropped a gear or two when ascending grades, which was a little noisy.

The EPA gives the Liberty Sport 4x2 fuel economy numbers of 16 City, 22 Highway. The EPAís Green Vehicle Guide scores it at 6 for Air Pollution and 5 for Greenhouse Gases - about in the middle of the pack. I saw an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) model listed at 7and 5. Be sure to check which one youíre getting when you visit the dealership.

The Liberty looks and feels Jeeplike inside and out. Interior fittings are hard and plastic in a somber mix of light gray, dark gray, and black. The materials feel cheap - the center console moved from side to side when I leaned on it and I saw and felt some mold marks about the cabin. The shift column bag had a zipper in it that was already broken. The upright, nearly flat windshield and shallow dashboard will feel at home to Jeep aficionados.

The chairs are positioned high, and thereís no height adjustment in the Sport. I felt almost like I was sitting in a kidís high chair at first. After I accustomed myself to the Libertyís lofty seating accommodations I realized the mission was to keep you upright and attentive.

There are only two Liberty models - Sport and Limited. The Limited offers many desirable features, some of which are available at extra cost or in packages with the Sport model. Limited cars get many interior upgrades, such as richer cloth seats, with leather optional, satin silver trim, cruise control, leather steering wheel, eight-speaker audio system with 368 watts of power, auto-dimming mirror, driver one touch up and down windows, and a cargo cover.

Exterior standards for the Limited include fog lamps, deeply tinted glass, a chrome grille and body side molding, roof rails, heated mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, in place of 16s for the Sport, and a full-size spare tire.

The Limited offers a broader palette of options, such as rain-sensing windshield wipers and Chryslerís high-tech MyGig system, which uses a touch screen or voice commands to control features and has a 20-gig hard drive to store 1,500 songs or photos. And check out the Sky Slider full-length open canvas roof!

The Liberty is reasonably priced if you manage the option list carefully. The base price of a Sport 4x2 is just $20,990, including shipping. The 4x4 model starts at $22,600. The Limited 4x2 starts at $25,175, with the Limited 4x4 hitting $26,785.

Libertyís are assembled in Toledo, Ohio, which thanks to a $3.9 billion plant upgrade, can build multiple models efficiently using Chryslerís Flexible Manufacturing Strategy (FMS).

If off-roading isnít in your future, but you like the look and feel of a Jeep, the Liberty could be for you. Add either of the all-wheel-drive systems and go find some trails. With its adventurous point of view, the Liberty is a fresh choice today.

By Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

Jeep Home Page

Byline:  SUV Review provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net

Column Name:  The new Jeep Liberty is a fresh choice today

Topic: The 2008 Jeep Liberty

Word Count:  867

Photo Caption:  The 2008 Jeep Liberty

Photo Credits:  Jeep Liberty Internet Media

Series #:  2008 - 24


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