- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

I know the reputation Jeep vehicles have — as I am guessing most of you do, too. Every Jeep must have the capability to conquer the famous Rubicon Trail. Located in Northern California, very close to Lake Tahoe, this trail is one of, if not the, most challenging off-road trails there is. So it is no surprise that the Liberty is every bit as much a Jeep as the Wrangler and able to triumph over the Rubicon Trail. However, the Liberty is very comfortable on those trips through the city.

The Liberty has taken the place of the solid and proven Cherokee and is expected to take the bar higher. While I may be a bit skeptical with other manufacturer’s claims, I know Jeep isn’t about to jeopardize its reputation.

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During my entire drive, I felt that certain aspects of the Liberty were meant to show the ruggedness of this Jeep. This vehicle did everything expected of all Jeep vehicles. Yet, with every mile, it also became evident that this is a civilized vehicle.

This really didn’t hit home until I was making the Liberty scramble up steep dirt hills and through deep, boulder-strewn streams. It was then that I realized how much is expected from a Jeep. No matter how comfortable it may be or how many modern conveniences the vehicle has, if it says Jeep on the hood, then it very well better do what every Jeep before it has done.

I made it a point to confront the Jeep Liberty with every task every Jeep should be able to do. As expected, the Liberty climbed the steep embankments, forded streams and climbed mucky, sticky banks coming out of those streams.

On this special course, which was built especially to test the mettle of 4X4 vehicles, the Liberty slithered successfully through.

The trails proved challenging, but not unconquerable.

It is sufficient to say that I did not find one area of the trail that stopped the Liberty. However, that is not to say that I didn’t find places that slowed me and the Liberty. The Liberty pulled through, even if occasionally I did doubt it ever so slightly.

Built on a “uniframe” — Jeep’s combination unibody/ frame construction — the Liberty body is tremendously strong, with exceptional rigidity and torsional strength. A short/long double A-arm front suspension adds increased wheel travel for off-road ability and increased ride comfort on the highway.

Two engine packages are available. The base 2.4-liter four-cylinder is available as the standard model and is coupled with a five-speed manual transmission. The 3.7-liter V-6 is coupled with a four-speed automatic or a five-speed manual that brings more power and performance to the package.

Jeep has two four-wheel-drive systems on hand to handle the rigors of off-roading. Command Trac, a part-time manually shiftable 4X4 system, can be coupled to either model Liberty. The Selec Trac is a full-time system. The beauty of the Selectrac over the Command Trac is that it can be shifted into its full-time mode and be driven on hard or paved surfaces without incurring problems usually associated with part-time systems. The Command Trac in four-wheel drive is recommended only for slippery, off-road situations.

As skeptical as I might have been at times, the Liberty continued to surprise me and surpassed the level of my expectations. This Jeep cast aside the idea that a capable off-roader has to be unruly and uncomfortable on the road. It may not be perfect, but as expected, it is all Jeep.

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