Test Drive: 2002 Jeep Liberty – Autos.ca

14 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Test Drive: 2002 Jeep Liberty – Autos.ca
Jeep Cherokee

January 10, 2002

The all-new Jeep Liberty replaces the Cherokee for the 2002 model year. Available with a 150 horsepower 2.4 litre 4 cylinder engine or a new 210 horsepower 3.7 litre V6, the Liberty offers an excellent combination between comfortable urban runabout and true off-the-pavement 4WD vehicle #8211; the same can#8217;t be said for all its compact SUV competitors.

New Jeep is comfy and rugged

The new 2002 Jeep Liberty is a compact, four door sport utility vehicle in the same class as the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda Tribute, Hyundai Santa Fe and Toyota RAV4.

It replaces the aging but handsome Cherokee SUV, one of the very first four-door SUV#8217;s on the market. Though it doesn#8217;t look like it, the Liberty is seven inches longer and two inches wider than the Cherokee. Compared to a Ford Escape, the Liberty is 1.3 in. longer and 1.5 in. wider, making it one of the largest compact SUV#8217;s now available.

2002 Jeep Liberty Limited

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The Liberty is available in two models: Sport and Limited, and is offered with a base 150 horsepower 2.4 litre DOHC 16 valve four cylinder engine and a new 210 horsepower 3.7 litre SOHC 12 valve V6 engine #8211; the most powerful engine available in the compact SUV class.

A part-time #8216;Command Trac#8217; 4WD system is standard #8211; this gives the driver a choice 2WD (rear-wheel-drive) 4WD (a constant 50/50 front/rear torque split) to be used only on slippery surfaces, or 4WD Low (a Low Gear ratio for extreme off-road conditions). The Liberty is also offered with Jeep#8217;s Selec-Trac, a 4WD system that gives the driver the choice of 2WD, part-time 4WD, 4WD Low and Full-time 4WD, the latter a 4WD system that varies power front to rear via a centre differential and can be used on dry pavement or slippery back roads.

Selec Trac is offered only with the V6 engine and automatic transmission. The Liberty has open differentials front and rear, and a Trac-Lok locking rear differential is optional at the rear.

The Liberty#8217;s Selec Trac 4WD system differs from most of its competitors who offer only full-time

four-wheel-drive #8211; many of those run in front-wheel-drive on dry pavement, only switching power to the rear wheels when the front wheels slip. The only compact SUV#8217;s that offer a system similar to

the Liberty#8217;s are the Nissan Xterra and Suzuki Vitara/Grand Vitara, Chevy Tracker and Kia Sportage.

The significance of Jeep#8217;s 4WD system is that it allows greater versatility over a greater variety of roads. For ordinary day-to-day driving on dry roads, 2WD is fine. For wet or snow-covered roads, full-time four-wheel-drive provides more stability and traction.

For gravel and dirt roads, part-time 4WD provides even more grip. And for steep, slippery tracks, 4WD Low provides engine braking and pulling power.

This versatility allows the Liberty to tackle everything from mall parking lots to muddy backroads.

What makes the Liberty special is that it#8217;s not #8216;truck-like#8217; on pavement. It doesn#8217;t sacrifice ride

comfort and driveability for off-road prowess.

Peppy powertrain

2002 Jeep Liberty Sport

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My test vehicle, a well-equipped Sport model, had the 210 horsepower 3.7 litre V6 engine and 4-speed

automatic transmission. Acceleration is brisk and the engine is quite refined #8211; but though the Liberty#8217;s new V6 has more horsepower than the Cherokee#8217;s 190 horsepower 4.0 litre inline six cylinder engine, it doesn#8217;t have quite as much low-end torque (235 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm vs 225 lb.-ft @ 3000 rpm). Still, I found performance more than adequate, and the Liberty#8217;s drivetrain and body are considerably stiffer and less vibration-prone than the Cherokee#8217;s.

For a relatively small vehicle, the Liberty has a good towing capacity. With the V6 engine, automatic transmission and trailer tow package, the Liberty has a towing capacity of 2250 kg (5000 lb.). With the manual transmission, the towing capacity is 1600 kg (3500 lb.).

Maximum payload is 522 kg (1150 lb.).

Unlike many compact SUV#8217;s which have an independent rear suspension, the Liberty has a more truck-like live axle. This is a more heavy-duty design, but makes for a bumpier ride over uneven pavement. Still, I didn#8217;t find it uncomfortable.

With power-assisted rack and pinion steering, and a fairly tight turning diameter (curb-to-curb) of 12 metres (35.9 ft), the Liberty is easy to manouver and park in tight environments such as parking stalls, and mall parking lots.

Jeep Cherokee

Driving Impressions

2002 Jeep Liberty Sport

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The step up into the Liberty#8217;s cabin is a bit higher than some other compact SUV#8217;s, but it#8217;s certainly not as awkward as mid-sized models. The driver sits up high and has good visibility to the front, side, and rear #8211; the rear head restraints are positioned so that they don#8217;t block vision, and the spare tire on the back is mounted low enough so as not to interfere as well.

One observation: the driver#8217;s seat is positioned closer to the door than I#8217;m used to #8211; this takes a bit of getting used to.

I found the Liberty#8217;s ride to be firm but comfortable, a product of its fairly long wheelbase

and well-damped suspension #8211; handling is stable with some lean, but not #8216;tippy#8217; as it is in some SUV#8217;s. On the highway, it tracks well in a straight line and is easy to drive, though there is a slight #8216;bobbing#8217; sensation.

The V6 is responsive, and fairly quiet while cruising #8211; with the exception of a minor gear whine

from the driveline. The 4-speed automatic transmission offers smooth, clean shifts. At 100 km/h,

the engine does only 2000 rpm, and at 120 km/h, it does 2500 rpm #8211; very comfortable and quiet for freeway cruising. I noticed that with the moonroof open, there#8217;s virtually no wind buffeting up to 100 km/h.

2002 Jeep Liberty Sport

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In dry conditions, 2WD (rear-wheel-drive) is the ideal gear, but in the rain or snow, I#8217;d recommend

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