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2008 Jeep Liberty

By J.P. Vettraino

On Sale: Fall 2007
Expected Pricing: $22,000-$33,000



Due in showrooms this fall, the 2008 Jeep Liberty is revised throughout, with a new emphasis on creature comforts to go with its rugged Jeep-ness. Yet the most prominent change is its look. The second-generation Liberty is squarer, harder-edged and not quite as cute as its predecessor. In short, it looks like a Commander in three-quarter scale.

The family resemblance starts in front, where the new Liberty sports a big, tall, traditional seven-slat Jeep grille. Headlights and fog lights are joined in big, flat clusters, and everything in front is painted to match the body color. In side view, the Liberty's high window line and wheels-to-the-corners design creates a boxy, purposeful look, without the black-finish fender flares familiar on the current Liberty. The two-piece tailgate features a flipper-glass window, which can be opened with the key fob to drop packages in back without lifting the gate.

The 2008 Liberty is slightly larger than last year's model. Its wheelbase is roughly two inches longer, and overall length increases 2.5 inches. With some slight packaging adjustments in the chassis (the spare tire is now hung under the vehicle, for example), the increased exterior measurements mean more room inside for passengers. The most noticeable increase comes in rear-seat leg room. Cargo volume increases slightly to 31.5 cubic feet behind the split-folding rear seat, though maximum cargo capacity (rear seat folded) actually drops nearly five cubic feet to 64.2.

The interior has been completely redesigned, starting with the seats, which by appearance have more prominent bolstering than before. Those in the high-trim Liberty Limited are upholstered in two-tone YES Essentials fabric to repel stains, controls odors and reduce static electricity. A new two-tone instrument panel is supposed to engender a feeling of space; the four-gauge dial cluster features white graphics on a black background with orange pointers. The most noticeable functional change is the window switches. They've been moved from the dashboard (bad) to the door panels (good).

Another prominent change in the 2008 Liberty is an increase in available features, from big-ticket items to smaller, more subtle updates. For wow factor, it will be hard to beat Jeep's new Sky Slider canvas roof, which gives the new Liberty a near open-air feeling. This power rolling canvas top runs nearly the length of the vehicle, and can be opened front-to-back or back-to-front.

The 2008 Liberty will also offer the MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment System, which integrates audio, navigation, video entertainment and communication systems with voice or touch-screen operation. MyGIG includes Bluetooth mobile phone interface and a 20-gigabyte hard drive for storing music or photos. On the more subtle side, this is the first Liberty to offer several handy features, including remote starting, rain-sensing wipers, memory seats and mirrors, and express up/down windows.

Underneath, the second-generation Liberty sports a new suspension, with a more sophisticated five-link design in back. We'd expect this setup to improve ride quality on pavement without hampering Jeep's trademark off-road capability.

One engine will be offered, and it's carryover from the previous Liberty: Jeep's single-overhead cam, 3.7-liter V6, with 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of peak torque. Initial fuel-economy estimates say 16 mpg City and 22 Highway under the EPA's tougher standard for 2008, which would compare to approximately 18 and 23 mpg under current standards. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual and four-speed automatic, which might put Liberty at a slight mileage disadvantage to competitors that offer five- and six-speed autos.

Two different four-wheel-drive systems will be available. The standard Command-Trac is conventional, manually selected four-wheel drive, with a locking center differential for that legendary Jeep low-speed off-road capability. The upgrade Selec-Trac II is a full-time, active on-demand system that anticipates and prevents wheel slip before it occurs. In Auto mode it is suitable for all driving conditions, including dry pavement.

Safety features put the second-generation Liberty on par with the class benchmarks. These include full-cabin head protection airbags, all-speed traction control, electronic stability control, a rollover mitigation system and tire pressure monitoring.

Two models will be available: Liberty Sport and the high-trim Liberty Limited. Price increases are expected to be small, and with more standard equipment they could represent an even better value.

Bottom line, the next Jeep Liberty promises similar capability as its predecessor, with more comfort and features in a package that looks like the big Jeep Commander.

1-800-925-5337
www.jeep.com



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