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2006 Jeep Liberty Review

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2006 Jeep Liberty Shown

SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Jeep

Model: Jeep Liberty 4X4
Engine: 3.7-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 210 hp @ 5200 rpm/235 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Length x Width x Height: 174.4 x 71.6 x 70.2 in.
Tires: P235/70 R16 All-terrain
Cargo volume: 69.0 cu. ft.
Economy: 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway/17.3 mpg test
Price: $32,910 (includes $660 destination charge)

When the nameplate on a car says “Jeep,” and you have the familiar seven-bar grille in front of you, you know that you have a capable vehicle underneath. When that vehicle is also extremely popular, at least by the number of similar models we saw during our test week, then you know there’s something special about the Jeep Liberty.

Our tester was a 4X4 model, so it had off-road capabilities, at least by definition. So when we had an opportunity to take the Liberty off road and check it, we had more fun in a road test vehicle than I’ve had in a long time. Yes, the Liberty is a capable off-road performer with the Selec-Trac full-time 4WD system.

We drove the Liberty down to our daughter’s house in Virginia, which gave us a chance to test the Liberty on Interstates and some back-country dirt roads. Our daughter lives near some excellent off-road trails that are sometimes used as logging roads, but more often they’re used as recreational paths to a small lake that is loaded with fish.

On the first road we tried, we headed toward the lake. We didn’t have to keep it in full-time 4WD, but we pulled the hand-brake-style shifter toward us and found the right configuration. We had no problem with the trail, even when the grass in the center of the two tire tracks was taller than the grille of the Liberty. A couple of times we had to stop and make certain there was a path where we were headed, but we made it back out with no problems.

Then we headed toward another road that looked interesting. I should mention that we were driving on private property and we had been asked to drive there as often as we wished. The second road started out good, but soon degenerated into little more than a path. At one point there was a 12-inch tree that had fallen across the way. I shifted into 4X4 LOW and, with my son-in-law spotting (and my grandson getting more nervous by the second in the back seat), we negotiated the tree. I was thankful we had skid plates on the full undercarriage (part of a $750 customer preferred package), or we might have done some serious damage. As it was we came down with a thunk on the gas tank protective cover at the end.

When we found that the “road” ended in nothing, we had to retrace our steps and renegotiate the log. I was able to cross it on just one side of the Liberty with much less stress on the vehicle.

My son-in-law and I had fun, and my grandson was very happy that we were back home in his driveway. Of course, he wants to do it again the next time I come down.

Under the classic Jeep-style hood of the Liberty is a 3.7-liter V6 rated at a conservative 210 horsepower. I found the engine to be noisy whenever it was asked to work hard, as in acceleration, and it was generally noisier than most other V6 engines we have tested. Many testers have whined about low fuel economy, but we averaged 17.3 mpg for a combination of urban, rural, Interstate and off-road driving.

The suspension is stiff, but it’s great for most of what we used it for. My only real problem was over a washboard dirt road, but otherwise the ride was adequate.

We had 69 cubic feet of storage with the second-row seats folded, and we used all of it. I particularly liked the rear cargo organizer ($175) that lifted up to offer a rear shelf, with folding vertical panels to organize whatever you put there. We stowed suitcases underneath and could put more delicate objects on the shelf. When it’s not in use, it folds neatly down to ride flush on the floor.

Seats were comfortable. Rear legroom was very good, even with the front seat pushed way back. And even with the rear seat backs in their upright position, cargo capacity is excellent for a compact SUV. In size, the Liberty is similar to the Mitsubishi Outlander, but it’s far more popular.

We had a lot of other goodies on our tester, some of which I’d delete if I could. We had a roof-mounted light bar that was part of the Customer Preferred Package that gave off a lot of light but blinded oncoming drivers. The navigation system that was part of the audio package ($1,500) had a small screen. We shut it off. The Luxury Group ($1,245) offered power leather seats and other goodies.

The Liberty had a base price of $24,450 and had more than $8,000 in options. I’m certain you could configure one to your liking for just about any price you’re willing to pay. What you’ll get is a Jeep with Jeep capabilities and enough civilized amenities to make the ride a pleasure, no matter what the surface under the wheels might be.

2006 The Auto Page Syndicate