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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Jeep Liberty Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Jeep Liberty Overview

The Little Jeep With a Big Heart

The Liberty offers all the off-road traction and comfort of the Grand Cherokee in a compact, nimble package. Introduced last year as the replacement vehicle for the long-running Cherokee, the Liberty continues to make improvements in both comfort and safety.

The Liberty design is round where the Cherokee was square, tall where the Cherokee was squat and comfortable where the Cherokee was, well let's just say less than cozy. In almost every way, the new Liberty is a better vehicle than the Jeep it replaces. For 2004, the Liberty gets a tire pressure monitoring system and the EARS accident response system that automatically unlocks the doors and illuminates the interior lights five seconds after the airbags are activated. Other safety features include standard 4-wheel disc brakes and an optional side-curtain airbag that runs the length of the passenger compartment.

From the outside, only the Liberty's front grille and round headlights smack of Jeep; the rest of the vehicle has a soft, rounded edge that gives it a more sophisticated look. The tall greenhouse—the glass area of the vehicle—allows for good visibility when looking out from the driver's seat and the flush mounted exterior rear windows give the Liberty a nice, clean appearance. Large plastic flairs cover the wheel wells and serve to protect the Jeep's paint from mud and rock chips; they also add a muscular appearance to the vehicle. The spare tire is mounted on the back of the swing-out rear door making it easy to access but difficult to reach over when loading items through the flip-up rear glass panel.

A look inside the Liberty reveals a mid-sized cabin that upon first glance seems a bit small—especially in the back seat. But the visual perception is deceptive because the Jeep's tall, chair-like seating allows your legs to hang straight down, thus negating the need for room to stretch out. This design allows you to sit as you might at a kitchen table or in a tall office chair and is conducive to good posture. The front seats are constructed of supportive foam and have a nice curve in the lower back section that fits snugly into your lower lumbar region. We found that drivers of all sizes seemed to like the Liberty's seats and gave them high marks for long-range comfort. We also noticed that the same supportive lower-back design was carried over to the rear seat, a rare occurrence within this class of vehicle. The dash is cleanly laid out and easy to operate; redundant audio controls for volume and station tuning can be found on the back of the steering wheel spokes. At night, you will appreciate the thoughtful touches like the fade-to-black dome light and the backlit power window and door lock buttons.

On the road, the Jeep is a competent performer. Our test vehicle came equipped with the 3.7-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft. of torque at 4000 rpms. What all those numbers translate into is very peppy performance with quick, off-the-line acceleration and plenty of pulling power for towing or venturing off road. You have your choice of a 5-speed manual or optional 4-speed automatic, but we imagine that most Libertys will be ordered with the automatic. Jeep's automatic transmission operates well with this engine, though it does exhibit louder than normal gear whine. On smooth pavement, the Liberty returns a fairly comfortable ride due to an outstanding suspension that was engineered to deal with the great outdoors as well as the wide-open highway. Still, the Liberty is an SUV, so you shouldn't expect it to glide over bumps and broken pavement like a luxury car. You should also not expect the Liberty to handle like a sports car; its tall body and high ground clearance warrant good judgment on the part of the driver, especially when executing high-speed maneuvers.

For those opting to go off-road, the Liberty offers two 4-wheel-drive options: Command Trac part-time and Select Trac full-time 4-wheel drive. True to its heritage, the Liberty was able to tackle every obstacle we could find, from deep desert sands to boulder-lined mountain trials. For those who live in snowy climates, the full-time four-wheel-drive system may be the better choice because you can leave it engaged in all driving conditions; the part-time system can only be employed at speeds below 50 mph and in conditions where there is constant wheel slippage. From the short time we spent with the Liberty, we think-as did many of the Jeep owners we encountered-that the new Liberty has the right stuff to become the next Jeep legend.

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