Category Archives: Jeep

2006 Jeep Liberty Limited 4X4 CRD (599)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Jeep Liberty Limited 4X4 CRD where CRD is the acronym for Common Rail Diesel. Ok, you ask “what the hell is that?” True story, that’s how people talk these days. For a complete explanation you can go to: http://www.swedespeed.com/news/publish/Features/printer_272.html.

The short version is that it’s a design for fuel injection systems that employs a high-pressure pump to generate up to 1,600 bar (goes to an accumulator – the rail) independently of engine speed and the quantity of fuel injected. At the core it is simply a fine tuned ejection system that improves performance of the engine, makes it more efficient, quieter and more powerful.

It’s one of those baby steps in technology that is technically cool but really… what we need is a new propulsion system (like Fuel Cell technology NOW that is being slowly developed) or other imaginative method of transporting people and things to other places. Hey, we’re in the 21st Century, we’ve walked on the moon, how difficult could it be.

Public Service: The Diamond Lane Experience – Next week with the Dodge Magnum review.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 74% (engine – Italy transmission – US)

Assembly – Toledo , Ohio , USA

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: – Commander, Grand Cherokee, Liberty and Wrangler.

Handling & Performance:

Good for the most part, but its design is a narrow footprint with a short wheelbase and that coupled with a tall profile makes it scary on the curves, especially when you push the envelope of speed. All in all though I’ve always liked this smaller version of the SUV and the CRD noted above is a small step for mankind in reducing gas cost. A very small step by the way. I’d go out and buy a bicycle, but then I’d be too healthy, live too long and have that much more time to bitch and complain about how screwed up we tend to be.

I was surprised that this Liberty is noisier than the big Dodge Ram 3500 diesel I recently tested. I think Jeep needs to look at the insulation or something.

Styling:

Jeep styling is unique, or it was until Hummer stole the look and went on to advertise – “Like nothing else”. Hullo! Jeep could be the father. Surely they must know that. Do ya think? They should have told the ad agency.

Fit and Finish:

Good.

Cost:

Good with standard equipment.

Conveniences:

I’m partial to Navigation systems (an option for the Liberty ) but the screen is too small, and for the added cost I expect a full screen. Voice directions were good however. This generation of Nav is extra good when it comes to adding a location/ destination. You simply tell it to add your present location which eliminates the need to enter all that information. Great improvement.

Manual air conditioning is ok, but “Climate Control” eliminates those menopausal-like hot flashes and chills waiting for the adjustments to be effective.

Automated or full time 4 WD is better but its use is so rare the manual or part time system is ok with me.

I’m driving down the freeway and a guy pulls along side and points to my tire that was apparently going flat. A sigh of relief that he wasn’t in the grip of road rage, had no gun drawn but rather trying to be a good citizen. Thanks and off the freeway I went to change the – by then – flat tire. Well one nice convenience in this Liberty is the warning signal if indeed a tire is losing pressure.

Although advanced air bag technology is much better at determining the size of the passenger you still can’t transport children under 12 in the front seat. Related caution is that you MUST wear seat belts in conjunction with air bags. The reason: without both the air bags can do more damage than help.

Consumer Recommendation:

As equipped the price is good and the important things are included. However if you must have an upgraded stereo, CD player, sun roof, Navigation system, heated mirrors and front seats and other frills you will have to pop for another (aprox.) $6,000. Only you can determine if it is worth it. Me, I like all those things but if you’re not keeping the car long they add little to resale.

This Jeep includes (EARS) Enhanced Accident Response System that turns on interior lighting, unlocks doors and shuts off fuel when airbags deploy. This coupled with ESP, ABS and Tire monitoring enhances the overall safety rating. This stuff is much more important than all the frills.

Recognized Competition:

Jeep Liberty CRD $21-26,000, Ford Escape $19-27,000, Pontiac Torrent $21-23,000, Mercury Mariner $21-27,000, Saturn Vue $17-23,000, Chevrolet Equinox $21-24,000, Subaru Forester $22-28,000, Mazda Tribute $20-25,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $18-26,000, Kia sportage $16-22,000, Hyundai Tucson $18-24,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-25,000, Honda CR-V $20-25,000, Toyota RAV4 $20-26,000, Nissan Xterra $20-28,000.

Good News:

CRD engine efficiency and ESP, advanced air bags.

Bad News:

Nothing significant.

Standard Equipment:

2.8 liter 4 cylinder turbo diesel, 5-speed automatic trans, front multistage air bags, tire pressure monitor and warning signal, enhanced accident response system, LATCH-ready child seat anchor system, part time 4WD system, ESP Electronic Stability Program, ABS 4 wheel power assist disc brakes, all speed traction control, rear widow defroster, intermittent wipers with rear wiper washer, air conditioning, power windows with speed sensitive power locks, theft deterrent system with security alarm, rear split folding bench seat, stereo with CD player tilt steering column with leather wrapped wheel, cruise control, cargo area cover, rear power outlet.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $26,190.

2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4 (598)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4X4 “Special Purpose”, or the more commonly referred to Sport Utility Vehicle.

Although I have a soft spot in my heart for the Jeep, I wish they would do something about the terrible gas mileage. It’s among the worst of the competition and I dread having to stop at the pump. You can drop $60-80 every time you stop. Problem is you’ll be stopping more often in cars like this that squeak out 15 mpg. When gas was $.20 per gallon in the late 1950s cars got 7-10 mpg. We haven’t come very far in the past 50 years have we.

Aside from the poor performance in fuel usage the car is really nice. The Daimler / Chrysler combo is tough to beat and they have had a positive influence on all they touch. This Jeep is no exception. There were days in Jeeps history that wasn’t always true.

Public Service: Willy Nelson sings it the best … “on the road again”… but there are lots of hazards on that road and I for one want to know where the Highway Patrol is while I’m dodging debris in the roadway. Seems to me that’s what the Highway Patrol is for… to patrol. How about you? Let me know your pet peeve with how good or bad you think our highways are when it comes to conditions that make the commute perilous.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 73% (engine/transmission – US)

Assembly – Detroit , Michigan , USA

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: – Commander, Grand Cherokee, Liberty and Wrangler.

Handling & Performance:

Very poor fuel economy. But that being said, the 4.7 liter V8 is robust and we all love the power. We just don’t want to pay for it at the pump. The standard engine is a 3.7 liter 210 hp V6. The mileage is not significantly better and the V8 will cost $1,340 including Quadra-Trac full time 4WD.

Styling:

Jeep. And it has been copied for half a century by many. That pretty much says it all. Being copied is the best form of praise.

Fit and Finish:

“As good as it gets” Jack, in this class of truck.

Cost:

Competitive.

Conveniences:

Abundantly appointed. One nice touch I’d like to see in this model is the apparatus in the rear that folds up to form a series of 3 boxes to house your gear, groceries etc. to prevent shifting while in motion. The Liberty has it and I’m yet to see it duplicated in any other brands. It is far better than the netting that is so common.

Consumer Recommendation:

The variety of competitor product is many but the most important factor is whether you are willing to live without the “Fu-fu badge” like Lexus, Mercedes Benz, Acura, and Land Rover. If you are comfortable without the Name Plate Jeep has a rich nameplate history and worth the price of admission.

Recognized Competition:

Jeep Grand Cherokee $27-43,000, Mercedes M Class $40-49,000, Buick Rainier $31-33,000, GMC Envoy $26-38,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $24-32,000, Ford Explorer $27-36,000, Infiniti FX $38-50,000, BMW X5 $43-71,000, Honda Pilot $27-35,000, Land Rover LR3 $38-53,000, Lexus GX 470 $46,635, Dodge Durango $29-38,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $27-32,000, Ford 500 $22-28,000, Mercury Mountaineer $29-36,000, Toyota 4Runner $28-38,000, Nissan Pathfinder $25-36,000, Acura MDX $37-44,000.

Good News:

Smooth and comfortable ride.

Bad News:

Really bad fuel economy – in fact you can’t call it economy.

Standard Equipment:

4.7 liter 235 hp V8 engine, 5-speed auto trans, multistage airbags, tire pressure monitor and warning signal, 4-wheel traction control, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, variable wipers with rear wiper washer, power rack and pinion steering, air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, theft deterrent system, tilt column, stereo with CD player, power 8-way driver seat, rear 60/40 split folding seat, overhead console, trip computer, power fold away mirrors, deep tint sunscreen glass, lift gate flip up glass, roof side rails, and full size spare tire and matching wheel. Options: Special paint, auto dim mirror, heated mirrors, passenger power 4-way seat, premium sound system, fog lights, auto headlights, security alarm, Illuminated vanity mirrors, Trailer tow package, V8 engine, Quadra Trac II Active full time 4 WD.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 20 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $33,155.

2006 Jeep Commander 4X4 (594)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Jeep Commander 4X4 Sport Utility Vehicle. Surely it is priced pretty well for this class vehicle but some will argue it is downright ugly. I think that’s a bit harsh, especially when you consider the Element and especially the Scion xB that can be characterized as “Uggggg-leeeee”.

I see the Commander as being a cross between the Hummer and the Land Rover. What do you think?

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 76%

Assembly – Detroit , Michigan , USA

Class: – SUV

Cars: – Commander, Liberty , Grand Cherokee and Wrangler.

Handling & Performance:

Quite good actually for a high profile vehicle without as wide a stance as the Hummer for example. I had the V8 version but one has to wonder if 25 hp makes all that much difference. Without lifting the hood I couldn’t tell if it was the V6 or V8. I loaded it to the brim with 7 adults and it pulled the load without a groan.

Styling:

Boxy is a surprise to me after they had adopted nice rounded corners in recent years. It’s like they’re not confident and the peer pressure is great for them to conform to all the rest. No balls to allow them to lead the way and be innovative. I hate followers, don’t you?

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Well priced at $29,000 and although the V8 Limited version with some other up’s and extra’s will cost over $37,000. Frankly they are not must have options anyway, in my opinion.

Conveniences:

If we’re old enough to vote and more importantly old enough to drive we surely should be responsible enough to fasten our seatbelts without a constant wailing reminder bell. Let’s say you’re on your own property and getting in and out doing chores around the old rancho. I don’t know about you but that reminder drives me wild. Give it a rest Jeep division of Daimler Chrysler.

Above I mentioned carrying 7 adults but I gotta tell you the two folks in the third row seats were pretty cramped. Those seats are ok in a pinch or for use by little people.

Consumer Recommendation:

For the money, among the competition noted here, I believe the Jeep is the winner. The reason is that even at the lower end of the price range for Jeep it is well appointed.

Recognized Competition:

Jeep Commander $28-38,000, Ford Expedition $33-45,000, (2007) Chevrolet Tahoe $33-37,000, Dodge Durango $29-38,000, (2007) GMC Yukon $34-38,000, Nissan Armada $35-43,000, Infiniti QX 56 $50-53,000, Hummer H2 $53,000, Land Rover LR3 $38-53,000, Lexus GX 470 $46,635.

Good News:

Priced well, comfy in first and second row seating, fold & tumble rear seats are great and very nice “Stadium” type seating.

Bad News:

Poor fuel economy (consider a whopping 57 hp per liter – not very good folks and that translates into poor performance), the return of square lines is a throwback and the softer lines were an improvement for Jeep.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter 210 hp V6 (a 235 hp V8 also available for $1,340), 5-speed auto trans, leather trim bucket seats, front and side air bags, ESP –Electronic Stability Program, 4-wheel ABS power assist disc brakes, Full-time 4 wheel drive system, traction control, remote keyless entry sentry key theft deterrent system power windows and locks, tire pressure monitor system, variable intermittent wipers, rear window wiper washer, air conditioning, 8-way power drivers and 4-way power passenger seats, second row fold and tumble seats, third row 50/50 bench, cruise control, stereo with CD player, tilt steering column, trip computer, illuminated entry, power heated fold away mirrors.

Gas Stats:

15 City and 19 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,290.

2005 Jeep Liberty Turbo Diesel 4-WD (564)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2005 Jeep Liberty Diesel. The old grey mare ain’t what she used to be, and the Jeep isn’t either. Jeep has followed many European leaders and adopted the Common Rail Diesel engine to power this great little Jeep.

Diesels have changed a lot and one of the more noticeable differences includes the fact they are powerful, quiet and smooth. At idle you will sense the most diesel noise just slightly. You won’t have to turn off your engine when ordering fast food drive through\’s. In my Dodge Ram 3500 that’s exactly what I have to do because they can’t hear my order over the roar of the diesel engine.

Public Service driving observation: If you ever need to know if a road is open here are some suggestions from the LA Department of Public Works. You can call 661 947 7173 or go to the web www.ladpw.org. Click on Road closures or for State Highways go towww.dot.ca.gov for a fascinating array of things to see. You can even look at many roads from live camera locations.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 81%, Engine – Italy, Transmission – US

Assembly – Toledo, Ohio, USA

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: Commander, Grand Cherokee, Liberty and Wrangler.

Handling & Performance:

Common-Rail is a high-pressure injection system for Diesel engines with direct injection. In structure and method of functioning, it differs significantly from conventional systems. The central part of the system is a shared high-pressure storage (Rail). Other than in systems with directly driven block or individual pumps, pressure generation and fuel injection control are decoupled in the Common-Rail fuel injection system. The injection pressure is generated independently of the speed and can be freely selected within a broad range. The injection control by means of quick-action solenoid valves permits multiple injection, which leads to a significant reduction of pollutant emissions and noise development.

Benefits:

· Delivers high torque at low engine speed

· Applicable to a variety of cylinder configurations

· Potential solution to the future emissions challenge

· Flexible design can be easily integrated into diesel engine

· Excellent application flexibility relative to injection pressure, timing, pilot and post-event      control

· Proven application and manufacturing experience. Bosch was first to market with Common  Rail for passenger car applications

· Delivers quiet, high-torque, low-emission and efficient diesel engine performance to the  consumer

Horsepower – Definition: Torque times RPM = Horsepower explains why race cars develop so much HP. Formula one cars are at the high end of rev’s and million dollar engines will turn at upwards of 15,000 RPM’s. Think of your personal driver that is straining at 5-6,000 RPM’s.

Styling:

Well, what can you say… it’s a Jeep and simply has stuck to a tried and true look for the outdoorsman. And if you take a look at the Hummer – pride and joy of the Desert Storm War – it just looks like an oversized Jeep, as well it should.

Fit and Finish:

So much better than even a decade ago. But then the materials and assembly procedures have improved dramatically. All that aside, they are well-assembled – nice job guys.

Cost:

For me, I think this Jeep is properly priced and competitive along side the abundant list of SUVs it is up against.

Conveniences:

Good.

Consumer Recommendation:

This Liberty is a good choice for a couple of reasons. One – they are the perfect size for most driving needs. Second – the diesel is powerful, long lasting and today’s common rail injection makes them more fuel-efficient.

The Competition:

Jeep Liberty $19-25,000, Nissan Xterra $21-27,000, Ford Escape $19-27,000, 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid $27-29,000, Subaru Forester $21-28,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $18-23,000, Toyota RAV4 $19-20,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $18-25,000, Mazda Tribute $20-25,000, Kia Amanti $25,500, Chrysler Sebring $20-31,000, Honda CR-V $20-25,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $22-26,000, Hyundai Tucson $17-23,000.

Good News:

Innovative diesel with excellent performance, powerful and handles well

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

Innovative diesel with excellent performance, powerful and handles well

Gas Stats:

21 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,225.

2004 Jeep Wrangler Sport (496)

Overview:
This week I tested the 2004 Jeep Wrangler Sport 4WD. I guess we just get spoiled with all the comforts of most cars and trucks these days, with lots of room, power and amenities. Perhaps this is more for the super-active lifestyle guys and gals where the image of “Rugged or Macho” needs to be communicated. And it isn’t even subtle. This is ‘In-your-face’ basic, tough it out transportation.

There is no armrest, rides like my tractor in high gear. For the old folks this is an ‘E’ Ticket ride at Disneyland. It is after all an ‘Off Road’ vehicle and in its environment it is an exceptional choice. But in the city it is a ‘Fish out of water’. Surely a more capable Land Rover at $70,000 would add comfort and convenience to the experience, but the feeling and the message is very different.

With that “wide open” feeling of the Wrangler series comes IN-convenience, especially in the city. It is totally unprotected so you can’t leave anything in the vehicle because it invites petty and not so petty theft. In the outback it really doesn’t matter, but 99% of the time you will be driving in the “Intercity Jungle” where life is really dangerous.

General Info:

Parts – US/ Canadian 81%

Assembly – Toledo, Ohio USA

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: -. Grand Cherokee, Liberty and Wrangler.

Handling & Performance:

Like 40 miles of bad road. It wiggles around like the lug nuts are lose. The Sport has more than enough horsepower at 190 at 4.0 liters but five on the floor and that rough ride gets old, quickly.

Jeep promotion people call Jeep, “Open-air fun” with award winning off-road capability. Well dah!

Styling:

Classic Jeep with a history that is rich and touches so many people. Model range is the X, SE, Sport, Rubicon and Sahara. A hardtop with full steel doors, roll-up windows and tinted glass is available on all models. Also optional is a combo hard and soft top in matching colors.

Fit and Finish:

Rough and rugged permeates every inch. I can’t help but see my friends Army Jeep, painted original green, and 1942 vintage. Not much has changed.

Conveniences:

Few and only by necessity. But they did make the tilt steering wheel standard this year.

Cost:

More than I think is appropriate. They are trading more on the name and image than on cost to produce. I have a suggestion; reduce the price and sell quantity. Get them out there in high demand. Manufacturers need a lesson in Job Costing.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you have a passion for being outside and off road and travel light this is a fun vehicle. If you have a hissy fit when the wind messes up your hair, forget it.

The Competition:

Jeep Wrangler $17-25,000, Chevrolet Tracker $20-23,000, Suzuki Vitara V6 $17-18,000, Honda CR-V $19-23,000, Toyota RAV-4 $18-20,000.

Good News:

Wonderful off road choice.

Bad News:

No improvement in gas performance, pricey for what you get.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter 190 Horsepower Inline 6 cylinder engine, 5-speed manual trans, dual air bags, front disc and rear drum brakes, 4-wheel drive transfer case with skid plate, two front and one rear tow hooks, front and rear stabilizer bars, 19 gallon fuel tank, tilt column, console, stereo with in dash CD player with four speakers, reclining front seats, rear folding seat, roll bar with padding, roll up widows, soft top, fog lights and full size spare.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $21,320.

2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4WD (464)

Overview:
This week I looked at the 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo 4WD. The years seem to pass more quickly now and I find it hard to believe I was just preparing for Y2K and now it is about to be 2004. I think I lost 4 years somewhere. Wow!

Anyway, yes this is a 2004 Jeep and I love it. The first thing you’ll notice is how comfortable the seats are. I didn’t think a car, truck, bus, train or plane could ever get as comfy cushy as my den easy chair. But this Jeep has done just that. In fact if you go for the options package you’ll be able to adjust the foot pedals up and back for tall or short people. I didn’t think I’d like that, but it turns out it is very cool and useful. And they’ve provided something even my easy chair doesn’t have… tousch or bun warmers for both driver and passenger. Even those heaters are “Cool”.

General Info:

Parts – US/Canadian 86%

Assembly – Detroit, Michigan, USA

Class: – Special Purpose (SUV)

The Liberty (above) is my favorite and price well, the Wrangler (left) is an upgraded Jeep like the original granddaddy (below). Wrangler will appeal to the rugged out of doors guy or gal but is not made for comfort. The Grand Cherokee is plush and comfortable.

Handling & Performance:

What’s not to like. The Jeep just gets better every year. From the military versions to the plush versions we can all drive, Jeep has matured wonderfully. This Grand Cherokee is fast (0-60 in under 8 seconds), responsive at highway speeds to pass traffic easily, and it drives more like a sports car than a truck. And yes, you’ll pay for all that power at the pump with only 15-20mpg but if you like speed you’ll get much less. These numbers assume “Casper Milk Toast” will be driving.

Styling:

Jeep is the most identifiable of all SUV’s in my opinion with the exception of the H2 from Hummer. I like that because I like tradition, and Jeep has done a good job of maintaining that look, and you don’t have to look too closely to see that the H2 must be another grandchild.

Fit and Finish:

The sound of the doors closing is music to my ears. It used to be only Cadillac’s could be counted on for that solid sound.

Conveniences:

Adequate for the money and if you want all the options, you can tack on $10,000. Those optional items are leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, floor mats, cargo cover, mini overhead console, info center and trip computer, fog lamps, six infinity speakers, remote keyless entry, 6-way power seats, auto headlamps, security alarm, lighted vanity mirrors, garage door opener, cassette player plus a 10 disc CD player, on-demand 4-WD, heated seats and mirrors, trailer tow group, heavy duty suspension, skid plates, tow hooks, side air bags, power sunroof, engine block heater, DVD and GPS navigation, power adjustable foot pedals and tire pressure monitoring display.

Cost:

Not too bad before options noted above, but although I like a few of them, the others are glitz and puff that likely never needed. With the options considered the competition would begin to look more interesting. I like the comfort so if money wasn’t an issue, I guess I would opt for the optional equipment referred to as the Customer Preferred Package 28T. $10,000 isn’t what it used to be, so if you’ll need all the options this Jeep will cost you just over $38,000.

Consumer Recommendation:

There is enough competition to humble any one manufacturer, so it would appear that “you” are in the drivers seat when it comes to price negotiation. Keep in mind that after August each year, the dealers are “Deal’n” on prior year models.

The Competition:

Jeep Grand Cherokee $27-39,000, Acura MDX $36-42,000, BMW X5 $39-66,000, Buick Rendezvous $26-29,000, Chevrolet TrailBlazer $27-34,000, Dodge Durango $27-39,000, Ford Explorer $26-37,000, GMC Envoy $29-38,000, Honda Pilot $27-33,000, Infiniti QX4 $35-36,000, Infiniti FX35/FX 45 $34-44,000, Isuzu Ascender $29-31,000, Land Rover Discovery $34-40,000, Lexus RX 330 $35-36,000, Lincoln Aviator $40-45,000, Mercedes Benz M-Class $37-66,000, Mercury Mountaineer $29-38,000, Mitsubishi Montero $32-38,000, Nissan Pathfinder $27-38,000, Nissan Murano $28-31,000, Toyota Highlander $24-31,000, Toyota 4Runner $27-36,000, Volvo XC90 $35-41,000.

Good News:

Jeep is the original; lots of power and quick off the line, comfortable, solid feel to the ride and there is a lot of competition to chose from.

Bad News:

Poor mileage numbers.

Standard Equipment:

4.7 liter V8 engine, 5-speed automatic trans, leather, air bags, child anchor system, full time 4-wd system, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, rear window defrost w/ washer wiper, air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, theft deterrent system, tilt column and AM/FM radio with CD changer.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $28,950.

2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4 WD (439)

Overview:
This week I took a break from the daily boredom of get up, go to work and went off roading in the 2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4 WD. A friend has a 1942 Army Jeep and we took them together.

The Old and New. Well, the first thing that happened is the Army Jeep overheated and vapor locked. After the usual attempts to clean out the fuel line we concluded the fuel pump went out. After trying some starter fluid in the carburetor it primed the pump and it started.

Some statistics I thought interesting between the first and the last: Curb weight is 2800 lbs. on the 1942 and 4600 lbs. on the Rubicon. The Wheelbase is 14 inches longer on the Rubicon and it tracks 11 inches wider.

Other than the basic-ness of the Wrangler, it was fun to drive and surely a departure from usual transportation. And this Jeep is not just a guy thing. There are a lot of gals driving Jeep Wranglers. My kind of gals. In fact I have visions of a lovely lady in a wet T-Shirt, in search for adventure, wind blowing through her hair and always ready to hang with the guys.

This Rubicon spells excitement and conjures up visions of hunting, fishing and rafting trips and almost seems out of place on a paved street.

By the way if you gals are looking for guys, I gotta tell ya, buy one of these and the guys will find you. Guys go for that “Wet and Wild” kind of gal. There is an interesting mystique with off road vehicles and the people who drive them. Consider the recent craze for the Hummer H2. At $100,000 the H1 was not reachable for most. At $48,000 the H2 is closer. At 24,000 this Rubicon will still give that “ready for anything” image. Well, almost anything. Of course if you hate the wind blowing in your hair, can’t stand outside activities, stop reading and forget the whole thing.

General Info:

Parts – US /Canada 83%

Assembly – Toledo, Ohio, USA

Class: – Special Purpose

Cars: – Grand Cherokee, Liberty and Wrangler.

Handling & Performance:

Bumpy. Rugged. Basic. But off road, hold on to your hat because this modern version of the original Army Jeep is nimble, Jack. For you old timers it is an “E” Ticket ride.

Styling:

Original. There isn’t much of a departure from Jeeps beginnings aside from fancy paint, pretty wheels, upholstered seats and the like.

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is available in a Soft Top, Hard Top or both Hard and Soft-top versions.

Fit and Finish:

It is a bit more solid and well put together, but still pretty basic.

Conveniences:

You can spoil the effect by adding almost anything you find on Luxury SUV’s.

Cost:

The price of being different means you’ll pay for champagne and get beer, because there is much more to this Jeep than meets the eye. It is very capable off road. Things like the front and rear wheel-locking feature. This kind of engineering doesn’t come cheap.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you’re a down to earth guy or gal who pride yourselves with being uniquely you, don’t mind getting your hands dirty, love to be outside in the wilderness, the manufacturer had you in mind for this vehicle. You probably like, skiing, camping, rock climbing, skydiving, rafting, surfing, hiking or all of the above.

Jeep owners are in a special club encouraged by the company who help make the off road adventure a reality with Jeep Jamborees. Truly a great experience and a 3-day course on how much your Jeep can do. It will amaze you as it did me on the Mohawk Trail in Massachusetts. I’m looking forward to the experience on the Rubicon Trail in California. You can learn more from their web site

http://www.jeepersjamboree.com/jeep-itinerary.html

The Competition:

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon $16-24,000 is in a class all by itself, even though the following are listed as competitors. Chevrolet Tracker $16-22,000, Kia Sportage $15-18,000, Suzuki Vitara $16-18,000, Toyota RAV 4 $17-18,000. But there is nothing close except the Hummer at two to four times the money.

Good News:

Different, fun to drive, powerful and a good reason to get off the couch, because life is not a spectator sport.

Bad News:

Poor fuel economy and getting in and out is like mounting a horse.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter inline 6 cylinder 190 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic trans with lockup torque converter, dual air bags, 4-wheel power disc brakes, power steering, skid plate shield on the transfer case and fuel tank, tow hooks – 2 front and 1 rear, stabilizer bars front and rear, high pressure gas shocks, tilt leather wrapped steering wheel, center console, AM/FM radio with cassette and 4 speakers, carpeted, fully padded roll bar, fog lights, swing away mirrors, matching full size spare wheel and tire, soft top. Options: Air-conditioning $895, Cruise control $250, CD changer $125, Hard top with roll up windows, rear wiper and defroster $920.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,485.

2003 Jeep Liberty Limited and Renegade. (424)

Overview:

This week’s testing of the 2003 Jeep Liberty and the Renegade models was a delight. I respect my elders and this Jeep has long roots as the founding father of all sport utility vehicles. It has come up the hard way along the road to development. It has earned its stripes over 60 years and, well, I just like this vehicle. Liberty will replace the 20-year-old Cherokee and takes its place between the Wrangler and the “Flag Ship” Grand Cherokee.

I thought it looked smaller than the Ford Escape but it is actually more spacious inside. I tested the Ford Escape on a 3000-mile jaunt to Yellowstone Park and back so I became real familiar with the Ford. Montero Sport is the only one of the competition that has more cubic feet of interior space than the Liberty.

Handling & Performance:

After all this is a Jeep and it is an off road vehicle that is not to be confused with smaller less rugged “Car Like” SUV’s (Honda CR-V, Pontiac Vibe, Toyota RAV4). Those aren’t designed to hold up to the rigors of off-road use. I like the way this Jeep handles on and off the road. The Part-Time 4-WD is nice to have but Liberty has an appetite for gasoline placing it at the bottom of the list of competitors in gas performance.

Styling:

Distinctively Jeep. The granddaddy has given us a new contender for the 21st century in this Liberty.

Fit and Finish:

Very good. Surely an improvement from a decade ago. Daimler – Chrysler has had a positive influence on this Genuine American classic.

Cost:
Priced very well. This is sure to be a hit with any SUV enthusiast.

Consumer Recommendation:

The Liberty (tied for 5th place) has two top competitors from the list, in my opinion. Sixth place Ford Escape and the Nissan Xterra are two other favorites of mine. It would be hard for me to pick just one to take home to the wife and kids.  But if price is the deciding factor Liberty has to be the hands down winner since the other two are more money.

The Competition: * (in order of ranking)

(1) Hyundai Santa Fe $17-23,000, (2) Mazda Tribute $18-24,000, (3) Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-20,000, (4) Honda CR-V $19-22,000, (5t) Jeep Liberty $17-24,000, (5t) Subaru Forester $21-24,000, (6t) Chevrolet Tracker $16-22,000, (6t) Ford Escape $19-27,000, (6t) Nissan Xterra $18-28,000, (7) Toyota Highlander $24-31,000, (8) Isuzu Rodeo $18-32,000, (9) Mitsubishi Montero Sport $23-33,000.

 * – Ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

Good News:

Peppy sucker – describes its desire to run with the rabbits, rugged, distinct styling inside and out and it has a surprising amount of room, rear door opening right to left for good curbside access and nice action on the glass opening out of the way when the door swings open.

Bad News:

At the bottom of the list for gas performance.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter 6-cylinder engine, 4-speed automatic trans, 4-WD, dual air bags, keyless remote entry, power steering, power front disc with rear drum brakes, skid plates on front suspension, transfer case and 18.5 gal. fuel tank, cruise control, intermittent wipers front and rear, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, radio with CD player and six speakers, tilt leather wrapped steering, center console, auxiliary 12 V outlets front and rear, auto light controls, cargo net and tie down loops, roof mounted light bar, side steps, roof rack, fog lamps, power fold away mirrors, tint glass and full size spare rear mounted.

Gas Stats:

17 City and 21 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $17-24,000.
Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee (417)

Overview:

This week I drove the 2003 Jeep Grand Cherokee. What a nice SUV. Some folks including my friend Norman would disagree. Norm had a lemon, I’m convinced of it, because I have driven many Jeeps – years and models and never had the problems Norm had. Several transmissions and other parts failed, but that happens with every carmaker’s products.

I have been on Jeep Jamboree’s and tested all models under the harshest conditions. For those who don’t know what a Jamboree is, it is a gathering of Jeep owners who like to go off road on 26 various venue’s around the country. You have a chance to use your SUV under conditions you just won’t believe. Great experience. My other friend Norman has a daughter who experienced similar problems with a Chrysler minivan and it is doubtful her family will own another car from that company. But for as many critics of a product there are die-hard supporters.

Well, generally speaking you get what you pay for and at the end of the day if you’ve experienced low maintenance problems and thus limited the aggravation of spending time at the dealer the extra money would have been worth it.

Handling & Performance:

As good as the rest but all suck when it comes to gas consumption.

Styling:

Simply the best. This is perhaps the most identifiable SUV of the entire field. It has looked the part longer than any of the other copycats. Lets face it, if there weren’t so much profit in making this class vehicle Jeep would still own the market and others wouldn’t bother competing. Jeep Wrangler styling is what started the whole craze and remains special in its nitch.
Fit and Finish:
Very good. Jeep did have problems in this area in years past but I have noticed a marked improvement over the years.

Cost:

A bit overpriced.

Consumer Recommendation:

You simply have a huge range of sizes, makes and models to choose from. Establish a price range. If you want to spend $18-24,000 you will be looking at smaller SUV’s like Jeep Liberty, Ford Escape and Honda CRV, $25-35,000 mid range like the Ford Explorer, Chevy Trailblazer and Lexus RX 300 or $40-80,000 High end luxury SUV’s like the Lincoln Navigator, BMW X5, and Bad Boys like the Hummer and the downscaled H2.

Manufacturer recommendation:

Don’t be so cheap. When a customer has problems that are chronic, give them a replacement and avoid the bad press and consumer dissatisfaction. Good news travels fast, bad news travels faster.

The Competition: * (in order of ranking)

(1t) Chevrolet TrailBlazer $26-35,000,  (1t) Nissan Pathfinder $27-34,000, (2t) Oldsmobile Bravada $33-35,000, (2t) Honda Pilot $27-31,000, (3) Toyota 4Runner $28-36,000, (4) Ford Explorer $26-36,000, (5) Lexus RX 300 $35-37,000, (6) Dodge Durango $26-38,000, (7) GMC Envoy $28-37,000, (8) Jeep Grand Cherokee $26-36,000, (9) Land Rover Discovery $33-37,000, (10) Mitsubishi Montero $32-36,000, (11) Mercedes-Benz M-Class $36-66,000.

 * – Ranking is based on cost, cu ft, number of features, warranty and gas mileage.

Good News:

Granddaddy of the bunch, classic styling, powerful and the best size for sport Ute’s.

Bad News:

 Poor gas stats, a bit overpriced.

Standard Equipment:

 4.7 liter V8 engine, 5-speed auto trans, dual front and side airbags, 4-wheel abs disc brakes, rear defrost, on-demand 4WD, variable lock progressive rear axle, heavy duty suspension with gas shocks, skid plates front, transfer case and gas tank, rain sensitive wipers, dual zone air conditioning, power windows and locks, cruise control, tilt wood and leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, computer, security alarm, radio with 10 disc remote CD player and Cassette, six infinity speaker system, keyless entry, universal garage door opener, 10-way power seats with memory, rear 60/40 fold down seats, front and rear 12V outlets, power sunroof, auto headlights, tow hooks and tow package, 17” chrome wheels, fog lights, power mirrors, power adjustable pedals and tire pressure monitoring system.

Gas Stats:

14 City and 19 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $39,195.
Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com

2002 Jeep Liberty (373)

Overview:
Wow, this new 2002 Jeep Liberty will knock your socks off. I couldn’t have tested it in a better environment than the rugged back country of Oregon. I took it Elk hunting and brother John led the way in an Artic Cat four wheel drive ATV top of the line way too cool off road vehicle.

As the road narrowed I barked, where the hell is he taking us. I don’t think he remembers he’s in a small agile quad and we’re in this yuppie off road SUV. I can’t believe he did that. But this Jeep Liberty wasn’t impressed with what the Arctic Cat could do or where it could go. I took the “Liberty” of following him to the bitter cold, two feet of snow end. We were all so impressed that my sister told Dan, a Chrysler and Jeep dealer, who was in our hunting party, that she wanted to buy one.

“We are selling the Liberty like hot cakes”, said Dan. No big surprise to me after battling the elements off road and on the highway. It reminded me of the Jeep Jamboree I attended on the Mohawk Trail in Northwest Massachusetts through mud, boulders and rambling over hill and dale and rivers. Now it ‘twas close to Christmas with snow and frozen creeks (pronounced criks) to deal with. Dan went on to say “they are selling a lot of 2-wheel drive models”. Now, that IS a surprise up there in the Pacific Northwest.

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding. I drove the Liberty in a downpour from Portland to Medford and I felt pretty good on arrival. It is sure footed and I felt safe and confident in the slippery traffic conditions, and I didn’t once think I would be hijacked. Throughout the week I put it through its paces in such varied terrain that I can safely say this is destined to be a winner for Jeep.

Styling:

Good passenger space is provided but it doesn’t leave much for the cargo area. I didn’t care much for the window controls on the center console and much prefer them on the door panel. I like the design on the rear door and window that pops up and out of the way when the door is opened.

Fit and Finish:

Real good and much improved over older lower end Jeeps that seemed like a “Plain Wrap” version back then. You had to move up to the luxury of the Grand Cherokee for that touch of class but for the money this Liberty is a step above the competition.

Cost:

Really well priced. Jump on this while the price is still low.

Recommendation:

Test drive one if you are considering a family SUV that doesn’t need to haul the Brady Bunch to the ski slopes. Note that the price is good but it’s a base price without a lot of options. If you are cost conscious and still want more features, you will want to consider buying a year or two old model.

The Competition:

Ford Escape $18-24,000, Isuzu Rodeo $18-32,000, Jeep Liberty $16-23,000, Land Rover Freelander $25-32,000, Mazda Tribute $18-24,000.

Good News:

Well priced, agile, powerful, perfect size for most SUV applications.

Bad News:

Bad consumer crash test results as to cost of repair, poor mileage; I didn’t like the window controls on the center console, small cargo area.

Standard Equipment:

3.7 liter V6 engine, 5-speed auto trans, 4-wheel drive system, power front disc rear drum brakes, power steering, AM/FM radio w/ Cassette.

Gas Stats:

16 City and 20 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP $17,960.