The gay agenda gets some off-road help.
by Dan Weil
While you might associate Liberty with something other than a Jeep — a statue, a right-wing university, maybe even a nebulous concept, Chrysler’s off-road brand thinks Liberty means the ability to go everywhere and carry a decent amount of stuff with you. They’ve thought that since 2002 when the first Liberty hit the streets.
Now, for the 2008 model year, the mid-size Liberty gets a thorough makeover including a more upright look, more interior room, and a tougher stance. It’s more butch than before, as Jeep shamelessly cruises for rugged, Brawny-type guys and gals while at the same time it is also easier to live with since it has a smoother ride and better fuel economy.
That boost may be slight, but the Liberty’s powerful, 210-hp 3.6-liter V-6 now turns in an improved fuel economy rating of 16/22 mpg. (Gym rules apply: they’re working on it.) The engine growls when pressed – more perturbed than aroused – and while the four-speed automatic shifts well enough, it does get a bit rough when you press enthusiastically on the gas pedal. A five or six-speed automatic would certainly help, but you won’t find either here. The Sport version does offer a standard six-speed manual, which produces the same fuel economy, if you have to have something to manipulate.
The Liberty was one of the first crossovers on the market — crossing over here meaning bridging the chasm between trucky SUVs and carlike wagons. You might think true Jeeps have to have rugged live axles and bouncy rides, but the Liberty sports a better balance between its off- and on-road capability this year, thanks to some body work and some fine tuning to its hardware. Wider and longer than the previous model, the Liberty feels more stable and sure on pavement than its predecessor thanks to a new short-long arm (SLA) independent front suspension, a five-link rear suspension and a slew of technologies like stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes. Old-school Jeepsters will notice a slight difference and might think it has gone softcore, but most of us will just appreciate the nicer ride.
For real dirty fun, the Liberty does pony up a choice of four-wheel-drive systems. The Selec-Trac II and Command-Trac II systems offer part-time or full-time four-wheel drive, along with electronic helpers like Hill Descent Control (on automatics only) and Hill Start Assist. Even in gooey mud, the Liberty trundles over tree roots and downed branches with no skin off its knuckles. Though the off-roader in me instinctively wants a softer throttle control, a stiffer front suspension and a lower gear ratio, the Liberty’s combination of features and gadgetry makes it a very capable vehicle no matter where you go.
In the style department, the Liberty ditches its softer side and goes for outright macho sheetmetal this time around the ranch. After seeing some early photos of the 2008 Jeep Liberty, I wasn’t sure if I would like the new design. In person, however, the look is smartly edgy. There’s a strong Jeep family resemblance, and the body is closer than ever to that worn by the beloved, classic Jeep Cherokee.
The interior brings a minor slew of pleasant surprises. A 60/40 split rear seat more than doubles the rear cargo space when folded flat, and a reversible cargo floor provides either a flat, carpeted surface or a 2.5-inch-deep waterproof tray. The new Liberty also features a 115-volt outlet – a useful feature for those of us who take our laptops everywhere.
Best of all widgets is the new Sky Slider roof. When it pulls back for the first time, you’ll realize why it’s worth spending extra for the fresh-air feel. At 3.5 times the size of a regular sunroof, the Sky Slider invites the outside in, without the penalties you might incur driving one of those nifty Wrangler two-doors.
We’re convinced after our test drive that the Liberty is a part of that mythical gay agenda–the part where we infiltrate by stealth. The Liberty drives like it’s heading for a spa day at Burke Williams, while it looks like it’s dressed for a night at the Faultline. It’s so convincing at its straight act that I’m sure a few hets have bought one by accident. With few regrets, we’re sure.
Jeep is a gay-friendly company.
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