Back to the Wild cont'd.

Oct 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

2002 Jeep Liberty Limited Edition



"GIVE IT YOUR best shot," the folks at Jeep said, handing over the keys to the Liberty—the head-turner born of the front end of a Wrangler mated with the rear cargo space of the discontinued Cherokee. So I took a trip back in time. I took it to La Bajada ("The Descent"), a twisted road cut into the side of a 600-foot mesa south of Santa Fe by convict and American Indian labor in 1908 and then abandoned in 1932 as too narrow for modern trucks. To paraphrase famed Bette Davis: Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Even with close to ten inches of ground clearance under the front end, the Liberty's heavy chassis and engine hammered against the head-size boulders strewn all over the steep, rutted switchbacks. We had ample room to rattle around the cabin, even though at 14 and a half feet long, the Liberty is restrained compared to its bigger SUV brethren—a blessing for three-point turns on one-lane roads. With the overbuilt cast-iron suspension (which nearly puts the Liberty in the heavyweight division), I steered up and down La Bajada, dental work intact. With my thirst for decrepit highways barely sated, I started to wonder if I could drive the entire Oregon Trail. —James Glave

210-horsepower V-6 engne; full- and part-time four-wheel drive; 69 cubic feet cargo capacity; 5 passengers; 19 mpg city, 23 mpg highway; $27,240 (as tested);

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