Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The new Jeep Liberty

Costco had the 2008 Liberty on display, which allowed me to have a good look. The suspension architecture is reworked both front and rear.

In front, the normal ball joint is replaced with an inverted joint, a-la FJ Cruiser. This puts a limit on the smallest wheel one can put on the jeep, but since Jeep is not making pickup trucks, it's not an issue for them. As long-time readers might know, I have sustained a ball joint separation on Galant, which uses the conventional architecture. There, the full weight of the car comes on the threads of one bolt and one nut, which stripped. I have to say, thousands of Tacomas, 4 Runners and (old) Liberties are taken to rough trails with success, so the dangers of stripping are overblown. The Galant owes its problem to so-called one-time nut, made out of a softer metal than normal car nuts. I think Jeep turned the Liberty's ball joint over in oder to facilitate weight savings, and for the peace of mind, rather than out of any real concern.

In the rear, the innovative architecture of the old Liberty was replaced with a traditional 5-link, found on late Montero Sport, FJ Cruiser, etc. The tried and true suspension is just as strong, has no ball joint, and in fact might even be lighter. Reviewers on blogs claim that the ride has improved, but I don't think the rear geometry changes were responsible. It's probably just the combination of shocks and sway bars. The real advantage of new-old 5-link is that it does not need all the space in the center, where the old Liberty's top member was. Now the fuel tank goes there instead, for added safety, and the spare goes where the tank was.

This leads us to the new rear gate, which lost the spare and flips up. It probably weighs less, which is good news for the mileage. Putting on the spare might be marginally harder, but it always was a dirty work. I don't mind.

Aside from improved suspension, what delights me most is how the new Liberty is only marginally longer than the old one (only 5cm or 2in longer). In our days, cars grow quickly: just look at the xTerra.

Many bloggers were yapping how the new Liberty is square where the old was round. In fact, it seems like the most important thing to them (even C&D did it). I don't know why they do it, I do not care if it's round, square, and triangular, as long as it's well made. But for those who care, yes, the new Liberty looks a bit squarish.

One thing that nobody seems to notice is that the hood of the new Liberty is shorter than the old one. You really have to look at it sideways or negotiate a good crest to appreciate the length of Liberty's snout. I think Jeep did a good thing with the shorter hood (although I haven't taken it to the trail). It probably adds internal space, too.


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