Taking a Liberty

It’s not often I write a car review. In fact, this is the first time I have ever done so on this blog. But I felt strongly enough about this particular vehicle, that I felt but it’s merited a review.

We were headed to Kansas to attend a wedding. Since our “new” vehicle was 12 years old, we decided to rent a vehicle for the trip. We had reserved a full-sized car, but when we got there, they did not have any full-sized vehicles immediately available, so they offered us a Jeep liberty.

Those who know me will be fully aware of my disdain for SUVs. However, since this was only for three days, I decided to try this vehicle to see what the fuss was about. You only live once.

My first impressions were: “that is one big bad bruiser of a vehicle”; it looked quite mean. Fit and finish were good, and the doors closed with a hefty “thunk”. On starting the engine I was rewarded with a rough grumbling from beneath the bonnet, and away we went.

Throttle response at low speed was sluggish; you had to push the accelerator pedal down a long way before anything would happen. The flip side was that you didn’t need to hold the brakes when stationary in traffic.

I had picked up the vehicle after dark, and in the cold light of day a more detailed inspection in my driveway revealed the rest of the story. The level of equipment was underwhelming. For instance, forward-backward seat adjustment was manual, there was NO driver seat height adjustment at all, which would have made it difficult for Her Royal Shortness to drive it were she so inclined.

The radio had no Bluetooth or iPod input – which I expect as standard on ANY new vehicle. There was only one cigarette-lighter-power-source; on an “outdoorsy” vehicle like this I would have expected at least two in the front and one in the back. I was surprised at how little interior space there was for a vehicle this big. Her Ladyship’s Camry actually had more room. Thankfully, my passengers were small and cabin space was not a problem.

Luggage space, however, was. The trunk was not long enough to lay a suitcase lengthwise, so two suitcases and a folding wheelchair required folding down one of the rear seats, another six inches of bootspace (Hey! I made up a new word!) would have made a huge difference

On the road, it felt like I was driving a tank. There was a feeling of invincible sluggishness about the vehicle. It could really shift if you “gave it the beans” (thank you Mister Clarkson, I love that expression), but you got the feeling that it really didn’t want to. It also felt unexpectedly stable for such a high vehicle.

One annoyance is the the Cruise Control did not actuate the accelerator pedal, which made transitions out of cruise quite jarring as accelerator input suddenly went from sixty percent to zero. Another was that in spite of the HUGE mirrors, there was a massive blind spot at the eight-o-clock position, thanks to the thick B-pillars. Several times I was about to swap lanes and was surprised to find someone already exactly where I wanted to be.

At our destination, there were several very steep inclines; the brute had no trouble with them. However, the engine, while powerful, is very noisy and sounds rough, particularly when under heavy load. The noise was actually embarrassing, as you felt like the car was snarling at bystanders.

Perhaps the biggest Achilles’ heel; gas mileage absolutely stinks, thanks, I suspect, to the vehicle’s “Barn-Door” aerodynamics, but I had expected better than 21 miles per gallon on the freeway at a steady 70. That was the car’s idea of “Economy” driving; it isn’t mine. This was compounded by the fact that the fuel tank was only 16-18 gallons, which is too small for freeway cruising. Watching the fuel gauge dropping was highly annoying, as was having to pull over every few hours to refuel. This vehicle should have had at least a 20-gallon tank.

Last night, when I handed back the car, it was with a sense of relief. Most people refer to their cars as a “she”, but this one was obviously very much a “he” – to the point of Testosterone poisoning. It reminded me of a flabby old Pit Bull, big, grumpy, loud, powerful, lazy, flatulent, past its’ prime, somewhat incontinent, and generally badly-behaved. I could almost imagine it snarling at strangers while eying the Vicar’s leg with a dangerous glint in its eye. Some would find such a dog winsome, I am not one of them.

It served its purpose well enough – it got us there and back, in safety and reasonable comfort, and the price was excellent, but I was unimpressed with the vehicle in particular and the breed in general. In contrast, driving my car to work this morning felt like I was wearing a jet-pack.

Bottom line: I still don’t like SUVs – and will not drive another as long as I have a choice – but now,  at least I know why.

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