road test KJ

Date: Sat, 06 Oct 2001 21:41:50 -0700
Subject: [WJ-Grand] jeep test drive

Test drove a new KJ (aka Liberty) Friday.  It had the 3.7L V6, AT.

In general I'd rank Jeeps as follows for overall ride and comfort:
             	CJ/YJ/TJ/    XJ-KJ        WJ-SJ

  xj-kj and wj-sj could go either way, depending on subjective feelings or
   what you're calling comfort. :)   Of course there are a lot of variations in
the way individual jeeps handle and feel, springs, tires, age, loads, etc.

The KJ had better visibility than a WJ or a TJ, but less than an XJ or an SJ.

The SJ's "panoscopic-vision" is unique to the Brook Stevens designed big
Jeeps of the early '60's.  I can't think of another vehicle that offers 
such a view, except of course a large bus or truck. :)

At 30 to 35 mph the KJ rode worse than an XJ, but at freeway speeds was
remarkably quiet and smooth, maybe quieter than the WJ!    In town the
KJ seemed to me to have a broken tire belt.  I've driven the same road
in an XJ with 269+ miles on it and didn't feel those imperfections...  strange
mix of speed and road surface I guess.  There are sections of I-5 through
Seattle that  will get a lifted Jeep bouncing along very nicely...

The KJ had a nice turning radius.   The KJ had a nicer feel to the steering
then the WJ.  It was lighter than the WJ, but slightly heavier than an XJ.

The 3.7L V6 was disappointing.   I would imagine that the four cylinder
will be very unimpressive. :)   The 3.7L felt like it just couldn't
get enough air.  It started to produce power but just went flat...  It just
didn't do it...

I would think that the venerable 4.0L would have made the KJ move
out much better.    I've also heard that the KJ weighs about 50 lbs
more than the WJ.    I wonder if they'll put the 4.7L V8 in the KJ eventually.

I also figured out why they moved away from the 4.0L.  It was
not because of emissions,  but because of space limitations.
On the same note, the KJ has a very pronounced intrusion
into the driver's floor space, right next to your right leg.

The KJ handled slightly better than a TJ on the road, but not as good
as an XJ or WJ.   The KJ experienced noticeable body roll and felt
as though it had a higher center of gravity.  Even my lifted Xj's handled
curves with more finesse.  The KJ is ok in the handling department,
but not as well as I would have expected.  The WJ has a much, much
better cornering capability.    The KJ had the feeling that it would
behave poorly if pushed hard through a corner.  It was very sensitive
to steering input while in a curve.  The excessive body roll and higher
center of gravity will lead to problems if driven aggressively.  I didn't
push the KJ very hard, but the feedback from the vehicle told me it
wouldn't like being thrown through a curve hard.

One of the nice features of the WJ has been included in the KJ,
the radio with cassette and CD and remote on the steering wheel.  :)

The tailgate setup is very nice.     Except that the spare tire is kind
of in the way for short people.  The window lifts up, but I think I'd
have trouble putting anything in the back without opening the swing
to the driver's side tailgate.

The chicken straps on the A pillars are nice, and the view of the
hood is enjoyable.  The WJ slopes so much that you can't see
where the hood is... you lose touch with the WJ in parking lots
and off-road.   The KJ feels nice in those situations, it's got a
certain nimbleness to it.  Still not as nimble feeling as an XJ, but
close.  The KJ just doesn't have the feel that I enjoy in an XJ.

That and the KJ is about the ugliest Jeep anyone has ever seen.

It's taller than a WJ!  I looked at a KJ and WJ side by side on
the lot.   It also has a lower ground clearance than many  other 4x4s.
What are they doing with all that space in between???  I mean
my WJ has plenty of interior room.  Why all the extra vertical space
in the KJ???

The window switches in the center console, which
shouldn't have confused me after owning a few Mercedes, but I
was locking and unlocking the doors instead of operating
the window. :)    The stereo didn't sound as rich as in my WJ,
probably didn't have an amp.

All in all, I think I'll pass on the KJ.   We'll keep our '99 WJ or try to
get another loaded XJ.

Of course as soon as SuperDawg is done I won't be driving the wife's jeep
anyway...  WJ or XJ is fine by me for those times when passengers
are required options...

BTW, a few years back I went to Jeep 101 and drove a TJ, XJ and WJ on
the test course.  The TJ would rock and roll as it went over anything, the WJ
felt like a large vehicle that smoothed out washboard and the rough stuff,  but
didn't give you a lot of feel for the trail.  But the XJ hit the happy 
medium and
felt just right... :)

I still think Daimler-Chrysler is out of their collective minds
in cancelling the XJ.  Why?  Weren't they making enough money from
them???  I never heard anyone complaining about the XJ.

The XJ is clearly superior to the KJ.    I don't care if they did drive a KJ
over the rubicon.  It doesn't look as nice or feel as nice to me as an XJ.

The lack of visibility from the WJ ruins it for me.  I know that the WJ
is far superior to the SJ technically.  But I'd prefer to drive an SJ.

The body style change of the XJ freshened it up a bit.  What they should have
done is offered Quadradrive, a rear window that opened up in the tailgate
and maybe the 4.7L V8 in the XJ... ;)     Anything they did add to the KJ
or the WJ could have been adapted to the XJ.  The XJ is the best overall
Jeep that has ever been produced.   It's too bad that the SJ hadn't 
received the
improvements found in the XJ before it's retirement.    Maybe I just
don't appreciate change... ;)

Long live the SJ and XJ Jeeps.  :)

later,
john meister
snohomish, washington
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        Snohomish, WA - where Jeeps don't rust, they mold...
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