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2003 Jeep Liberty Sport Utility

4dr Sport

Starting at | Starting at 19 MPG City - 24 MPG Highway

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  • $17,910 original MSRP
Printable Version

2003 Jeep Liberty Sport Utility

Printable Version

2003 Jeep Liberty Sport Utility


2003 Jeep Liberty

Source: New Car Test Drive



The Jeep Liberty offers a great balance for someone who enjoys the outdoors. On the highway the Liberty is quiet and responsive. Turn off the pavement and it can go just about anywhere. It can carry five people and their gear. Fold the rear seats and it can move some serious cargo.

Introduced as a 2002 model, the Jeep Liberty is significantly revised for 2003. Better brakes, a lowered suspension, a revised automatic transmission, and new convenience features improve safety, drivability, and comfort. A new Renegade model, introduced late in 2002, is available in a premium trim level with leather for 2003. New wheels and new colors freshen the appearance of the 2003 models.

True to Jeep heritage, the Liberty stands apart from the new generation of less-capable compact sport-utility vehicles. It doesn't ride or handle as well as some of them on the road. But the Liberty is among the best of the small sport-utilities for drivers who need serious off-road capability on the weekend, and refinement, practicality, and affordability during the week.

Model Lineup  

The 2003 Jeep Liberty is available in three trim levels, Sport, Renegade, and Limited Edition. Each is available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. Two engines are available, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder and a 3.7-liter V6. The four-cylinder engine is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox. The V6 is available as an option with a heavy-duty five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic that has been revised for 2003 for smoother, quieter operation.

Sport 2WD models ($17,235) come standard with the four-cylinder engine, five-speed manual, a cloth interior, wind-up windows, manually operated mirrors, and 16-inch tires on steel wheels. Air conditioning ($850) is optional, but a six-speaker stereo is standard. Packages are available that add power windows and other features. The V6 is an option and can be ordered with manual ($850) or automatic ($1675). Sport 4WD ($18,745) comes standard with the V6 and automatic, but not air conditioning or power windows and locks, which are optional.

The Renegade name made its comeback to the Jeep lineup as the 2002 model year came to a close. Representing the rebellious side of Jeep, the Liberty Renegade adds special exterior and interior trim. Renegade is available in 2WD ($22,085) and 4WD ($23,695) and comes standard with the V6, five-speed manual, 16-inch aluminum wheels, air conditioning, power windows and locks, a six-disc CD changer and many other features. An automatic transmission ($245) is optional. A premium model ($1915) adds the automatic, power leather seats, and premium door trim panels. It also comes with a new overhead vehicle information center that allows the customer to program automatic locking, lighting, and other features.

Limited Edition 2WD models ($21,925) come standard with the V6 engine and automatic transmission. The Limited comes standard with air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, illuminated remote keyless entry, better interior lighting, a roof rack, floor mats, cargo cover, and a CD changer. Cloth is standard; Leather is available as part of a big option package ($1540) on the Limited that includes the programmable overhead console and Infinity speakers. Limited 4WD ($23,435) also comes with an extra skid plate to protect the front suspension.

All 2003 Liberty models come standard with four-wheel disc brakes, an improvement over last year's rear drum brakes.

Side-impact airbags ($490) are optional, but we recommend them. Serious adventurers may want the optional Off-Road Group ($765 for Sport, $520 for Limited), which includes fuel tank and transfer case skid plates, a locking rear differential, heavy-duty engine cooling P235/70R16 all-terrain tires, and tow hooks.


With its seven-slat grille and round headlights there's no question the Liberty is a Jeep.

Liberty Sport is trimmed with black molded bumpers, wheel flares and side molding that give it a rugged, more youthful look. Limited models are distinguished with body-colored trim and aluminum wheels, which create a more sophisticated appearance.

The new Renegade features a light bar integrated into the leading edge of the roof, a roof basket, bolt-on wheel flares, removable side steps, unique wheels, and a two-tone front fascia. The activity light bar houses four halogen lamps designed to light rocky terrain or a game of beach volleyball. (Operating roof lights may not be legal on your roads, however.) Inspired by Jeep's Dakar concept, the Renegade comes in Bright Cactus Green, Light Khaki, silver and black and features body-colored grille and moldings with a two-tone front fascia. Unique Renegade wheel flares appear wider than the standard flares with machined stainless steel bolt heads. Trapezoidal wheel openings frame the all-terrain tires mount on 16-inch six-spoke wheels. Silver tubular side steps with black step pads bolted to the chassis rails make getting in and out easier, and can be removed when it's time for some extreme off-roading.

Liberty's body is tall, providing the driver a commanding view of the terrain ahead. By exterior dimensions, the Liberty fits between the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. With an overall length off 174.4 inches, it's slightly longer than Ford's Escape. It's longer than Jeep's classic Wrangler as well, but 7 inches shorter and as much as 500 pounds lighter than the Grand Cherokee.

A neat feature: Yanking hard on the outside door handle causes the glass hatch to swing up as the door itself is swinging out, which saves time and effort. Pulling on the handle with less force causes just the glass hatch to swing up. Also, the door swings open from the right, better for curbside pickups at the airport.

Interior Features  

The Jeep Liberty comes with a roomy interior that can accommodate five passengers and a generous amount of cargo with good usable space behind the second row of seats. Sitting in the Liberty gives the driver a sense of spaciousness with acres of headroom (best in class, according to Jeep) and general roominess. Door panels are scalloped out for elbow rests. Sit in the Liberty and the first thing you'll likely notice is that it feels tall in the saddle. We searched in vain for a seat-height adjustment.

The seats in the Sport model feel firm in the middle, but the side bolsters are too mushy to provide as much side support as we'd like. I found the Sport seats uncomfortable. The cloth upholstery has a hard finish that feels like it'll hold up well. The Renegade front seats are tailored with flat woven cloth center panels and leather bolsters. The front seats in the Limited are comfortable, chair-like, softer and more contoured than the seats in the Ford Escape.

The Liberty's rear seats are comfortable, capable of holding three people. Two adults should be happy here. There is lots of rear headroom, and lots of space to slide your feet under the front seats, but knee room is limited. Getting out of the back seat requires a bit of a stretch down and your legs drag across the fender, so be sure to clean it before putting well-dressed guests back there.

The Liberty doesn't offer quite as much cargo space behind the rear seats as the Ford Escape does (29 cubic feet for the Liberty vs. 33.3 cubic feet for the Escape). However, it's quite adequate. Our 155-pound puppy was happy to ride behind the rear seats. Two big garbage cans fit side-by-side back there that had to go front-to-rear in a tall and boxy old Isuzu Trooper. Grocery-bag hooks and cargo tie-downs are provided in back.

Fold the rear seats down and the Liberty offers more cargo room than the Escape (69 cubic feet of space for the Liberty vs. 64.8 cubic feet for the Escape). Dropping the split rear seat is a one-hand operation in the Liberty; the rear seat bottom stays in place. The cargo floor isn't perfectly flat when the rear seats are folded down, however, and that's my biggest gripe with this vehicle. Nor are the rear seats readily removable as they are in the RAV4. Also, the rear headrests are hard to remove and install with two buttons needed to release them.

Overall, the interior presents a round motif that looks contemporary with round door handles, round instruments, round air inlets, a round horn pad. Textures and finishes are nicely done. Big gauges use black-on-beige graphics. The Renegade gets brushed aluminum (real aluminum) highlights on the instrument panel that give it a machined look consistent with the exterior theme. The Limited adds attractive satin chrome highlights to the instrument panel and doors. The shifter is on the tall side, but works well. The available leather-wrapped steering wheel is comfortable and features well-designed cruise controls.

The controls work well and intuitively. The power window switches are located on the center console, however, less convenient than on the door. The manually operated HVAC works well, though the mode selector demands attention. The radio works well, but uses a separate and poorly located button to preset stations, which seems an unnecessary distraction when driving.

The Liberty is loaded with safety features: Multi-stage front airbags deploy with less force during low speed collisions, or if the occupant is unbuckled, to reduce the risk of airbag-related injuries. The Liberty is the first Jeep to offer optional side curtains to protect outboard occupants from head injury in side impacts. A three-point belt for the center rear seat is standard, a safety feature that's missing from many SUVs. Jacking equipment is stored under the rear seat and can be quickly grabbed as a unit.

Driving Impressions  

For 2003, Jeep lowered the ride height of the Liberty slightly to improve handling. Though we didn't have the opportunity to drive them back to back, the 2003 model seems a bit less ponderous than the 2002. New shocks, springs, and jounce rubbers are designed to improve the ride quality.

Steering effort has been reduced for to ease maneuverability in parking lots. Winding roads are an enjoyable experience with rack-and-pinion steering and the Liberty felt quite capable on crowded freeways around Los Angeles. The Liberty doesn't ride as smoothly on the road as a Ford Escape, particularly over bumps and other irregularities, nor does it handle as well. But it doesn't beat the driver up as much as a Jeep Wrangler does. The wider tires of the Limited model seemed to offer more stability than the narrower tires of the Sport.

The 3.7-liter V6 works well with the automatic. Smooth and powerful, the V6 is rated at 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, enough for Jeep to give it a 5000-pound tow rating. Engine and transmission are responsive to the driver's wishes. The throttle seems overly sensitive at tip-in, however, calling for a soft touch when starting out.

The 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine comes standard on the Sport 2WD model and is only available with a five-speed manual gearbox. I found the four-cylinder with manual transmission to be a smooth combination, though I suspect it may struggle when moving 3,826 pounds of Jeep at higher elevations. Besides the lower initial cost, the 150-horsepower four-cylinder rates an EPA-estimated 19/23 mpg city/highway versus 16/21 for the V6.

The Liberty is fully capable of tackling the Rubicon Trail, the mother of all unpaved roads, and has done that. We drove a Limited 4WD model over a gnarly trail used at the annual Camp Jeep event near Lovingston, Virginia. A Jeep engineer and I followed a modified Wrangler driven by an off-road club member. A Ford Escape or a Toyota RAV4 would not have made it, but the Liberty crossed steep ditches and gullies, where its short front and rear overhangs paid off. It wove through stands of tightly spaced trees, where its tight turning radius was a benefit. It clambered over big rocks and fallen trees and slowly forded boulder-strewn creeks with 18 inches of rushing water. (Jeep says it can handle 20 inches at 10 mph.) Its traction up steep, muddy banks was truly impressive, with no wheelspin.

In addition to rear-wheel drive (2WD) models, two versions of four-wheel drive are available: Four-wheel-drive models come standard with Jeep's tried-and-true Command Trac part-time system. It works great. Shift from 2WD to 4WD on the fly with a slight pull on the hand lever. When the trail is looking really ugly, slow to 2-3 mpg and while still coasting, shift into neutral, and pull the lever up higher for low range. It works great. Our only complaint is that the Sport model's rear wheels bind up on dry pavement when accelerating out of a tight corner.

Selec Trac is an optional system ($395) that offers the modes above but also lets the driver shift into full-time 4WD for year-round conditions. The full-time mode is ideally suited to inconsistent conditions: patches of ice, gravel roads, wet, slippery roads. It also works on dry pavement.

Either way, you can order the optional limited-slip rear differential, called Trac-Lok ($285), for improved traction off road.

Like most small SUVs, Liberty follows the trend away from body-on-frame to unibody construction. Jeep calls it "uni-frame" because it's a beefed up unibody with frame-like reinforcement rails. This gives it increased strength and rigidity. That rigidity allowed the chassis engineers to finely tune the suspension without having to compensate for a Flexible Flyer-type chassis. The Liberty suspension uses coil springs at all four wheels, with independent forged steel control arms in front.

As with last year's model, the 2003 Liberty offers eight inches of suspension travel. Short front and rear overhangs (the distance from the tire to the bumper) allow steep angles of approach (38 degrees) and departure (32 degrees) in the rough stuff, so you won't be dragging the front bumper in gullies or even in garages in New York City. The Liberty offers capability that approaches that of the Grand Cherokee and it will go most of the places that a Wrangler can go. You can't say that about the Escape, RAV4, or most of the bigger SUVs such as the Ford Explorer, which are quickly left behind spinning wheels and banging up rocker panels.

Progressive-rate springs deliver a nice balance of off-road grip and on-road ride comfort, though humps in the road can be jolting. The Liberty feels a bit jouncier on rough pavement, taller, squishier, more off-road oriented than the Escape. However, as the going gets rougher, the Jeep offers a much more comfortable ride than the Escape because the Ford's limited suspension travel and lightweight components quickly leave their element. The Liberty feels more substantial than the car-based SUVs and it is. The suspension is far beefier, and the interior controls don't look like they came out of a sedan or a minivan.

For 2003, the Liberty comes standard with four-wheel disc brakes, which offer improved pedal feel, shorter stopping distances, and reduced tendency to fade. I found the new brakes easy to modulate in heavy stop-and-go traffic. ABS ($600) is optional, and recommended: In low range, the anti-lock brake system allows some wheel lock for off-road situations -- such as descending steep gravel hills -- where skidding is a good thing. On the road, the ABS allows less skidding for improved control steering control, but there is some lockup for shorter stopping distances.


The Jeep Liberty strikes a good balance between off-road capability and on-road sophistication. It's a good choice for drivers who like to venture into the backcountry, but need comfort and practicality in a daily driver.

Its go-anywhere capability is what separates the Liberty from other small SUVs. Though slightly less agile on the road than the car-based cute-utes, such as the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, the Liberty is vastly superior once you leave the pavement.

Model Line Overview

Model lineup: Sport 2WD ($17,235); Renegade 2WD ($22,085); Limited 2WD ($21,925); Sport 4WD ($18,745); Renegade 4WD ($23,695); Limited 4WD ($23,435)
Engines: 150-hp 2.4-liter dohc 16-valve inline-4; 210-hp 3.7-liter sohc 12-valve V6
Transmissions: 4-speed automatic; 5-speed manual
Safety equipment (standard): front airbags, LATCH child-seat anchor system
Safety equipment (optional): ABS ($600); side-impact airbags ($390)
Basic warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in: Toledo, Ohio

Specifications As Tested

Model tested (MSRP): Jeep Liberty Sport 4WD ($18,745)
Standard equipment: Command-Trac part-time 4WD system, headlamps w time-delay off, front skid plate, tachometer, cruise control, rear window defroster, variable intermittent wipers, folding rear seat split 65/35, AM/FM/cassette with changer control and six speakers, cargo tie-down loops, matching spare wheel
Options as tested (MSRP): ABS ($600); V6 ($850); automatic transmission ($825); package 27B ($2325) includes air conditioning, power windows with one-touch down, speed-sensitive power door locks, power mirrors, remote keyless entry, illuminated entry, side roof rails, tilt steering, floor mats, illuminated visor vanity mirrors, rear power outlet; leather-wrapped steering wheel with speed controls ($300); AM/FM/cassette/CD ($225); Infinity speakers ($475); Trailer Tow Group ($325) includes Class III trailer hitch, 7-pin wiring harness, 7-4 pin adapter, heavy-duty cooling; Package discount (-$1670)
Destination charge: ($610)
Gas guzzler tax: N/A
Price as tested (MSRP): $23,610
Layout: four-wheel drive
Engine: 3.7-liter sohc 12-valve V6
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 210 @ 5200
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): 235 @ 4000
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: 17/21 mpg
Wheelbase: 104.3 in.
Length/width/height: 174.4/71.6/73.2 in.
Track, f/r: 60/59.7 in.
Turning circle: 35.9 ft.
Seating capacity: 5
Head/hip/leg room, f: 40.7/57.0/40.8 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m: N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r: 42.1/47.4/37.2 in.
Trunk volume: 69.0 cu. ft.
Payload: N/A
Towing capacity: 5000 Lbs.
Suspension, f: independent
Suspension, r: solid axle
Ground clearance: 7.8 in.
Curb weight: 4115 lbs.
Tires: P215/75R16 all-season
Brakes, f/r: disc/disc with ABS
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gal.


Unless otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP) effective as of July 15, 2002.
Prices do not include manufacturer's destination and delivery charges.

N/A: Information not available or not applicable.
Manufacturer Info Sources: 1-800-925-JEEP (5337) - www.jeep.com

Copyright © 1994-2003 New Car Test Drive, Inc.

Printable Version

2003 Jeep Liberty Sport Utility

Safety Ratings help

What do the Safety Ratings mean?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performs independent crash testing of new vehicles and then assigns them a score based on their performance. The overall crash test rating is based on how a vehicle performs in the following tests:

Driver Crash Grade:

Measures the chance of a serious injury to a crash test dummy that is placed in a driver's seat and driven into a fixed barrier at 35 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less chance of injury.

Passenger Crash Grade:

Similar to the driver crash grade, only now the focus is on the passenger.

Rollover Resistance:

Simulates an emergency lane change to measure the likelihood of a vehicle rolling over. A five-star rating means there is 10 percent or less risk of rollover.

Side Impact Crash Test - Front:

Focuses on the front side of a vehicle. It simulates crashes that can occur in intersections by striking a 3,015-pound weight against the side of a vehicle at 38.5 MPH. A five-star rating means there is 5 percent or less chance of injury.

Side Impact Crash Test - Rear:

Similar to the front side impact test only now the focus is on the rear passenger.

Driver Crash Grade n/a
Passenger Crash Grade n/a
Rollover Resistance

No consumer rating

Rate & Review
Side Impact Crash Test - Front n/a
Side Impact Crash Test - Rear n/a

Safety Features & Equipment

Braking & Traction

4-Wheel ABS Opt

Passenger Restraint

Driver Air Bag Std
Passenger Air Bag Std
Side Air Bag Opt

Road Visibility

Fog Lamps Opt
Intermittent Wipers Std
Variable Inter. Wipers Std


Alarm Opt
Anti-theft System Opt
Printable Version

2003 Jeep Liberty Sport Utility

Original Warranty  help
Original Warranty
An original warranty is the warranty associated with a vehicle when it is brand new. In addition to the original warranty, select items, like tires, are typically covered by respective manufacturers. Also, an act of Federal law sometimes provides protection for certain components, like emissions equipment.
The original warranty is often broken down into multiple sections, including:
Basic Warranty:
Typically covers everything except for parts that wear out through normal use of the vehicle. Examples of non-covered items are brake pads, wiper blades and filters.
Drivetrain Warranty:
This warranty covers items the basic warranty does not protect. Wear and tear items such as hoses will not be covered, but key items like the engine, transmission, drive axles and driveshaft often will be.
Roadside Assistance:
The level of service differs greatly with this warranty, but many manufacturers offer a toll-free number that helps provide assistance in case you run out of gas, get a flat tire or lock your keys in the car.
Corrosion Warranty:
This warranty focuses on protecting you from holes caused by rust or corrosion in your vehicle's sheet metal.
Please check the owner's manual, visit a local dealership or look at the manufacturer's website to learn more about the specifics of the warranties that apply to a vehicle.

Basic 3 Years/36,000 Miles
Drivetrain 7 Years/70,000 Miles
Corrosion 5 Years/100,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance 3 Years/36,000 Miles

Jeep Certified Pre-Owned Warranty  help
Certified Pre-Owned Warranty
To be eligible for Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) status, vehicles generally must be recent models with relatively low mileage. CPO vehicles must also pass a detailed inspection, outlined by the manufacturer, which is measured by the number of inspected points.
Warranty coverage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. While most certified pre-owned programs transfer and extend the existing new car warranty terms, others offer a warranty that simply represents an additional year and mileage value. Always check with the manufacturer for the specific warranties they offer.
Common features and benefits of Certified Pre-Owned warranties include:
Age/Mileage Eligibility
To even be considered for certification, a car must be a recent model year and have limited mileage. The exact requirements are established by individual manufacturers.
Lease Term Certified
Some manufacturers offer certified pre-owned cars for lease. The length of the lease is often shorter than a new car lease, but it will cost you less.
Point Inspection
These inspections entail a comprehensive vehicle test to ensure that all parts are in excellent working order. The point inspection list is simply a numbered list of exactly what parts of the car are examined. While many inspections range from a 70- to 150-point checklist, most are very similar and are performed using strict guidelines. Ask your local dealer about specific details.
Return/Exchange Program
Some manufacturers offer a very limited return or exchange period. Find out if you will get the sales tax and licensing/registration fees back should you return or exchange the car.
Roadside Assistance
Most certified pre-owned programs offer free roadside service in case your car breaks down while still under warranty.
Special Financing
Reduced-rate loans are available through many certified pre-owned programs. Manufacturer-backed inspections and warranties help eliminate the risks involved with buying pre-owned, so buyers who qualify can take advantage of the great offers.
Transferable Warranty
When a new car warranty transfers with the certification of the car and remains eligible for the next owner, it is known as a transferable warranty. Once the original transferable warranty expires, an extended warranty takes effect.
Warranty Deductible
This is the amount for which you are responsible when repair work is performed under the warranty. Some manufacturers require a deductible while others don't, so always ask.

7-Years/100,000-Miles (whichever comes first). Powertrain Limited Warranty runs from the date vehicle was sold as new.

3-Month/3,000-Mile Maximum Care Warranty. Starts on the date of the CPOV sale, or at the expiration of the remaining 3/36 Basic New Vehicle Warranty.

A deductible may apply. See dealer for details or call 1-800-677-5782
Age/Mileage Eligibility 5 years / 75,000 miles
Lease Term Certified No
Point Inspection 125
Return/Exchange Program No
Roadside Assistance Yes
Special Financing Yes
Transferrable Warranty Yes
Warranty Deductible $100

Learn more about certified pre-owned vehicles

Printable Version

2003 Jeep Liberty Sport Utility

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