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Jeep Liberty Rolled Over In Test

Nov 26, 2001 | UPI

AutoWeek magazine says a 2002 Jeep Liberty was "bent on almost every body panel" when it rolled over during a severe emergency handling maneuver in a driving test last month.

DaimlerChrysler Corp., which debuted the new sport-utility vehicle in June, said the test was inappropriate for an SUV.

AutoWeek, published by Detroit-based Crain Communications Inc., said in Monday's edition an engineer was driving the rear-wheel-drive, 3.7-liter Jeep Liberty Sport at about 40 mph on Oct. 18 around eight traffic cones on a 490-foot slalom in a parking lot at California Speedway.

The Jeep was rounding the seventh cone when the Liberty's driver-side wheels lifted off the pavement. The vehicle rolled over twice on the driver side as it rounded the final cone, the magazine said.

The cones are placed 70 feet apart in the slalom, which is a test of maneuverability not rollover avoidance, and requires hard braking and hard steering.

"Our slalom was not designed to induce a rollover, or even test for one," said Natalie Neff, test editor in a story on the magazine's Web site, "Its aim is to evaluate handling characteristics, especially in transitions. Typically, we find the limit when we hit a cone or spin out. We didn't set out to roll the Jeep."

AutoWeek said the Liberty was the first vehicle ever to rollover in nine years it has performed the test. DaimlerChrysler said it has not had any reports of Libertys rolling over and had found the vehicle safe in its own tests. AutoWeek said an accident investigator hired by Chrysler blamed the rollover on a combination of rough pavement and aggressive driving.

"The incident demonstrates yet again that SUVs handle differently than do cars at the limits," said AutoWeek executive editor Kevin Wilson. "It makes us nervous to see such SUVs driven as they typically are, like normal compact cars."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Jeep Liberty two stars in its latest rollover resistance ratings, meaning it has a 30-to 40 percent chance of rolling in a single-car accident.

A rating of two or three stars is typical for an SUV in the government's ratings. The rollover ratings are based on a formula that uses the vehicle's center of gravity and the width of its track not on dynamic tests.

The minivan-based Pontiac Aztek 4x4 was the only SUV to earn four of a possible five stars from NHTSA.

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