To many, the brand name Jeep is synonymous with the term "off-road." So it should come as no surprise that the all-new Liberty is a winner when the going gets tough. With short front and rear overhangs, and Jeep's tenacious Selec-Trac four-wheel drive system (available only with the V-6), the Liberty is a veritable mountain goat. Still, the real beauty of this buggy (and we use that term deliberately - check out those headlights) is how ready and willing it is to tidy up and hit the tarmac. Dish out for the optional 210HP, 3.7 liter V-6 (a 154HP, 2.4 liter V-4 is standard), and you'll want not for power. Nor does it disappoint on curving roads, often the bane of SUVs. With a new independent front suspension, and taut, sporty driving feel, you might just forget that at its heart, the Liberty is a Jeep. At which point, it's definitely time for a little off-road adventure.

FORD EXPLORER
$24,200 - $34,085
(800) 392-3673 or www.fordoutfitters.com
Street Smarts: 9
Appetite for Chilly Adventure: 8
Style: 8
Versatility: 8
Value: 9

The completely redesigned '02 model makes its predecessor a pretty forgettable vehicle.

After last year's much-publicized tire problems, you'd think Ford would want us to forget all about the Explorer. Well, we can forget all about the Explorer; the old Explorer, that is. Which isn't very difficult, as the completely redesigned '02 model makes its predecessor a pretty forgettable vehicle. With a new frame, suspension, transmission, and yes, tires, the Explorer becomes more responsive and comfortable both on road and off. The interior hasn't escaped the reworking: Materials have been upgraded, and there's extra room all 'round. Those looking to actually, umm, explore in the new Explorer will appreciate the 9.2 inches of minimum ground clearance, as much as two inches more than the competition. Looking for a better mid-sized SUV under 30 grand? Forget about it.