The Jeep Liberty is a practical SUV that doesn't hesitate to step off the pavement. True to Jeep's legendary 4x4 heritage, the Liberty offers two Jeep Trail Rated four-wheel-drive systems, giving it terrific off-road prowess. It's tall and angular, with bold, upright styling reminiscent of the rugged 1990s Jeep Cherokee. Unlike the old Cherokee, however, the Liberty rides nice and smooth. Yet it maintains the ruggedness that made Jeep famous.
The new 2011 Jeep Liberty Jet brings a unique upscale appearance to the line. The 2011 Jeep Renegade, introduced midway through the 2010 model year, is equipped with features that position it between Sport and Limited with an emphasis on off-road equipment. Renegade boasts a premium, rugged appearance and comes with skid plates, unique color fender flares, fascia and headlamps.
New for 2011, all Liberty models feature a new steering wheel with redundant controls for radio. Three new Media Centers are available on 2011 Liberty models, also.
The Jeep Liberty is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 210 horsepower. A 4-speed automatic is standard. In these days of 6-speed automatics, the 4-speed is somewhat antiquated, and we don't think it gets the most out of the V6, which could use a little help. When it comes to fuel economy, the Liberty's weight and powertrain provide numbers that are on the lower end of the class: The federal Environmental Protection Agency rates Jeep Liberty 4WD 15/21 mpg City/Highway.
The two four-wheel-drive systems, Command-Trac II and Selec-Trac II, make the Jeep Liberty highly capable off road, and they are further aided by Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.
The Liberty rides firmly, but irons out most bumps quite well and is stable on the highway. The Liberty sacrifices on-road handling for off-road prowess. The Liberty leans in turns and has a floppy feeling in quick changes of direction. Still, it's rugged and capable off road; if we were heading up a rough logging road, we'd be pleased to be in a Liberty.
Inside, the Liberty has plenty of room for five. However, we view it as not quite up to expectations in terms of materials quality and fit and finish, with a lot of hard-plastic surfaces. Still, it's not an unpleasant cockpit. Cargo room is a plus. The Liberty's second-row seats fold flat, as does the front passenger seat, to provide plenty of room for hauling boxes, bikes and life's other accessories.
With a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, rugged off-road capability and plenty of cargo space, the Jeep Liberty is a good choice for small families or couples that tow boats or go camping. If your travels don't often take you off-road, other small SUVs will deliver better fuel economy and better handling, but few will match the Liberty's capabilities.