The boxy silhouette of the second-generation jeep Liberty denoted it as a rugged machine, unlike its predecessor which hid its competent mechanicals under a rounded, awkwardly proportioned disguise. Gone was the outside spare tire, bulbous hood, and four-cylinder. In was a standard V6, some extra girth, and sharp styling.
Like it’s Jeep contemporaries, the 2008-2012 Jeep Liberty has a tall grill and plastic front fenders separate from the body. The headlights are round, but are contained in rectangular bezels. View it from the side, and its top heavy look becomes apparent; one of the few aspects of the old Liberty to permeate the new look. Inset windows, chrome, and sheet metal bends keep with the theme. As mentioned before, the spare tire was removed from the tailgate leaving a conventional hatch and a cleaner appearance in its place.
The interior of the tested Altitude model was very comfortable and left good impressions. Many critics admonished the lack of soft touch materials, however the hard plastics do little to detract from the interior. Perhaps the nicest thing in the interior was the thick-rimmed leather wrapped steering wheel. Also pleasant were the comfortable leather seats and the range of adjustment for the power driver’s seat. The rear seat had a reasonable amount of space, although an intrusive hump limited legroom for center passengers. Cargo space appears to be lacking because it is. Only 26.1 cubic feet is found behind the rear seat; this expands to 62.4 cubic feet. Under the floor, a shallow compartment lined with plastic awaits muddy items.
On the road, the Liberty is extremely maneuverable and and surprisingly responsive. The hydraulically-assisted rack and pinion steering has a nice amount of resistance and exudes a sense of precision not expected to be found in such a utilitarian vehicle. The low-speed navigation of parking lots is trouble-free thanks to a tight turning circle and excellent visibility. Wind, road, and engine noise where quelled with much success and the ride was mostly comfortable, albeit a bit stiff.
Under the angular hood is a 3.7 liter V6 pushing out 210 horsepower and 235 pounds-feet of torque through a smooth four-speed automatic. This powertrain worked just adequately for 4,000-plus pound Jeep, although more power would be greatly appreciated. Two four-wheel drive systems were offered in the Liberty; the part-time Command-Trac system, and full time Selec-Trac. Fuel economy is a demerit of the Liberty. A four-wheel-drive model like the one tested swills 15 gallons of gas per mile in city driving, and 21 on the highway. Two wheel drive allows for a 1mpg improvement in both driving conditions. Towing capacity, however, dwarfs that of the Jeep’s crossover competitors at a hefty 5,000 pounds.
Kelly Blue book says the fair purchase price for a 2008 Jeep Liberty Sport is $12,314. At the other end of the price spectrum, a 2012 in Limited Jet Edition trim should leave one’s wallet $22,888 lighter.
The Jeep Liberty is not an ideal or recommendable family vehicle. Heavy, inefficient, and impractical when compared to car-based SUVs, it makes little sense to purchase one unless all-terrain capability is a priority. That aside, the Jeep is a characterful and enjoyable alternative to those SUVs who are confined to the road.