2010 Liberty New Car Test Drive
The Jeep Liberty is quite capable off road, one of the best in its class, with terrific off-road prowess and bold, upright styling. It's tall and angular, somewhat reminiscent of the much-loved, rugged but crude 1990s Jeep Cherokee. It rides nice and smooth, as well, but maintains the ruggedness for which Jeep is famous.
All Liberty models come with a 3.7-liter V6 that makes 210 horsepower. A four-speed automatic is standard; but in these days of six-speed automatics, the four-speed is somewhat antiquated, and we don't think it gets the most out of the 3.7-liter V6, an engine that 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.
Jeep has made an effort to refine the Liberty and add premium options. Snow Belt drivers will appreciate the full-time all-wheel drive system available in addition to the part-time system. Both four-wheel-drive systems make the Liberty highly capable off road, and they are aided by Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.
Jeep engineers set out to give the Liberty pleasant road manners and, when it comes to ride quality, they succeeded. The Liberty rides firmly, but irons out most bumps quite well and is stable on the highway. The Liberty sacrifices handling for off-road prowess, however. 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.
For 2010 the changes are minor in nature. Front seat active head restraints are standard on all models, and the Limited trim level has leather seating surfaces and power and heated front seats. There have also been changes to some option groups and there are some detail feature enhancements.
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.
The Jeep Liberty is offered in three trim levels. The Sport 2WD ($23,255), Sport 4WD ($24,865), Limited ($27,125), and Limited 4WD ($28,735) are available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The Renegade ($27,860) is available only with four-wheel drive. The lone engine is a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.
The base four-wheel-drive system is Jeep's Command Trac, a part-time system designed for off-road use. Also offered is Selec-Trac II ($445), a full-time system that allows use of four-wheel drive on dry pavement. Both systems have low-range gearing. The Sport features include cloth upholstery, air conditioning, tilt steering wheel, 65/35 split folding rear seats, heated power mirrors, power locks, power windows, remote keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo and auxiliary input jack, vehicle information center, and P225/75R16 all-season tires on aluminum wheels. Floor mats come standard. Sport options include a Sky Slider canvas sunroof ($1,200); a regular sunroof ($850); Class III towing package with trailer sway control ($545); 235/70R16 all-terrain tires ($180-350, depending on other equipment); skid plates ($225) for the 4x4 model; and the Popular Equipment Group ($995), which includes cargo compartment cover, fog lamps, roof rails, cruise control, external temperature display and compass, and deep-tinted glass.
The Renegade includes skid plates for the transmission, transfer case, front suspension, and engine; transmission oil cooler; tow hooks; and fender flares. It is fitted for the more rugged off-roading experience. Its options are similar to those of the Sport.
The Limited comes standard with a 368-watt Infinity sound system with eight speakers, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with redundant audio and vehicle information center controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror, roof rails, six-way power driver's seat, fold-flat front passenger seat, universal garage door opener, anti-theft alarm, fog lamps, and 235/65R17 all-season tires on aluminum wheels. Limited options include an AM/FM/CD/DVD system with HDD navigation ($1,505): the Comfort and Convenience Group, which includes automatic climate control, rear park assist, and remote start ($590); and the Premium Wheel Group, which includes P235/60R18 all-season tires on chrome clad alloy wheels ($1,125). Most of the options available for the Sport are also available for the Limited, where applicable.
Safety features include dual front airbags, plus head-protecting side-curtain airbags with rollover sensors, front side airbags for torso protection, and active front-seat head restraints. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes with brake assist, hill start assist, traction control, and electronic stability control with rollover mitigation. The antilock brakes have rough road detection; when rough conditions are detected, the system holds the brake pulses longer to better slow the vehicle. Hill descent control is standard on 4x4 models. Optional safety features include trailer sway control and rear obstacle detection.
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