2012 Liberty New Car Test Drive
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.
The Jeep Liberty is offered in three trim levels. The Sport 2WD ($23,250), Sport 4WD ($24,865), Limited ($26,650), and Limited 4WD ($28,250) are available with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The Renegade ($27,250) is available only with four-wheel drive. The only engine is a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6, mated to a 4-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 all-wheel drive on dry pavement. Both systems have low-range gearing. Liberty 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; skid plates ($225). The Popular Equipment Group ($995) includes cargo compartment cover, fog lamps, roof rails, cruise control, external temperature display and compass, and deep-tinted glass.
Liberty 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. Options are similar to those of the Sport.
Liberty Limited comes 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. Navigation systems include an AM/FM/CD/DVD system with HDD navigation, and Uconnect and a similar system with Garmin navigation. The Comfort and Convenience Group includes automatic climate control, rear park assist, and remote start ($595). The Premium Wheel Group features P235/60R18 all-season tires on 18-inch chrome clad alloy wheels ($1,125). Most of the options available for the Sport are also available for the Limited, where applicable.
Liberty Jet is an appearance package available on Sport ($995) and Limited ($1,495) models. Exterior features on the new Liberty Jet include 20-inch polished aluminum wheels fitted with P245/50R20 all-season tires; chrome lower fascia opening, body side moldings, license plate brow, roof rails and mirror caps; blacked-out headlamps; and unique Jet badging. Inside, the Jeep Liberty Jet edition boasts a 9-speaker premium audio system; a standard security system that includes supplemental side-curtain air bags and Park Sense rear park assist; available Dark Slate Gray leather seating with accent stitching; heated front seats, available with six-way power function for the driver and two-way for the passenger; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; and one-touch up/down power windows.
(All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety features on all Liberty models 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.