It’s true that the current Jeep Liberty, which was last restyled in 2008 to look less like a four-door Wrangler and more like the butch Cherokee it was designed to replace. Nobody ever said displacing an icon would be easy. But just how successful was that mid-life makeover, and is the Liberty worthy of consideration for those in the market for a mid-size SUV?
The Jeep Liberty have no computer-controlled techno to travel off the beaten path. All the essentials for off-road treks are present and accounted for: a torque-rich powerplant, low-range gearing, sturdy suspension with plenty of ground clearance (7.8 inches) and, of course, shift-on-the-fly Command-Trac II part-time four-wheel drive. We used the Liberty to ascend some rather unfriendly terrain in the mountainous deserts of Arizona, and it passed each successive test with ease. If you live in an area where the weather consistently throws a wrench in your plans, consider the Selec-Trac II full-time four-wheel-drive system. Naturally, it’s Trail Rated, to use Jeep’s marketing parlance.
For the record, you may think we’re knocking the Liberty for being laden with old technology. In fact, we mean just the opposite; the Liberty features all tried-and-true bits built right in to tackle the fabled Rubicon Trail.
It’s been so long since the classic sport utility vehicle was a marketplace darling that we feel the need to remind you that most of them will have absolutely zero need for all of this off-road hardware. That said, if your own personal needs do include as much time spent off roads as on, you could certainly do much worse than a proper SUV like the Liberty.
The Liberty comes with 210 horsepower, delivered at 5,200 rpm. Anything over 200 horses should be plenty for the daily grind, right? Sadly, it seems Chrysler managed to corral the 210 sickliest, overworked and over-the-hill ponies this side of True Grit. In part-throttle situations, you won’t really notice a lack of power; problem is, a progressively stronger application of the throttle seems to have no affect at all on your overall rate of forward progress. You do, however, create quite a racket in the process.
Both inside and out, the Jeep Liberty is a sport utility vehicle in the classic sense. Exterior styling was done with nothing but a compass and a protractor… though in an age of evermore swoopy and organic styling, some squared-off, broad-shouldered machinery is a welcome diversion. On the inside, there’s plenty more straight edges, along with a smattering of tough-wearing cloth (leather is optional) on seats that put your body into a bus-like sit-up-and-beg driving position. Suffice it to say, there is a lot of hard plastic. On the positive side, all buttons are within easy reach and can be operated with gloves on, the gauges and digital displays are all easy to read at a glance and there’s plenty of room for four occupants and their cargo. Just don’t expect much style or fancy technology.