June 19, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 24 February 2011 13:40
With its rugged demeanor, short approach angles and tall, square stance, the 2011 Jeep Liberty is what the Liberty has been since its introduction nine years ago: an uncompromising sport-utility vehicle most at home in the back country. The ride is neither smooth nor supple, fuel economy and performance are uninspiring, and the handling is ungainly — though once you’re used to it, you don’t notice it much.Although not as capable off-road as Jeep’s legendary Wrangler, the Liberty is designed to hold its own in the roughest terrain. Our Limited Edition 4X4 was equipped with all the off-road bells and whistles, including roll mitigation, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, all-speed traction control, and optional ($445) Selec-Trac II active full-time all-wheel-drive system.
The Liberty makes sense for two types of drivers: those who actually intend to exploit its off-road prowess, and those who want to project a rough-and-ready image. A survivalist might appreciate the Liberty’s ability to leave almost everyone else behind in an apocalyptic stampede into the wilderness.
For conventional drivers, the Liberty’s main appeal is the view from the top. Drivers and passengers sit up high, and visibility to all corners is quite good — better, we thought, than in Jeep’s luxurious and acclaimed Grand Cherokee.
The Liberty replaced the old Cherokee, a beloved SUV little changed from the days when American Motors Corp. built Jeeps. Like the Cherokee, it splits the difference between the rugged, functionally challenged Wrangler and the higher-end Jeep SUVs. Like the Cherokee, the Liberty has been a strong seller for Chrysler Corp. But good luck finding a used Cherokee as dressed-up as our Liberty was.
Standard features on the Liberty Limited Edition 4X4 include the aforementioned off-road enhancements, plus heated power-adjustable front seats, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, tire-pressure monitoring and power windows. The base price was $28,250, $5,000 more than the base rear-drive Liberty Sport (which we wouldn’t recommend for New England winter driving; we used our 4X4 system extensively during our week with the Liberty in early February).
But options, headlined by a Sky Slider full open roof ($1,200) and media center, including navigation ($1,035), brought our Liberty’s price to $35,075. For all that, it had the same engine-transmission combination — 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V-6 and 4-speed automatic — that comes with the least expensive Liberty.
On a number of levels, the Liberty lags other compact SUVs, such as the Kia Sportage and Mitsubishi Outlander. It’s rougher, noisier and less nimble, and gulps more gasoline. For all the Liberty’s superficial limitations as a daily driver, the market has been smiling on it: sales increased 36 percent in January compared with January 2010, according to Chrysler.
We found its trucky personality strangely compelling, as if seven decades of Jeep heritage endowed it with a little something extra. Maybe it’s because even in the full-dress mode of our test car, the Liberty never lets you forget it really would rather be deep in the woods.
Engine: 3.7-liter V-6, 210 horsepower, 246 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Drive: all-wheel with hi-lo setting
Weight: 4,290 lb.
Suspension: short and long arm front, independent; solid live axle rear
Wheels: 17x7-inch painted alloy
Tires: P235/65R17 103S
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 25.2 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 60.9 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 5,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 19.5 gallons
Fuel economy: 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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