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2008 Jeep Liberty Review - First Drive

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2008
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Photographers: Ken Brubaker

A new breed of Jeep brand vehicles is coming down the pike, as evidenced by the introduction of the lackluster Patriot and even less jeeplike Compass. With those vehicles' ad campaigns and marketing drives clearly opposite of what the Jeep brand stands for, it's refreshing to greet the completely redesigned Liberty and realize that all is not lost. This Jeep can still wear the name and do a real trail.

When the Liberty was introduced in 2002, the cartoonlike styling caught many off guard. Gone was the famed XJ Cherokee heritage and renowned off-road capability, and instead an IFS-equipped bubble car emerged looking for the elusive female market. While not a bad rig for IFS, it would never replace the XJ. Even with the fantastic addition of the diesel engine option we tested, the Liberty just hummed along without any great reviews as it was an OK Jeep for a multitude of uses.

Enter the new-generation Liberty, which is lower, wider, longer, and heavier than its predecessor and looks like a baby Commander from the front face to the obnoxiously jutting lower-chin styling in an attempt to reach the X-box generation. Luckily, Jeep engineers saved the day by putting enough 4x4 capability in it to warrant the Trail Rated badge, although it could seriously use a couple inches of lift, a real locker, and a 4:1 transfer-case package. Inside, the comfort level increases, while ergonomics also gain a few points over the old style. The newest addition is the full sardine-can sunroof which auto retracts down the whole length of the Liberty. This one-of-a-kind option makes it so much more Jeeplike we were tempted to remove the doors. Thankfully a six-speed stick is available instead of just an automatic!

Since the entire vehicle is near-new and the thrust towards female buyers seems to be working, we think the baby Commander, er, Liberty will enjoy huge success, from the more classic styling (no, those still aren't round headlights) to the refined IFS and new five-link rear. Even though the spare tire is now located underneath, inside and out the package will be more palatable to a wider audience, and the true mechanical underpinnings will help thrust this Jeep up and over any obstacle it can handle.

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The interior is all new and quite nice, with most of the controls where they belong. Unfortunately some ding-dong upstairs demanded that all DaimlerChrysler vehicles would have the worst stalk configuration ever instead of the best available system which they already have. Yes, the cruise and such are now on a Toyota-esque stalk instead of integrated on the steering wheel. Thankfully Daimler is now gone, and the company is simply Chrysler. Maybe that will help.
Vehicle {{{2008 Jeep Liberty}}}
Base Price $26,785
Engine 3.7L V-6
Horsepower 210
Torque (lb-ft) 235
Transmission NSG370 six-speed manual, 42RLE four-speed automatic
Transfer Case MP1522 Command Trac or MP3022 Select Trac II
Curb Weight (lb) 4,222
EPA Mileage (city/hwy. mpg) 16/22
Wheelbase (in) 106.1
Length (in) 176.9
Width (in) 72.4
Height (in) 70.1
Seating Capacity 5
Head Room (in, front/rear) 38.5/40.3
Leg Room (in, front/rear) 40.8/38.8
Max. Cargo Vol. (cu. ft.) 64.2
Approach Angle (deg, without/with air dam) 39.1/29.0
Breakover Angle (deg) 20.4
Departure Angle (deg) 32.1
Ground Clearance (in) 7.4

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