At the Fiat-Chrysler business plan meeting on November 4, 2009, the Jeep Liberty was said to be getting a refresh for 2010. So what’s new? Larger floor mats, a cabin air filtration system, an “ECO” lamp in the instrument cluster, and an auto-up passenger window. The most significant changes are leather seat trim, heated seats, and Bluetooth for the Limited model. In my book, those changes don’t amount to a refresh. They’re the normal tweaks that Jeep should be making every new model year.
What the Liberty desperately needs is the new 3.7-liter Pentastar V-6 that makes 80 more hp than the current engine. It also needs a new transmission with more than four forward gears. I was also bothered by the poor seating position with a seat that’s too high and a steering wheel that is too far away. While some call the sliding fabric roof a gimmick, to me it’s a feature that is a perfect match for the Jeep brand.
We’re slated to get a new Liberty in 2013, to be built on a Fiat platform. Let’s hope there’s a wholesale improvement to the powertrain, the interior, and the styling. Jeep has proven that it can balance on-road practicality with off-road ability with the new Grand Cherokee and what it needs with the Liberty is a vehicle that delivers similar character in a slight smaller, less luxurious, more affordable package.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
I agree that when Liberty first came out it was kind of a woman’s Jeep (I mean, my grandma drives one). The first time I drove this Liberty, while exiting the parking garage, I was told by the gate attendant, “That is the ugliest Liberty ever, sorry man!” I disagree. I see it as more of a blank canvas. As it is, I liked the two-tone gray with matte black hood. The interior was well done, and the seats were unexpectedly comfortable.
Now the creative director in me takes over. I could see myself buying this Liberty with some added accessories. First, the Liberty would need a lift kit from ProComp or Fab Tech, with a nerf bar or Dee-Zee Side Steps. Next, I’d ditch the factory wheels for a color-complimentary FUEL D505 Gauge wheels in Matte Black. I’d replace the front bumper with something along the lines of a “Stealth Base Front Bumper” from Road Armor. With these items, I’d be ready for some adventure on the trails and around town.
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
This is one of the few compact Jeep models I’d consider buying, largely because it retains some rock-crawling credentials underneath the boxy skin.
Overall, this SUV neither won my heart nor offended me. The steering was very numb and over-boosted, but the suspension tuning yielded a compliant, comfortable ride over some of Michigan’s worst roads. Sure, the interior plastics were hard, but controls and cubbies were logically arranged, and I heard nary a rattle over a long stretch of washboard roads. My biggest complaint lies with the powertrain: this 3.7-liter V-6 is beyond anemic.
Would I buy a Liberty Renegade loaded to the gills like this one? Perhaps not, but a four-wheel-drive Liberty Sport, fitted with the sliding sunroof, a towing package, and the popular equipment package comes in with an MSRP of approximately $28,000, which doesn’t strike me as unreasonable.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
The Liberty is floaty on the highway yet also has a very bouncy ride over bumps. This SUV seems to prefer the slower speeds of country roads — until the road curves, that is. The Liberty is also far from quick. And a four-speed automatic? Welcome to 1991, Jeep Liberty!
Still, the giant canvas sunroof does wonders to improve the overall experience of the Liberty. The interior definitely fits the rugged theme, and assembly quality seems to be quite good. Personally, I’d never choose a Liberty over a four-door Wrangler, but if someone wanted more cargo space and a slightly more refined driving experience for about the same money as a Wrangler Unlimited, the Liberty could be a justifiable purchase.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
My co-workers have done a good job pointing out the Liberty’s practical problems but the real trouble lies on an existential level. The Liberty just isn’t cool; that definitely wasn’t the case with its predecessor, the 1984-2001 Cherokee. That SUV is certainly crude and slow by modern standards, but to this day its rugged yet refined styling perfectly captures the Jeep ethos. Even with a neat matte-black-on-silver paint job and a canvas roof, the Liberty just doesn’t have that sort of curb appeal.
Fiat has proven with its new 500 that it knows how to treat an icon. Let’s hope it sprinkles some of that same magic dust on the Jeep lineup and, come 2013, transforms the Liberty into a reborn Cherokee.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2010 Jeep Liberty Renegade
Base price (with destination): $28,605
Price as tested: $34,365
3.7-liter V-6 engine
4-speed automatic transmission
Selec-Trac II Active full-time 4WD system
Electronic stability program
Hill start assist
Hill decent control
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Tire pressure monitoring system
60/40 rear seat split
Audio jack input
Sirius satellite radio
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Options on this vehicle:
Navigation convenience group — $2095
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
8 Infinity premium speakers and subwoofer
Uconnect phone with voice command
Media center 730N CD/DVD/HDD/Nav radio
30GB hard drive
6.5-inch touch screen
Comfort seating group — $1395
Leather-trimmed bucket seats
Heated front seats
6-way power driver’s seat with memory
Sky slider full open roof — $1075
Side roof rails delete
Black roof molding
Premium group 1 — $650
Automatic climate control
Parksense rear park assist system
Trailer tow class III group — $545
Full-size spare tire
Class III receiver hitch
7-pin wiring harness
7-to-4 pin wiring adaptor
Trailer sway control
Heavy duty engine cooling
Key options not on vehicle:
15 / 21 / 17 mpg
Size: 3.7L V-6
Horsepower: 210 hp @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 235 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Curb weight: 4278 lb
Wheels/tires:16 x 7-inch aluminum wheels
235/70R16 Goodyear all-terrain tires