First Drive: Jeep's Full 2011 Lineup

A. J. Mueller

2011 Jeep Liberty

What's New? Not much, really. Earlier this year Jeep unveiled the Liberty Renegade, a throwback trim level designed to appeal to off-road enthusiasts. Renegade models include skid plates, hill descent and hill start assist, more aggressive tires, tow hooks, a display for individual tire pressures (quite helpful when airing down tires for a trail), and fog lamps. For buyers more interested in upscale urban transportation (yes, that's a full-fledged oxymoron with the Liberty), the Liberty Jet offers 20-inch polished wheels, blacked-out headlights, a bunch of chrome exterior trim, and available dark grey leather seating. All Liberty models get the new corporate steering wheel that debuted on the 2011 Grand Cherokee.

How Does it Drive? Since nothing has changed in the suspension or powertrain departments, we didn't bother driving the 2011 Liberty on the road. We opted for two different off-road loops and were reminded how competent the Liberty is when the road turns muddy and rocky. It won't be as capable as a Wrangler Rubicon since there are no locking differentials offered, but the Liberty is a convenient size on the trail. If Jeep dropped the Pentastar V-6 and a more advanced transmission (read: a gearbox with more than four forward gears) in the Liberty, it would even have pretty solid credentials for road driving.

Do I Want One? The Liberty will soldier on until 2013 when a Fiat-based vehicle replaces it. If you're the type of driver that requires off-road capability and wants a proven platform, the Liberty is a reasonable choice. There's some aftermarket support that can enhance its off-road capability, though nowhere near the same support Wrangler enjoys, and it's not a terribly expensive vehicle. Buy now if you fear the level of four-wheel drive capability will decrease once the Liberty moves to a Fiat platform.

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