2008 Jeep Liberty: Vast Improvement over previous Liberty
True to its tough, capable Jeep off-road lineage, the Jeep Liberty was designed to actually venture off-road -- a trait not shared by many of its lighter-weight, car-based sport-utility competitors. It does so confidently thanks to steep approach and departure angles and exceptional suspension travel and articulation. Combined with an independent front and solid axle rear suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, a new or used Liberty works best for those who want a versatile, go-anywhere utility vehicle and plan to take advantage of its all-terrain prowess on occasion.
The current Jeep Liberty was introduced for 2008 and, addressing the chief concerns of the first generation, rides and handles better on the road, has more passenger room and offers more convenience features. The cute styling of the first Liberty has been replaced with a more traditional, square-jawed Jeep look, and the cabin boasts more available luxury features such as rain-sensing wipers, remote starting, driver memory settings and a power-sliding sunroof made of canvas that allows a huge opening. There's also more room for backseat passengers, thanks to a 2-inch wheelbase stretch.
Underneath, the newest Liberty has a revised suspension (independent front, multilink rear) that provides a smoother ride and more confident handling on road, while off-road ability is still a strong point thanks to traditional Jeep features such as generous ground clearance, plenty of suspension travel and aggressive approach and departure angles.
As before, trim levels consist of the base Sport and luxury-themed Limited, and the sole engine choice is a 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V6. Sport models offer a choice of either a six-speed manual or four-speed automatic, while the Limited is automatic only. Buyers can choose either two- or four-wheel drive for either trim.
Still, even with all the improvements, the latest Liberty falls short of chief rivals such as the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser in terms of overall performance. Furthermore, for those who don't require such serious off-road ability, models such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 offer much better fuel efficiency and more agile on-road handling along with plenty of room for passengers and cargo.
The only engine for 2008 is a carryover 3.7-liter V6 that makes 210 horsepower. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional. In these days of six-speed automatics, the four-speed is somewhat antiquated, and we don't think it gets the most out of the 3.7-liter V6, an engine that could use a little help. When it comes to fuel economy, the Liberty's weight and powertrain provide numbers that are on the lower end of the class.
Jeep has made an effort to refine the Liberty and add premium options. Snow Belt drivers will appreciate the new full-time all-wheel drive system available in addition to the carryover part-time system. Both four-wheel-drive systems make the Liberty highly capable off road, and they are aided by the addition of Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control. Within its class, only the Nissan Xterra can claim as much off-road capability.
Cargo room is a plus. The Liberty's second row seats fold flat, as does the front passenger seat, to provide plenty of room for hauling boxes, bikes and life's other accessories.
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