By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
Now in its second generation, today's Jeep Liberty – despite modest enhancements for 2011 – isn't feeling the love from its design team at Jeep. As the successor to the now-iconic Cherokee (with heads bowed, we pause to reflect the good times we had...) both first and second generations of the Liberty may seemingly offer more luxury and refinement, but the Jeep fan base notices little beyond their expanded mass. Compounding the weight gain is virtually no ground clearance, and to fit true off-road-rated rubber you absolutely must lift the vehicle. The above "good" news is marginalized even further by the 3.7-liter V6 retained by the Liberty's product team, when every other RWD Jeep has been graced with the company's vastly better 3.6-liter six. An all-new Liberty replacement is reportedly due within the next two model years – and we can't wait.
If you enjoy the Jeep brand but regard a Grand Cherokee as too much of a financial stretch, and the down-market Patriot and Compass seem more trial than trail, the Liberty might be your cup of green tea. And both trail-rated 4WD systems – Command-Trac II and Selec-Trac II – provide a leg-up on the Jeep Liberty's car-based competition. That said, we'd caution against overspending; as you get closer to $30K a Grand Cherokee is much more compelling in both its utility and sport.
If you prefer to take your Jeep in pure, unadulterated doses, both the new Grand Cherokee and newish Wrangler deliver the goods in a far more credible fashion. In today's market a carmaker's product needs to deliver at least one thing incredibly well; today's Liberty delivers, at best, mid-level performance both on-road and off.
Available in three trims – Sport, Limited and Limited Jet – the 2012 Jeep Liberty enjoys a reduced MSRP ($26,960 plus destination) for 2012, which essentially throws in the transportation fee of $795 from the previous year. New color offerings – Mineral Gray, Canyon Brown Pearl, Rescue Green Pearl, True Blue Pearl and Black Forest Green Pearl – will imbue your new Liberty with either off-road machismo or patriotic fervor. Owners are reportedly athletic and, we hope, imaginative.
Driving Impressions The Jeep Liberty suffers a platform whose time and market have come and gone. Those wanting a true off-road platform can look to Jeep's own 4-door Wrangler, while those preferring...urban comforts and on-road composure can opt for numerous car-based crossovers from Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and (even) Jeep. That said, if the Liberty's combination of towing and off-roading maintains an appeal, you'll not be disappointed by the Liberty's on-road composure. It is ultimately more awkward than the new Grand Cherokee, and its ride suffers when compared to the Wrangler Unlimited, but within the context of a dual-purpose SUV the Liberty is inoffensive. For the few prospects truly interested in a new Liberty, that dynamic – or lack thereof – will probably suffice.
Sky Slider Full Open Roof
If there remains one compelling feature in the Jeep Liberty menu, it is the continued availability of the Sky Slider Full Open Roof. A canvas roof that opens in much the same way as a sunshade, the Sky Slider fully retracts, opening the roof for both front and rear-seat passengers. As one longtime Jeep enthusiast noted, to enjoy the outdoors you need to see the outdoors; few things allow a better appreciation of outdoor scenery than the Sky Slider. And at just $1,200, it is less than one-third the cost of Fiat's up-charge for the 500 Cabriolet.
Selec-Trac II Active Full-Time 4WD
This electronically controlled full-time 4WD system provides the driver the choice between 2WD and full-time 4WD (Auto). When 4WD is selected, Selec-Trac II distributes torque to both front and rear axles in virtually all road – or off-road – conditions. And for those with motorhomes, Selec-Trac II's neutral mode allows flat towing. For under $500, why wouldn't you? Selec-Trac is a registered trademark of Chrysler LLC.
Most of the Liberty team's interior capital was expended on the Limited Jet, new in 2011. An attempt to provide an urban environment to this most suburban of Jeeps, the Jet boasts a 9-speaker audio system, a standard security system with side-curtain airbags, and available Dark Slate gray leather seating with accent stitching. And at Chrysler, the leather-wrapped steering wheel is becoming ubiquitous, a fact glove makers must loathe. Ultimately, the environment is adequate, storage reasonable and, thankfully, versatility intact with a generous rear hatch and folding rear seats.
In its basic proportion the Liberty remains attractive, a fact highlighted by Jeep's design team and (recent) concept variants of same. A modest lift and more aggressive off-road rubber make a tremendous difference in the Liberty's stance and athleticism. Regrettably, on the showroom floor the Liberty's mass overwhelms the rubber, while brightwork places the visual elements in a neither-fish-nor-fowl stylistic quagmire. We will, however, offer a round of applause for the Liberty's Sky Slider full-length sunroof. If out in the great outdoors, this is a beautiful way of sharing its greatness with your passengers.
The 2012 Jeep Liberty remains, thankfully, a box. And while its 4,000-plus pounds effectively mask any real efficiency, there's a lot to be said for 26 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat, and some 62 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. Beyond that, 4-wheel disc braking is a benefit, as is a standard V6. And despite its inadequacies, the V6 constitutes a blessing when compared to the lackluster fours of the Patriot and Compass.
The 2012 Jeep Liberty may not be a Wrangler, but with Selec-Trac II (featuring full-time AWD, 4WD Lo and a rearward-biased torque split) and an optional Sky Slider sunroof, it can come very close to duplicating Wrangler fun – if not its functionality. If opting for 4WD, it also pays to buy some extra protection in the guise of Jeep's Skid Plate Group, too cheap at a suggested retail of $225. And we also elected to check the Trailer Towing box (which includes a 2-inch receiver hitch), given the Liberty's 5,000-pound towing capability. Finally, in our demonstration build we popped for the Popular Equipment Group (includes roof rails, cargo cover, foglights and 225/75R16 rubber) because it's popular.
Strapped with the underperforming 3.7-liter V6, there is no joy in Jeepville – the Liberty product planners have struck out. With an additional six cubic inches of displacement when compared to Jeep's new 3.6 liter, the Liberty lump delivers 80 fewer horsepower! To its credit, the torque deficit isn't that extreme (235 for the 3.7 versus. 260 for the 3.6), but that doesn't make the logic any more, uh, logical. Obviously, Jeep execs don't want to spend the dollars to reengineer this platform for a new powerplant. Their hesitancy to invest should on some level guide your decision to invest. Finally, the horsepower deficit isn't helped by last century's 4-speed automatic propelling this century's 4,000-plus pounds. Give us an extra gear here!
210 horsepower at 5,200 rpm
235 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 16/22 (2WD), 15/21 (4WD)
Buyers aren't exactly lined up for this particular Jeep recipe (whereas the remodeled Compass is, comparatively, standing room only), so you should expect little in the way of price increases, and increasingly generous incentives as the Liberty works its way toward an all-new replacement. Our Sport 4x4 has a base of roughly $26,000. With the aforementioned options – Skid Plate Group, Trailer Towing package and Popular Equipment Group – the total came to $28K. Subtract the $2,500 regional incentive in effect at the time of this report and you're left with a transaction price prior to negotiation of approximately $26,000. Before negotiating, check Kelley Blue Book's Fair Purchase Price for a reliable indicator of what consumers are paying in your market area. And plan on investing in your Jeep Liberty for the long haul, as short-term resale figures are woefully below those of its immediate competition (Nissan Xterra, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4). Thankfully, the Jeep Liberty is built for the long haul – and hauling.
By Ethicius (TX) on Friday, June 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "Very comfortable Could be great vehicle but not."
Cons: "Worthless piece of junk."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have owned orv's on two continents for 45 years. This Jeep is junk pure and simple. Nothing but dangling worthless electronics and dangerous Jeep refuses to honor 100K warranty and has committed fraud on many fronts."
1 person out of 5 found this review helpful
By Freebird (FL) on Friday, May 31, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive, comfortable, safe, solid vehicle."
Cons: "MPG in city, but pros outweigh cons."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Lots of torque, pulls my trailer without any effort. The ride feels like a much bigger vehicle. Makes me feel safe when my grandchildren are in the car. Living in Florida, rain storms are frequent and I actually welcome them asI have never felt so safe in any other vehicle. The tires are just planted to the ground, no hydro planning or worries about flooding out. Easy to park and I love the big square windows. Visibility is great and all the windows roll all of the way down. The back is easily accessible for our dog and we easily transport our bikes on outings. Hard to believe they won't be making the Liberty anymore, however I believe that the longevity of this vehicle will easily surpass my expectations. If you haven't guessed by know, I love my Jeep!"
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Katie (CA) on Saturday, May 18, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Comfortable and reliable"
Cons: "The cup holders are too big"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"I purchased a 2012 Jeep Liberty 4x4 with the Lattitude package 9 months ago. So far it's been a very good suv. The four wheel drive is excellent. I've gone through some really deep snow with ease. I've also been able to tow a fairly large trailer quite easily. I have the leather interior and it's very comfortable. I haven't had any issues at all. I've perfprmed 2 oil changes and rotated my tires once. The only thing I can even think to complain about is the cup holders are too big for most drinks. Overall I would buy another Jeep in a heartbeat."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By GR (OK) on Tuesday, May 07, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 19,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliability, exterior look, feels good driving it"
Cons: "back-seat comfort, MPG"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"First, I want to it to be clear that I got an excellent deal on my white Liberty Latitude Edition. I am happy with it, and proud to drive it. BUT, I highly regret not spending a bit more to get the 4x4 version. If you're considering the Liberty, either get the 4x4 version or get a different vehicle entirely. What's the point of getting a heavy SUV that only gets about 16mpg in the city if you aren't going to have the benefit of getting to drive it in mud and snow when you need/want to? Sure, with the decent ground clearance I can drive in heavy rain and deep water just fine in my RWD Latitude, but you won't see me driving around in heavy snow (like I occasionally need to where I live). I like its overall exterior look. I'm a fan of the military-style Jeep look, and I like the look of the chrome accents and wheels (standard with the Latitude) on the white paint. It's a classy-looking SUV that I'm proud to drive, but like I said, I'm kicking myself for not getting the more capable 4X4 version. The interior is acceptable but nothing to brag about. It's straightforward. Black leather seats, the front two are heated. Retractable sun roof is pretty cool. Boring radio/CD interface. I'm not a showy person, so I was fine with the modesty of the interior. Back-seat ride is pretty bumpy, and there are no air vents for back-seat passengers. However, they do fold completely flat and leave you with quite a bit of room to haul stuff inside. I haven't towed anything with my Liberty yet, but I plan to. From the research I've done, it shouldn't be a problem pulling modestly heavy trailers. The Tow/Haul button comes standard and keeps you in lower gears longer to pull the extra weight. Last but not least, critics say the Liberty motor is dated and "behind the times" because its big V6 isn't putting out enough horsepower compared to the competition. What they usually fail to mention is the reliability that comes with buying a vehicle with an engine that has been in production for several years. You know what you're getting with this motor. (And while on the topic of reliability, being a Jeep means there's quality Mopar products scattered throughout the vehicle.)"
By jk (NY) on Tuesday, April 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 11,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "fun to drive"
Cons: "bad day to day mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4
"It's a shame that a US car shows 10mpg in day to day city driving. On the parkway it does a respectable 21mpg. I've used this to tow a medium sized, 4000lb RV trailer, and it did very well."
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By Lynne B (NY) on Monday, March 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 91,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the 4th Jeep I've owned. They are great vehicles, reliable, dependable and fun to drive. Lots of zip and they handle well. Also, they are great in the snow. I have run all of my Jeeps to well over 100K miles, a couple to over 200K. They required very little repairs, only the obvious wear items like brakes, exhaust, tires and later on suspension parts but again, that was wear-items. I will probably always drive Jeeps. Great car for a good price."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful