The 2011 model year was a significant one for Jeep. The Compass, Patriot, and Wrangler all received meaningful upgrades and, of course, the new Grand Cherokee debuted. With the Liberty SUV, however, there are few changes in 2011. Instead, the Liberty must rely on its bold Jeep styling and "real SUV" appeal to win over potential crossover buyers in the $20,000-$30,000 price range.
The Liberty is a five-seat SUV that is powered by a V-6 engine and offers four-wheel-drive as an alternative to the standard rear-wheel drive. Jeep's Liberty is mechanically related to the Dodge Nitro SUV. Even with two special edition models this year, the Liberty has become dated. This is one Jeep that is best considered if dealers in your region are offering substantial discounts.
Under the hood of every Jeep Liberty is an old 3.7-liter V-6 making 210 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 235 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm. Fuel economy on rear-wheel-drive models is 16/22 mpg city/highway. All Liberty SUVs have a four-speed automatic transmission. Go for a four-wheel-drive Liberty and the EPA drops the city and highway numbers by one mpg in each category. For comparison, the admittedly more expensive and completely new 2011 Grand Cherokee with a more powerful V-6 and four-wheel drive is rated 16/22 mpg.
Two special editions are new for the 2011 model year. One celebrates Jeep's 70th anniversary, while the other, called the Jet, gives the Liberty a more urban and upscale appearance. In the 2010 model year, Jeep introduced the Renegade trim, which takes a different approach to keeping the SUV fresh. The Liberty Renegade has a more rugged look that is backed up by off-roading equipment like Hill-start Assist and Hill-decent Control.
Also new this year is a different steering wheel and standard steering wheel mounted audio controls. Jeep also hopes buyers will be enticed by the three new colors: Blackberry Pearl Coat, Bright White Clear Coat, and Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl Coat. A Garmin-based navigation system with a 6.5-inch touchscreen and a 30 gigabyte hard drive is now available. If you can't afford or don't want a navigation system, a new radio and infotainment system using that 6.5-inch touchscreen is available.
Since the Liberty is designed to be capable of off-roading, there is a bit of body lean in turns. When Motor Trend magazine drove a 2011 Liberty, the editors found the steering to be uncommunicative, with a good amount of road and wind noise.
"While the old 3.7-liter feels torquey at low speeds thanks to the off-road-biased gearing, it runs out of breath quickly," Motor Trend wrote during a recent drive of the Liberty. "The four-speed auto does its best to keep up, and while it could use some more cogs, there's something to be said for simplicity and durability off-road."
With the towing package, the Liberty has a towing capacity of 5000 pounds. One of the coolest features on the Liberty -- or, really, on any 2011 Jeep -- is the Sky Slider Full Open Roof. This $1200 option is a 33-inch-by-60-inch openable roof made with the same cloth you might find in a convertible top. Jeep claims this top provides an open-air experience that is 3.5-times larger than the opening for the sunroof in its competition.
So other SUVs may not have a Sky Slider roof, but it's possible they will be rated more highly by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. For a 2010 Liberty (NHTSA tests became more stringent in 2011), the Jeep received five-star ratings (out of a possible five stars) in the front driver, front passenger, side driver, and side passenger categories. The rollover rating was three stars. The IIHS rates the Liberty "good" in its front and roof strength tests, yet only "marginal" in the side impact test.
Simply put, if you do not plan to do any off-roading, there are better choices than the 2011 Jeep Liberty. For those in love with the upgraded Renegade, Jet, or 70th Anniversary models, just make sure and get a great deal from your local dealership.