Liberty's exterior design carries over many of the other Jeep cues, like a true rear liftgate, pushbutton door handles, clamshell hood, and trapezoidal wheelwells. The front end is more refined than the previous model, and looks more proportional. The big news is the move of the spare tire from the rear to under the vehicle. It's much easier to lift the tailgate than swing open the previous wide door. In addition, the rear glass can be opened separately from the gate. With all the changes, Liberty is only about 2.5 inches longer than before, which added over 3 inches of rear cargo area.
Another new feature that's available as a $1,200 stand-alone option is the Sky Slider roof. It's four times larger than a normal sunroof, and instead of glass features a sectioned acrylic cloth that's been rigorously tested to withstand the elements, such as 400 pounds of snow that might accumulate during a harsh winter. It takes about 18 seconds to fully open automatically (no auto-close function), and you can stop it at any position, which means it can open fully forward, fully to the rear, or at any stop in between. The only drawback is that, unlike with a regular see-through moonroof, there's no stargazing at night with it closed.
In the Driver's Seat
Liberty is available in Sport and Limited trim levels, with a choice of 2- or 4-wheel-drive.
Everything inside is a big improvement over the previous model as well. Quality of materials has been upgraded, the seats are more supportive (especially in the thigh area) and comfortable, it's easier to get in and out of the back seat, and there's more legroom. One downside is that the ride might be awkward for the unlucky person in the rear middle seat since the rear cupholders mount on the back of the front console, which leaves an unlucky pair of legs straddling an immovable box.
Liberty's steering wheel is leather-wrapped and includes tilt and redundant audio controls. There are plenty of little storage cubbyholes, and we liked the 115-volt AC inverter outlet that comes with the Limited model. The front passenger seat folds flat for extra storage length in addition to the rear 60/40 split fold seats. The YES Essentials stain-, odor-, and static-resistant cloth seats that can be found on other Chrysler products also come standard on the Limited, with leather and heated seats optional. The cargo area features a standard reversible 2.5-inch-deep cargo tray to store wet items. A lamp and multiple tie downs make the cargo area totally useful.
On the Road
What makes Liberty a stand-out is its off-road capability. On the drive, we traversed a tough dirt section that really showed what Jeep has learned over its 66-year history. No rock was too big, no tree root too knurled, and no hill too steep for Liberty to conquer. All systems worked well to keep it moving forward. Buyers can choose from two 4WD systems; Selec-Trac, which is a full-time on-demand system that's automatic, or Jeep's established Command Trac, the part-time shift-on-the-fly system that disengages the front driveline from the transfer case so power goes directly to the rear wheels.
A nice list of safety features, such as standard electronic stability control, standard side curtain airbags, available ParkSense rear backup system, and available Trailer Sway Control system, add peace of mind as well as total occupant protection.
Another bonus of Jeep ownership is instantly becoming part of a community that uses its vehicles for play. Jeep Jamborees take place all over the country, and owners tackle everything from easy-going beach trails to the challenging 10-rated Rubicon. You just have to be comfortable getting dirty, and perhaps coming home with a few automotive battle scars (which many wear proudly). With Liberty, you not only get a capable, comfortable, practical on-road vehicle that's easy to live with every day, but an impressive off-roader that will go anywhere at anytime.
It's like getting two vehicles for the price of one.