As a successor of the Cherokee, the Jeep Liberty lived up to its off-road lineage when it was first introduced in 2002, also being the first Jeep to use rack-and-pinion steering. With steep approach and departure angles, the Liberty was the only one designed for trailing and off-roading among its lighter-weight, car-based sport utility competitors. Despite its capacity to conquer rough and steep roads, however, there are still many other aspects of the Liberty, such as interior appearance and fuel efficiency, which need to be improved.
First generation: 2002 – 2007
During its launch, the Jeep Liberty was originally available in three trim levels: the Limited, the Renegade, and the Sport. All models came with a drivetrain option of either a two-wheel drive or a four-wheel drive. Being the first to use the two new PowerTech engines, the Liberty ran on two different power options. The 150-hp, 2.4-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine was initially the standard engine until it was dropped in 2006, paving way for a standard 210-hp, 3.7-liter V6 engine.
The V6 engine was made standard with a 5-speed manual transmission throughout the 2002 to 2004 models. Except for the improvements in engine and transmission, the Liberty experienced trickle-down updates in 2003 and 2004. These changes include a Grand Cherokee-inspired overhead console, a six-disc-in-dash CD sound system, and Columbia Edition graphite-painted 16-inch wheels and exterior trim among others.
A diesel engine option was a distinct feature on the 2005 and 2006 model years. With the 2.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel, users were offered a remarkable 160hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. Another update was the expansion of transmission options, which came to include a 6-speed manual or a 4-speed automatic. And by 2007, the Renegade was replaced with the more urban-looking Latitude.
Second generation: 2008 – 2012
In the 2007 New York International Auto Show, a redesigned Jeep Liberty for the 2008 model year was introduced. The new Liberty had a boxier, more off-road look, resembling that of the 2007 Dodge Nitro. The second gen dropped its four-cylinder engine in order to stand out in its crossover SUV lineup. And to fulfill the demands of MPG-conscious buyers, the 2008 Liberty came with an iron-block, aluminum-head V6 as the only engine available for its model year. The second gen had a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs, and retained the 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmission options.
Only two trim levels were available at the onset, the Sport and the Limited. Wheel choices included 16, 17, and 18 inches. In an attempt to give users an open-air feeling like those from previous Jeep models, the second gen Liberty had the Sky Slider, a power roof that opens up to 60 inches by 30 inches.
The 2009 model received minor updates, including stiffer rear axle shafts and the standardization of the 4-speed automatic transmission. Aside from improved on-road handling, extra passenger room, and a new infotainment interface, the 2011 Liberty didn’t vary much from its 2008 version.