Used Jeep Liberty: Introduction
Back in 2001, the SUV boom was still in full swing, and Jeep was angling to get as much of that business as it could. The Jeep Grand Cherokee name was well-respected by this point and introducing another vehicle named Cherokee to Jeep’s lineup didn’t seem to make much sense to its North American product planners. So when the Cherokee came due for a remake, the company decided to do a true compact SUV with a new name as well. Interestingly though, the Jeep Liberty is still called Jeep Cherokee in markets outside North America.
When the Liberty was introduced, it created something of a sensation. The Liberty’s appearance suggested a cross between the venerable Wrangler and the more upscale Grand Cherokee in a tidier package. No poseur, the Jeep Liberty was just as capable offroad as the Wrangler and the Grand Cherokee. Perhaps most tellingly, a whole new generation of Jeep buyers — many of whom were purchasing their first Jeep — embraced Liberty right along with traditional Jeep loyalists.
To date, Jeep has sold two generations and a total of approximately 1.1 million copies of the Liberty since it was introduced in 2001 as a 2002 model.
Used Jeep Liberty: 2001 - 2007
At introduction, the Liberty was offered in three levels of trim: Sport, Renegade and Limited. As is true with the current model, the Limited trim level was the more upscale offering, Sport was the base offering and Renegade was intended to ensure masculine Jeep buyers had a version to appeal to their more visceral natures. Ironically, by the 2007 model year, Renegade had been discontinued in favor of a trim level called Latitude, intended to appeal more to urban sensibilities.
At any rate, one particularly notable offering of the first-generation Liberty was the 150-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-four used from 2001 through 2006. Fact is, a pair of four-cylinder engines played roles in this first-generation Liberty over its lifetime — neither of which made an appearance in the sequel. In addition to the gasoline 2.4, a four-cylinder diesel engine was available from 2005 through 2006 and carried the CRD designation. This 2.8-liter diesel engine produced 160 horsepower and made 295 ft-lbs of torque.
The gasoline powered four was dropped because it simply wasn’t powerful enough and the diesel was dropped because it wouldn’t meet emissions standards. If you’re looking for a Liberty for a younger member of your family and you want to keep speeding to a minimum, the four-cylinder gasoline engine is a perfect move. Plus, it’ll be priced better, too.
The most popular engine choice was the 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6, which could be had with either four-wheel or rear-wheel drive and a choice of a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. To show how serious Jeep was back in the day about its offroad rep, the four-wheel drive Liberty was also offered with low-range gearing.
Find a first-gen Liberty with leather, a sunroof, heated and powered seats, an Infinity sound system, nav and Bluetooth and you’ll be looking at a Limited model. If it doesn’t have all of that it’s likely a Sport. ABS and stability control were standard across the board. Optional safety gear included side curtain airbags.
Used Jeep Liberty: 2008 - Current
The second-generation Liberty was revealed at the 2007 New York Auto Show. With the redesign, Liberty's look lost much of the effete quality of the original for a boxier, more aggressive appearance, one practically dripping with machismo. Interestingly, while its new look suggests even greater offroad capability (which it has) it actually rides and handles better on pavement, too. It is also more spacious than the original Liberty, and offers more in the way of comfort and convenience features.
In a nod toward the crossover boomlet following the SUV boom, Jeep endowed the 2008 Liberty with more carlike features such as remote start, a 30-gig hard drive for storing audio entertainment, Bluetooth cellular phone pairing, navigation, satellite radio, rain sensing windshield wipers and an independent front/multilink rear suspension system. To capture some of the flavor of the open Jeep Wrangler for the Liberty, Jeep offered the Sky Slider roof - essentially a power-opening roof made from fabric reinforced with acrylic to make it more water resistant.
While the first Liberty was offered with a plethora of engine choices, the second-generation model offered only a single engine, Chrysler’s 3.7-liter, 210-horsepower V-6. With it, Liberty is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds. While only one engine was available, Liberty was offered in two levels of trim albeit with a number of special editions in between. The two principal Liberty models were (and still are) Sport and Limited. As you might imagine, Sport was the more basic of the two, while the Limited was the more luxurious.
That said, two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive could be had regardless of the trim choice. Sport models got six-speed manual and four speed automatics, while Limited models could be had with the automatic only. Meanwhile, electronic stability control with roll mitigation, traction control, ABS with brake assist, and side airbags comprised the portfolio of standard safety features.
Used Jeep Liberty: Summary
Consolidating many of the virtues of the Grand Cherokee in a smaller package was a great idea for Jeep back in 2001, and it indeed sold strongly at first. Over time though, the competition caught up and passed the little Jeep in a number of key areas and sales figures from 2007 forward reflect it. However, for anyone looking for a compact SUV to undertake serious offroad excursions, there are very few real substitutes for a Jeep Liberty.
The 2011 Liberty model offers all of that capability plus a refined attitude on the street. Its larger wheelbase provides more legroom for passengers and, as we mentioned earlier, its look is considerably more aggressive.
As for used Liberty models, with the exception of the early four-cylinder powered iterations, all can be recommended quite heartily.
Like all modern autos, there have been a few times when the Liberty has needed its reset button pushed, so Jeep has issued a number of recalls for the vehicle over the years. To determine which affect the version of the Liberty you’re considering, simply run an Internet search for “Jeep Liberty recall” incorporating the model year of your concern. And, as always, make sure you subject any used Liberty you’re seriously considering buying to a thorough inspection by a trusted, experienced, professional mechanic—knowledgeable about the vehicle.