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Avg. Price Paid:$9,606 - $12,131
Original MSRP: $21,090 - $26,640
MPG: 16 City / 22 Hwy
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2008 Jeep Liberty Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Jeep Liberty was new.

Test drivers are generally pleased with the 2008 Jeep Liberty's performance, which always shines off-road but previously lagged behind the competition in on-road manners. 4-Wheel & Off-Road  writes, "All-new independent front suspension, all-new five-link rear suspension, and a power rack-and-pinion steering system contribute to the all-new 2008 Jeep Liberty's blend of on-road ride comfort and nimble, confidence-inspiring handling."

Acceleration and Power

The Liberty comes with one universal 3.7-liter V6 engine that puts out 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission and optional with a four-speed automatic. Some reviewers express disappointment that a more powerful offering wasn't introduced with the 2008 redesign. Edmunds complains, "We'd expected to see the Jeep pick up the Nitro's 4.0-liter V6 as an option," while Autobytel notes, "Jeep's unrefined 3.7-liter V6 is the sole engine for the 2008 Liberty, so forget about the Nitro's hotter 4.0-liter or the old Liberty's common rail diesel option."

Automobile Magazine in particular finds the V6 lacking in power, commenting, "We've been disappointed by Chrysler's coarse 3.7-liter SOHC V-6 in its other applications, and 210 hp out of that amount of displacement is nothing to cheer about." However, others welcome the engine as an improvement over past Liberty offerings. The New York Times, for example, called the discontinued Liberty four-cylinder "anemic." 4Wheel & Off-Road is also pleased with the V6, which provides "competitive peak power and torque while providing smooth, quiet operation and proven durability."

Reviewers have little to say about the Liberty's fuel efficiency, though Motor Trend notes efficiency has always been a strong point and even "has been further improved" with the new model. The Environmental Protection Agency expects the 2WD Liberty with the automatic transmission to net 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22 on the highway. The manual is expected to produce similar figures. The V6 takes regular-grade fuel.

Handling and Braking

Test drivers generally agree that the 2008 Liberty is smoother on pavement than the 2007 model, thanks in large part to new underpinnings. The 2008 redesign includes an all-new short-long arm independent front suspension and five-link rear suspension that New Car Test Drive says can "improve ride quality on pavement without hampering Jeep's trademark off-road capability." Autobytel confirms, "Jeep is also taking this opportunity to balance the Liberty's off-road capability with the ride comfort and responsive handling buyers crave when driving on pavement."

In 2007, the Liberty's new rack-and-pinion steering replaced the previous reciprocal ball system. For 2008, it includes a quicker ratio. Reviewers have mixed opinions on the 2007 model's steering capability. "The Liberty offers quick, precise steering with moderate effort and produces a pleasant overall feel," says Cars.com. Edmunds, on the other hand, notes, "The steering is heavy and numb, and the Liberty exhibits considerable body roll around corners." The 2008 model's disc brakes are slightly larger than the 2007 model's, and they come with anti-lock and brake assist technology.

Off-Roading

Testers agree that the trail-rated Liberty shines in the wild. The Orlando Sentinel praises, "The 2008 Liberty appears to have the right stuff, including a 'Trail Rated' badge that confirms it's a real Jeep, for those who insist vehicles such as the Compass are diluting Jeep's gene pool." Automotive.com finds the Liberty capable of handling "fairly gnarly trails." The Family Car's reviewer says, "I'm happy to report that this is a real Jeep that loves to go mountain climbing with the best of them."

The majority of testers had no problems taking the Liberty through ditches and streams. Jeep claims the Liberty is capable of plowing through 20 inches of water when under five miles per hour. Testers are also impressed with the Liberty's traction, and report little to no wheel spin when it comes to mud and inclines. "The Liberty quickly proved it lives up to its Jeep heritage, climbing over felled trees and large rocks with aplomb -- whatever the obstacle, the Liberty tackled it with ease," says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Four-Wheel Drive

The Liberty comes standard in rear-wheel drive, but 4Wheel & Off-Road notes it "remains true to its legendary 4x4 heritage by offering two Jeep Trail Rated® four-wheel-drive systems" -- both in part-time and full-time modes.

Selec-Trac II® 4WD, the newest offering, includes a full-time "on demand" transfer case that can be engaged even on smooth pavement. The system includes 4WD AUTO mode to instantly detect tire slip and distribute engine torque accordingly in all driving conditions -- including on pavement. It also includes 2WD High and 4WD LO for maximum traction on rough terrain. The system comes standard with traction control, an electronic stability program and hill start assist. Hill descent control also comes on the Limited model.

The second option -- and the more conventional system -- is Command-Trac II® 4WD, which includes a part-time transfer case with shift-on-the-fly capability. Its modes include 2WD High, 4WD Lock and 4WD LO. Though it's the less powerful of the two, Forbes predicts Command-Trac II® will be "more than enough for most motorists." 

MSN attests to the Liberty's tough off-road performance, noting: "Jeep showed just how tough it is, 'blasting' rocks off its 2008 Jeep Liberty in a pouring rain outside the convention center of the New York auto show. As news media huddled on bleachers under a leaking cover and looked on, a silver-colored, new Liberty rose from the rock-strewn debris."

Towing

The Liberty has a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped with the Trailer Tow Package. The package includes Trailer Sway Control, which Edmunds explains keeps "the back end from wandering, should you decide to take advantage of the Jeep's 5,000-pound tow capacity." The Liberty has a payload capacity of up to 1,150 pounds.

Review Last Updated: 2/17/09

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