2008 Jeep Liberty Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 18, 2008

Much less of a cute-ute than it used to be, the 2008 Jeep Liberty defines SUV-lites by not being one.

TheCarConnection.com’s automotive experts researched reviews from the Web’s most respected sites and combined these findings with our own to compile this conclusive appraisal of the 2008 Jeep Liberty.

It’s a curious thing about the 2008 Jeep Liberty--expert reviews of the new, larger second-generation model ranged from tepid praise to downright harsh. But even after poking hot sticks at the SUV’s quality gaffes, most concluded that the Liberty is actually a capable SUV that offers plenty of fun and safety. Their criticisms reveal something important about SUVs; there are subsets to this huge segment of vehicles, and it’s important to know what you want your vehicle to do while you’re evaluating alternatives.

For example, most SUVs and car-based crossovers are not designed for genuine off-road romps. The Jeep Liberty is. However, its capability comes at a price; the Jeep’s on-road ride and handling are not as carlike as some other SUVs that couldn’t begin to keep up with the Liberty off road. Its 3.7-liter V-6 is torquey enough, but acceleration is nothing special, nor is fuel economy.

Review continues below

Outside the Jeep Liberty’s much crisper appearance is a masculine twist on the former version, which was more softly rounded. The interior is restyled, with some of the materials that get complaints from TheCarConnection.com’s writers, but plenty of cool features, such as a music hard drive system, have been installed.

It’s important for SUV shoppers to know what they want their truck to do. In other words, pick the right tool for your job, and you’ll probably be happy with your choice. If you’ll never go off road in a million years, consider other SUVs. There are plenty of SUV-ish crossovers out there. However, if you’re apt to put a wheel on a trail or have another genuine need for the kind of performance that the Liberty provides, spend some time in one and you’ll be impressed.

7

2008 Jeep Liberty

Styling

The 2008 Jeep Liberty’s new look is much more in keeping with its formidable off-road capabilities--something the previous generation’s rather girl-friendly design kept hidden.

If you knew nothing of the full portfolio of Chrysler vehicles, the styling of the 2008 Jeep Liberty might be less controversial. Maybe the new Liberty is no more than what the team at Automobile.com sees? They call it like this: “at first glance, especially from the rear three-quarters, the ‘all-new’ Jeep Liberty has an uncanny resemblance to the Dodge Nitro.” EdmundsInsideLine jumps on this similarity: “You might think that the 2008 Jeep Liberty midsize SUV is just a Dodge Nitro wearing a Jeep Commander mask.”

While there is a familial link to the Nitro (the trucks share a common platform, although the Liberty is two inches shorter), the Liberty is distinguished from the Dodge by the Jeep hallmark grille and other details. As TruckTrend.com recognized, that’s the direction designers took the 2008 Jeep Liberty: “Exterior changes include squared-off headlamps, a flattened hoodline, and a less rounded body--Jeep has definitely masculinized the Liberty's styling.”  Motor Trend agrees that with the Liberty, Jeep has amped up the manly appeal: “…it gets a more macho-looking Jeep seven-slat grille, replacing the more rounded, friendly-looking grille that ironically has been applied to the iconic, macho Wrangler.”

About the interior design, EdmundsInsideLine.com writes, “The interior has sobered up. In place of the collection of design-y circles that made the old interior look something like a toy is a theme of straight lines and flat surfaces. It is similar to — surprise — the Dodge Nitro.”

Regardless of whether the Liberty, Jeep’s new SUV for 2008, looks more like a Dodge Nitro or Jeep’s own Commander isn’t really the issue for the editors here at TheCarConnection.com. The Jeep Liberty is now a more handsome vehicle, with a more rugged shape that shows off the promise of the vehicle’s off-road performance. The NYTimes.com gets it right with this observation, “The 2008 model, about two inches longer than its predecessor, has an unmistakable Jeep grille combined with squared-off, go-anywhere pugnacity.”

7

2008 Jeep Liberty

Performance

The 2008 Jeep Liberty is a true dual-purpose SUV that you can actually drive off road on tough trails, with the resulting on-road compromises.

Off road, there are few compact or mid-size SUVs that will scrabble up hills or drive off cliffs as well as the 2008 Jeep Liberty. When they were trail-running, TruckTrend.com observed, “Engine power was sufficient and throttle response smooth. The automatic-transmission and transfer-case gearing helped us to climb extremely steep sections, as you'd expect a Jeep to be able to do.”

However, most folks don’t commute over trails named “Hell’s Revenge.” With welcome honesty, the GarageBlog admitted, “We didn’t have an opportunity to check out the Liberty’s skills in the dirt, but we did manage to drive it in a couple of inches of snow. All the electronics make for an impressive launch in the snow. In fact, the traction control works so well that I didn’t even need to engage 4 high to keep on trucking.” This is a much more realistic benefit for most SUV drivers, and the 2008 Jeep Liberty’s capabilities are probably overkill for such things.

EdmundsInsideLine.com complained about the performance of the Liberty, Jeep’s newest vehicle, in more routine driving duties. “The V6 engine is torquey enough to live up to its Jeep heritage, we suppose, but the progress of the Liberty (4,030 pounds in 2WD, 4,222 pounds in 4WD) is best described as deliberate. The automatic's shifts are a bit clunky. Simply put, there are far better powertrains out there.” Internet Auto Guide wasn’t particularly impressed either: “The 3.7-liter V6 is only adequate in this vehicle. It has decent pickup from a stop, but doesn't provide the willing punch to make passing easy. The four-speed automatic transmission kicks down readily to provide what passing power there is, but the standard six-speed manual transmission's extra gear ratios let the driver keep the engine in its power band.”

Not many editors from around the Web drove the 2008 Jeep Liberty with the six-speed manual, but the experts from TheCarConnection.com put hundreds of miles on one. The Liberty’s manual-shifter throws are longer than on a sports car, obviously, but the mechanical precision of the gearbox was bliss. The transmission cogs engaged with a satisfyingly direct mechanical “snick” that exponentially increased the driver’s physical and emotive involvement with the truck. If you can drive a manual, consider this combination before making your purchase decision.

TheCarConnection.com editors concur with the Web’s majority opinion that the Liberty is not a land jet. (If you want a fast vehicle that’s not a Liberty, Jeep badge included, buy a Grand Cherokee SRT8.) When it comes to the Liberty, Jeep has made much about the Liberty’s new suspension and that it provides an on-road ride that is superior to the outgoing generation. Alas, the NYTimes.com was not impressed with the results: “On the road, the Jeep’s ride and handling could be charitably described as unfortunate. Sometimes a vehicle with a comfortable ride doesn’t handle very well. Sometimes a good-handling vehicle has an uncomfortable ride. The Liberty managed both a poor ride and lackluster handling, which is a stunning lack of achievement.”

TheCarConnection.com’s car experts don’t hate the Liberty’s road manners nearly so much, and tend to agree with the point made by EdmundsInsideLine.com about the SUV’s suspension. “The new small Jeep is still a truck at heart, and it's well behind its car-based competitors when it comes to ride quality, body control, steering action and general responsiveness.”

6

2008 Jeep Liberty

Comfort & Quality

The interior of the 2008 Jeep Liberty is nicer, but still has its shortcomings.

With the changeover from 2007 to 2008, the Jeep Liberty grew. EdmundsInsideLine.com noted, “Compared to the outgoing Liberty, the '08 model has a wheelbase that's nearly 2 inches longer. All of that extra length has been given over to the rear-seat passengers, who badly needed it. The legroom is still tight, but being forced to sit in the back of a Liberty no longer violates the Geneva Conventions.” ConsumerGuideAuto must have employed editors with shorter legs and longer torsos, as they thought the interior had “fine legroom, but headroom is limited for tall occupants, despite a high build. The cabin feels narrow and snug overall, though Liberty's high-set seats provide a commanding view of the road.”

For Jeep, 2008 is a year of plasticky interiors, from the entry-level Compass right up to the 2008 Liberty. Jeep testers at Automobile.com recognized the Nitro inside the 2008 Jeep Liberty, too. “Blindfolded in the driver's seat, the interior of the Liberty and the Nitro are almost the same. It's a very different place from the old Liberty, though with better fit and finish. Annoyingly, there's a large hump around the transfer case which translates into a footwell that can be cramped, and worse there's no dead pedal whatsoever.”

These weren’t the only criticisms. The reviewer for the NYTimes.com complained, “I was overwhelmed by the cheap look of the cabin, which provided all the charm of being seated in a plastic bucket. In addition, it appears that when the design team did the footwells they took 'footwell' literally. These are so narrow that it is best to put one foot there at a time. The owner’s manual offers no suggestions about what to do with the other limb.” Internet Auto Guide was less unkind when they wrote, “The previous Liberty had more soft touch surfaces and closer panel gaps, while the current model has more hard-plastic surfaces. Still, it's not an unpleasant cockpit.”

8

2008 Jeep Liberty

Safety

Most safety scores for the 2008 Jeep Liberty are good.

While Jeep has strayed away from its roots of producing only highly capable off-road vehicles, the 2008 Jeep Liberty remains a true rock-hopper. The same characteristics that make for good off-road performance can also enhance on-road safety when the weather turns ugly. Rain-soaked or snow-covered roads won’t pose much of an obstacle to the Liberty. Jeep’s Command-Trac and Selec-Trac II four-wheel-drive systems are capable, Internet Auto Guide said: “Both four-wheel-drive systems make the Liberty highly capable off road, and they are aided by the addition of Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control.” Even the seemingly testy NYTimes.com admitted, “To Jeep’s credit, all the good safety equipment is standard.”

Regarding handling stability, Edmunds reported, “After a report came in from an enthusiast magazine about a rollover of the former model during testing, Jeep made some modifications to the Liberty's suspension. The improvement garnered the Liberty an additional star in the government's rollover rating. We anticipate the '08 Liberty will do at least as well now that Jeep has widened the new SUV's track by an inch up front and slightly more than an inch in back.”

In terms of objective crash tests with the Liberty, Jeep scores five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for front and side impacts. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rated the Liberty “good” for front impacts but “marginal” for side impacts.

8

2008 Jeep Liberty

Features

The 2008 Jeep Liberty has a big list of available features, including removable fenders for the true off-roaders.

While much of what’s on the 2008 Jeep Liberty is standard fare, one feature caught the attention of almost every reviewer: the huge canvas sunroof. TruckTrend.com effused, “Our favorite interior change is the industry-exclusive Sky Slider optional power sunroof, which almost makes the Liberty feel like a convertible when it's fully open.” Internet Auto Guide said, “For wow factor, it will be hard to beat Jeep's new Sky Slider canvas roof. This power rolling canvas top runs nearly the length of the vehicle, and can be opened front-to-back or back-to-front.” Automobilemag.com observed this about the top: “it's quiet when open even at highway speeds and reportedly leak-proof when shut. And no, for those wondering it isn't just cloth; there are ribs of metal and insulation sandwiched between the two layers.”

Beyond the Sky Slider, there’s more to find inside the 2008 Jeep Liberty. Internet Auto Guide clearly lays out the 2008 Liberty’s model lineup: it “is offered in two trim levels, both with rear- or four-wheel drive. The models are Sport ($20,330), Sport 4WD ($21,940), Limited ($24,515), and Limited 4WD ($26,125). The lone engine is a 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6. Sport models come standard with a six-speed manual transmission; a four-speed automatic ($825) is optional for Sport and standard on Limited. The base four-wheel-drive system is Jeep's Command Trac, a part-time system designed for off-road use. Also offered is Selec-Trac II ($445), a full-time system that allows use of four-wheel drive on dry pavement. Both systems have low-range gearing.”

Going back to the Dodge Nitro comparison, Automobile.com pointed out, “while there's no Load 'n Go sliding load floor like on the Nitro, there is waterproof under-floor storage bin.” Inside the Liberty, Jeep has clearly thought about practical conveniences--and about cleaning up after a seriously dirty adventure. MSNAutos.com also called out some practical features: “Nifty touches: I appreciated how easy it is to fold down the rear seatbacks for additional cargo room. I did it with just one hand. It's also easy to get into the rear cargo area of the Liberty from the back of the vehicle, thanks to the new swing gate/flipper glass system that Jeep is patenting.”

Another prominent change in the 2008 Jeep Liberty is an increase in available features, from big-ticket items to smaller, more subtle updates, including Bluetooth, a MyGIG audio system, and rain-sensing wipers.

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February 7, 2016
2008 Jeep Liberty 4WD 4-Door Limited

good value for the amount paid

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i think a more flexible transmission would have made this car one of the best jeeps ever made!
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July 12, 2015
2008 Jeep Liberty 4WD 4-Door Limited

My wife and I love the vehicle but hate the gas mileage.

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Solid, well made, gives you the feeling that you are in a safe vehicle.
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7.2
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Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 8.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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