2010 Jeep Liberty Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 6, 2010

The 2010 Jeep Liberty is at home on the trail—but not so much in suburban driveways or city streets.

To bring you an expert take on the 2010 Jeep Liberty, TheCarConnection.com has driven the Jeep Liberty on- and off-road, then experts researched available road tests. You'll find shopping advice here in this Bottom Line and all the results in the adjacent full review.

Based on its proportions, you might call the 2010 Jeep Liberty a crossover, but it's a true truck. Where the Liberty differs from its competitors is its real off-road capabilities. The Liberty’s relatively fresh, boxy shape, combined with its 4x4 heritage, provides consumers with the rugged image that has long been the Jeep brand’s appeal, but its relative lack of on-road comfort and poor fuel economy will limit that appeal.

The 2010 Jeep Liberty’s exterior appearance has become a bit more masculine, and the tweaks work well to emphasize off-road prowess and all-around Jeep-ness. The 2010 Liberty interior looks tough and straightforward from a distance, but up close it's still appointed in chintzy-feeling materials.

Under the hood of the Liberty sits a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine, which is torquey enough, but acceleration is nothing special, nor is fuel economy. It's also quite coarse and comes hooked only to a four-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, although 4WD models get slightly worse mileage than the RWD models. With 4WD, EPA ratings are just 15 mpg city, 21 highway. New for 2010 is an Eco lamp indicator that lets drivers know when they are driving in a fuel-efficient manner.

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On-road ride quality is one of the Liberty's low points. As a tall, narrow vehicle with a pitchy ride, the Liberty results in lots of "head toss" on rough roads; there's also a fair amount more interior road and wind noise than in more carlike compact crossover vehicles. Last year, Jeep Liberty models received upgrades to their chassis, including stiffer rear axle shafts and retuned springs, shocks, anti-roll bars, and a steering gear valve meant to improve the vehicle’s steering and handling. Seating isn't particularly spacious either, though the Liberty does have space enough for four adults and the backseats fold forward for more cargo space. All those criticisms won't matter as much if off-road ability is on your list, as the Liberty is very able on trails, with a low range and under-body shielding. Command Trac is one of two four-wheel-drive systems offered in the Liberty; it's a part-time system intended for trail-running, while Selec-Trac II is a full-time system that's also off-road capable but better oriented for snowy roads.

While the 2010 Jeep Liberty comes with a host of standard safety features, such as side-impact and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and several other electronic off-road aids, it only achieves a worrisome "marginal" rating from the IIHS in side-impact safety—the second-worst rating the IIHS gives. For frontal-offset impacts, the 2010 Jeep Liberty garners the IIHS’ highest rating of "good." New for 2010 are active head restraints for the Liberty, which the IIHS rewards with its second-highest rating of "acceptable" for rear-crash protection.

Both the Sport and Limited models of the 2010 Liberty come quite well equipped, with the Limited model offering a host of extras, including heated leather seats, cruise control, voice-activated Bluetooth, a garage-door opener, and upgraded trim. There are plenty of cool options, such as a music hard drive system, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, and a Sky Slider sunroof, if you don't mind the higher price tag.

7

2010 Jeep Liberty

Styling

For those wanting to set out on the trail, the 2010 Jeep Liberty has a style that will look the part, though the interior is nothing to write home about.

The 2010 Jeep Liberty’s exterior appearance has become a bit more masculine, and the tweaks work well to emphasize off-road prowess and all-around Jeep-ness.

The Liberty is closely related to the Dodge Nitro, with the latter model equipped a bit more for on-road duty, but reviewers note that there isn't much of a difference between the two. Edmunds says that the “Jeep Liberty midsize SUV is just a Dodge Nitro wearing a Jeep Commander mask,” and Automobile.com sees, “at first glance, especially from the rear three-quarters, the Jeep Liberty has an uncanny resemblance to the Dodge Nitro.”

With its most recent refresh, Jeep amps up the macho-man appeal and makes the Liberty look the off-road part a bit more. The New York Times observes that the Liberty is “about two inches longer than its predecessor” and “has an unmistakable Jeep grille combined with squared-off, go-anywhere pugnacity.” According to Motor Trend, “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.” Considering the Liberty’s “exterior changes include squared-off headlamps, a flattened hoodline, and a less rounded body—Jeep has definitely masculinized the Liberty's styling,” says Truck Trend.

The 2010 Liberty interior looks tough and straightforward from a distance, but up close it's still appointed in chintzy-feeling materials. According to Edmunds, “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."

7

2010 Jeep Liberty

Performance

The 2010 Jeep Liberty performs very well off-road; otherwise you're bound to be disappointed.

Under the hood of the Liberty sits a 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V-6 engine, which is torquey enough, but acceleration is nothing special, nor is fuel economy. It's also quite coarse and comes hooked only to a four-speed automatic transmission. Buyers can choose between rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, although 4WD models get slightly worse mileage than the RWD models. With 4WD, EPA ratings are just 15 mpg city, 21 highway. New for 2010 is an Eco lamp indicator that lets drivers know when they are driving in a fuel-efficient manner.

Last year, Jeep upgraded the Liberty’s on-road manners by tweaking the SUV’s suspension and steering. Kelley Blue Book states, “at freeway speeds, the revised suspension provides a smooth and quiet ride, yet on winding roads the steering is responsive and body lean is well controlled."

On-road ride quality is one of the Liberty's low points. As a tall, narrow vehicle with a pitchy ride, the Liberty results in lots of "head toss" on rough roads; there's also a fair amount more interior road and wind noise than in more carlike compact crossover vehicles. Last year, Jeep Liberty models received upgrades to their chassis, including stiffer rear axle shafts and retuned springs, shocks, anti-roll bars, and a steering gear valve meant to improve the vehicle’s steering and handling. Seating isn't particularly spacious either, though the Liberty does have space enough for four adults and the backseats fold forward for more cargo space.

All those criticisms won't matter as much if off-road ability is on your list, as the Liberty is very able on trails, with a low range and under-body shielding. Command Trac is one of two four-wheel-drive systems offered in the Liberty; it's a part-time system intended for trail-running, while Selec-Trac II is a full-time system that's also off-road capable but better oriented for snowy roads.

According to Kelley Blue Book, "it is away from paved roads where the Jeep Liberty really shines, with two highly capable four-wheel drive systems, All-speed Traction Control, Hill Descent Control, Hill Start Assist and anti-lock brakes with rough road detection giving the Liberty truly impressive off-road credentials.” When trail-running, Truck Trend observes, “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.”

Edmunds complains about the Jeep’s performance in 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.”

"On the road, the Jeep’s ride and handling could be charitably described as unfortunate," says the New York Times. "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.”

6

2010 Jeep Liberty

Comfort & Quality

An abundance of hard plastic and a rough on-road ride in the 2010 Jeep Libery are somewhat justified by off-road ability.

The interior of the 2010 Jeep Liberty is just fine for most needs. However, some SUVs out there have higher-quality interior materials, and car-based crossovers tend to be roomier, as their floors can be lower.

On-road ride quality is one of the Liberty's low points. Comfort-wise, ConsumerGuide finds that “some road surfaces induce mild bucking, and sharp bumps register, though not harshly.” As a tall, narrow vehicle with a pitchy ride, the Liberty results in lots of "head toss" on rough roads; there's also a fair amount more interior road and wind noise than in more carlike compact crossover vehicles. Last year, Jeep Liberty models received upgrades to their chassis, including stiffer rear axle shafts and retuned springs, shocks, anti-roll bars, and a steering gear valve meant to improve the vehicle’s steering and handling.

Seating isn't particularly spacious either, though the Liberty does have space enough for four adults and the backseats fold forward for more cargo space. ConsumerGuide must employ editors with shorter legs and longer torsos, as they contend the interior has “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.” Edmunds also finds that “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.”

When it comes to cargo space, the Jeep Liberty is only adequate. Cars.com says that "the Liberty's interior features a large floor console with cupholders, armrest and a storage area with a removable top tray." When all the seats are up, the Liberty provides 31.5 cubic feet of space. This figure is enlarged to 64.2 cubic feet when the second row is folded down, but the Liberty is bested by some of its competitors in this category. Operating the seats is a cinch, though, and MSN Autos marvels at how “easy it [was] to fold down the rear seatbacks for additional cargo room.”

While the interior may have been spacious enough for most reviewers, there was general disappointment with the quality of materials. ConsumerGuide finds that the interior “is shrouded in hard plastic with no soft-touch surfaces. It's appropriate for a ‘Trail-Rated' Jeep but trails most rivals for overall ambiance." Despite the lack of enthusiasm for the materials, ConsumerGuide finds that the gauges are “large and easy to read” and that “most controls are clearly marked and logically placed.”

7

2010 Jeep Liberty

Safety

The 2010 Jeep Liberty has a very satisfying list of safety features but lacks the necessary crash-test results to be called a very safe vehicle.

While the 2010 Jeep Liberty comes with a host of standard safety features, such as side-impact and side-curtain airbags, electronic stability control, and several other electronic off-road aids, it only achieves a worrisome "marginal" rating from the IIHS in side-impact safety—the second-worst rating the IIHS gives. For frontal-offset impacts, the 2010 Jeep Liberty garners the IIHS’ highest rating of "good." New for 2010 are active head restraints for the Liberty, which the IIHS rewards with its second-highest rating of "acceptable" for rear-crash protection.

New for 2010 are active head restraints that help protect occupants in rear-impact crashes.

While Jeep has strayed away from its roots of producing only highly capable off-road vehicles, the 2010 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. However, SUVs, because of their naturally high center of gravity and heavy weights, are especially susceptible to rollovers. Edmunds finds that “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.”

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 very capable. Internet Auto Guide says, “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 New York Times admits, “To Jeep’s credit, all the good safety equipment is standard.”

8

2010 Jeep Liberty

Features

The 2010 Jeep Liberty offers some good standard fare, as well as one feature that's bound to catch the attention of passengers: the huge canvas sunroof.

Both the Sport and Limited models of the 2010 Liberty come quite well equipped, with the Limited model offering a host of extras, including heated leather seats, cruise control, voice-activated Bluetooth, a garage-door opener, and upgraded trim. There are plenty of cool options, such as a music hard drive system, Bluetooth, rain-sensing wipers, and a Sky Slider sunroof, if you don't mind the higher price tag.

It’s the Sky Slider canvas roof that grabs the attention of most reviewers. Internet Auto Guide says, “For wow factor, it will be hard to beat Jeep's 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.” Truck Trend raves, “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.”

Sport and Limited trims are offered for the 2010 Jeep Liberty, and both have a choice between 2WD and 4WD. New for 2010 are heated mirrors and a fold-flat front passenger seat. Additionally, the Limited model now comes with Bluetooth, leather upholstery, and power heated front seats. Coupled with the MyGIG audio system and rain-sensing wipers, the Jeep Liberty offers a fairly impressive package when it comes to features.

MSN Autos points 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.” Going back to the Dodge Nitro comparison, Automobile Magazine comments, “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 clearly considers practical conveniences—and cleaning up after a seriously dirty adventure.

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7.0
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 6.0
Safety 7.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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