2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited; photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge
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Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2008 Jeep Liberty Limited

Second opinion by Chris Chase

Oshawa, Ontario – When the first Jeep Liberty SUV was introduced for the 2002 model year, something unexpected happened. Though this was a Jeep – the rough-and-ready, go-anywhere, rock-crawling brand; the vehicle that won the war, for heaven’s sake – most of the buyers were younger women.

Now, you’d think that a sale’s a sale, but automakers don’t see it that way. Most women will buy a masculine car, but very few men will buy a vehicle that’s primarily driven by women. (You guys are funny that way, it seems.) So, in the hopes of grabbing more sales from both sexes, Jeep has redesigned the Liberty to ride on the beefier Dodge Nitro’s platform and share its rugged appearance.

2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited. Click image to enlarge

Available in Sport ($27,695), North Edition ($28,645) and my tester’s Limited ($32,795) trim lines, the Liberty uses a 3.7-litre V6 that’s carried over from the old model. It’s also shared with the Nitro, but the Dodge’s optional 4.0-litre V6 isn’t available for the Jeep. A six-speed manual is standard equipment on the Sport and North edition, and can be swapped for an optional four-speed automatic, while the Limited receives only the autobox.

There’s really no need of the bigger engine here. The 3.7-litre makes 210 horsepower and 235 lb-ft of torque, and even with the automatic, it works very well anywhere on the throttle that it’s asked. Its soft spot is in its fuel economy: it’s officially rated at 14.0 L/100 km in the city and 9.7 L/100km on the highway, but in a week of bitterly cold weather, I only managed a jaw-dropping 16.0 L/100 km, most of it spent in two-wheel drive.

All Liberty models are 4x4s, but there are two available systems. The base Command-Trac II system is part-time with electronic shift-on-the-fly and should only be put into four-wheel on loose surfaces, such as gravel roads, to avoid damaging it. My tester’s Selec-Trac II, a $475 option, is a full-time system that can be used on all surfaces. It can send up to 100 per cent torque to either axle when needed, but distributes 35/65 front/rear under normal driving conditions, and uses open front and rear differentials. I took the Liberty into slimy spots off-road where the four-wheel system got it through with no problem, but when we were hit with one of the season’s nastiest snowstorms, its relatively aggressive tires got me through in two-wheel only.

2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited. Click image to enlarge

Overall, the new Liberty is larger than the model it replaces: the wheelbase is 48 mm longer, the body is 63 mm longer, and it’s 7 mm wider. The height comes down by an unnoticeable 3 mm, while ground clearance increases by 34 mm. Even with the longer wheelbase, the ride can be choppy on rough roads, and its high centre of gravity is very evident on sharp corners.

For all its size, though, the Liberty is surprisingly cramped inside. It’s pushing it to put three full-size adults across the back seat, and the front foot wells are extremely narrow – I’m very claustrophobic, and actually got anxious when I put my left foot out and there wasn’t anywhere to go. The narrowness is further accentuated with the tall, wide centre console.

Jeep’s done a good job with the interior’s redesign. There’s a lot of plastic there, but it looks good, and the panels line up well. The centre stack contains big, simple controls, the cupholders are positioned out of the way, and should you want to go rock-crawling, there’s a dash-mounted grab handle for the passenger. The Limited uses leather-faced seats, while the Sport and North come with cloth seats. Missing from the option list is Chrysler’s YES Essentials stain- and odour-resistant fabric, which I found odd; if anything’s going to offer it, I expected it to be the model intended to be taken into the mud.

2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited
2008 Jeep Liberty Limited; bottom photo by Chris Chase. Click image to enlarge

The cargo compartment is carpeted, but the centre panel can be removed, revealing a hidden plastic well; flip the panel, and you’ve got a plastic cargo area with a lip to keep items from sliding out. With the rear seats up, the cargo area is 79 cm long. Fold them and you get a length of 140 cm; fold the front passenger seat also, a standard item on the North and Limited, and you’ve got 244 cm of cargo room. The flipping plastic cargo compartment is handy, but I much prefer the Nitro’s Load ‘n Go floor, which slides out for easy loading, and which isn’t available on any Liberty models.

A new option for Liberty is the Sky Slider roof, a canvas panel that runs almost the full length of the roof. It opens electrically, folding and sliding back to any position, and can be opened or closed while travelling at speeds well beyond legal limits. It also opens from either the front or the back, but not both at the same time. Maybe I could fall in love with it in summertime, but its $1,525 price tag turned me off, and there’s a great deal of wind noise around it at highway speeds, even when it’s closed. To its credit, though, it didn’t leak a drop in a high-pressure automatic car wash. Should you prefer a conventional glass sunroof, it’s available as an option on all trim lines.

I haven’t seen enough of them on the road to do an impromptu check of driver gender, but this beefier version will probably see the market crossover that Jeep’s hoping it will achieve. For my money, I’d probably outfit the North with the Selec-Trac II, getting a few goodies for much less money than my Limited tester, and go out to have some fun.

Pricing: 2008 Jeep Liberty Limited

Base price: $32,795
Options: $2,000 (Selec-Trac II four-wheel drive system, $475; Sky Slider roof, $1,525)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,300
Price as tested: $36,195
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2008 Jeep Liberty

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