Patrick Henry once famously declared, "Give me liberty or give me death!" While we wouldn't side with ditching our mortal coil, the 2011 Jeep Liberty is definitely not worth fighting for. Just about every rival SUV -- be it a commuter-friendly crossover or a dedicated off-roader -- is a better, more well-rounded vehicle.
The problems begin under the hood where the Liberty's 210-horsepower V6 has barely enough guts to get out of its own way. While lackadaisical acceleration is commonplace among compact SUVs, the four-cylinder engines found in models like the GMC Terrain achieve good fuel economy as a trade-off. A 4x4 Liberty, on the other hand, returns 17 mpg combined -- the same as a V8-powered Chevy Tahoe.
Then there's the interior. To call it "not up to par" would imply it's playing on the same metaphorical golf course as those it competes against. On the contrary, materials are hard and cheap, the look is drab, the seats are flat and the wheel doesn't telescope, just to name a few offenses. An upgrade to the sort of interior quality seen in the impressive new Jeep Grand Cherokee can't come soon enough.
If there is one saving grace for the Liberty, it's that it's quite proficient off road, especially in Renegade form with its skid plates, tow hooks and full-time four-wheel drive. Having said that, however, a Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser will go everywhere a Liberty can while being more powerful, better made and more pleasant to drive on pavement. While the Jeep Wrangler isn't exactly civilized, it's an off-road king with a convertible roof that just oozes the sort of iconic, adventuresome cool that the Liberty will never match.
If you're not into off-roading and just need a competent SUV for the family with a bit of a rugged image, we recommend the 2011 GMC Terrain. Other alternatives would include the 2011 Honda CR-V, 2011 Kia Sportage, 2011 Subaru Forester or 2011 Toyota RAV4. Almost anything you choose is likely to be better than a 2011 Jeep Liberty.
The 2011 Jeep Liberty is a compact SUV available in Sport, Renegade and Limited trim levels. The Sport and Limited can be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive, but the Renegade is 4x4 only.
The Sport comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding and reclining rear seat, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and satellite radio. The Popular Equipment Group adds roof rails, foglamps, a cargo cover, temperature and compass gauges, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls.
The Limited includes the Popular Equipment Group and adds 17-inch wheels, exterior chrome trim, heated power front seats (six-way driver, two-way passenger), driver memory functions, leather upholstery, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and an eight-speaker sound system. The Comfort/Convenience Group adds rear parking sensors, remote ignition and automatic climate control. Also optional are 18-inch chrome-clad wheels.
The Renegade is an off-road-oriented model that to the Sport's equipment adds different 16-inch wheels, all-terrain tires, an enhanced 4x4 system, tow hooks, different exterior trim, skid plates and much of the equipment from the Popular Equipment Group.
A sunroof is optional on the Sport and Renegade, while the full-roof "Sky Slider" cloth sunroof is optional on all trims. Optional on the Sport and Limited 4x4 is the Media Center 430, which adds a CD/DVD player, digital music storage and a touchscreen interface. A navigation system can be added to the Media Center, and the two together are available on all Liberty trims. The Renegade can be equipped with the Navigation Convenience Group, which adds the Media Center 430, the navigation system, a tire-pressure monitor display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and the Limited's eight-speaker sound system. The Renegade's Premium Group is similar, but swaps out the navigation system in favor of rear parking sensors, remote ignition and Bluetooth.
The Liberty's cabin has all the aesthetic flair of a storage shed -- it's angular and drab. The materials are also on par with a storage shed, though at least some of them get covered up with some padding and leather in the Limited. In any case, most non-Jeep SUVs feature more welcoming and higher-quality environments. At least the standard cabin controls are generally well-located and easy to use -- the optional touchscreen interface can be a tad unintuitive, however.
Rear legroom and shoulder room are adequate in the Liberty, but the seat is flat and not particularly comfortable. Luggage space with the rear seat in place is a healthy 31.5 cubic feet; fold the seatback and you're looking at 64 cubic feet, an average figure for this class.
The 2011 Jeep Liberty is powered by a 3.7-liter V6 that produces 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. A four-speed automatic is the lone transmission choice. The Sport and Limited can be equipped with rear-wheel drive or a choice of two 4WD systems: part-time Command-Trac II or full-time Selec-Trac II. The Renegade is Selec-Trac II only.
In Edmunds performance testing, a Liberty Limited 4x4 went from zero to 60 mph in a sluggish 10.2 seconds -- slower than most four-cylinder-powered compact SUVs. The 2WD Liberty returns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined, while 4WD returns 15/21/17. With the optional towing equipment group, the Liberty can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
The 2011 Jeep Liberty rides comfortably enough, but its on-road handling abilities disappoint, with vague steering and pronounced body roll. Acceleration from the 3.7-liter V6 is anemic, which isn't surprising -- it's down about 50-60 hp relative to other V6-powered compact SUVs. Like most other Jeeps, though, the Liberty receives high marks for its off-road prowess.
The Liberty comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, active front head restraints and side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Liberty came to a stop from 60 mph in a longer-than-average 134 feet.
The 2011 Jeep Liberty has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash testing procedures. According to 2010 ratings (which aren't comparable to 2011), the Liberty received the highest five-star rating in all frontal and side categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Liberty its top mark of "Good" in the frontal-offset and roof strength tests, but the second-lowest of "Marginal" in the side crash test.
The Jeep Liberty gets a new steering wheel and some new radio/infotainment interfaces for 2011.