Jeep Liberty Sport 4x4 (2012)
The Jeep Liberty looks like a brick and drives like a brick. Buy it if you need a smaller, more nimble SUV that can tackle almost any excuse for a road in any condition just like full-sized pick-up trucks.
If there’s one thing that makes a Jeep a Jeep, it’s off-road capability and the ability to perform in nasty weather. The Liberty didn’t disappoint. During my week with the vehicle, a storm dumped 16 inches of wet snow on my neighborhood turning it into a frozen test track of three-foot snow banks, frozen patches of ice, and snowdrifts to plow through. The Liberty had no issues with any of it—in fact, for several hours it was the only thing that could move on my block. Its low-ish ground clearance (its 7.8-inches is less than a Subaru Outback’s) wasn’t a problem as the SUV’s 3.7-liter V6 engine with its 235 lb-ft of torque simply pushed snow out of the way.
The qualities that made the Liberty such a solid off-roader (stiff suspension tuned for abuse, a solid rear axle, 4WD, big engine with gobs of torque) made for a less than average ride on pavement. Every bump and pothole sent a jolt throughout the vehicle. Despite the relatively big engine, the Jeep was short on oomph when stomping on the gas. Handling on curving roads didn’t inspire me to push its cornering limits. And watching the fuel gauge quickly make its way to “E” was a drag, especially considering the rocketing price of gas this year. An extra gear for highway driving and a more efficient engine would go a long way toward making the Liberty more appealing to suburban drivers who want an escape machine for snow country or the desert.
I was unprepared for how roomy the interior of the Liberty was. While the rear seats won’t win any awards for comfort, I was able to fold my 6-foot, 2-inch frame in them with plenty of head and legroom. Another welcome surprise, the boxy shape of the Liberty made stowing gear much easier. There were no weird humps, bends, or sloping windows or rooflines to contend with. As a result, I was able to shove two mountain bikes in through the rear (after folding down the rear seats) without needing to take the front wheels off. For skis or snowboards, folding one seat down gave me plenty of room to conceivably haul three sets of skis/snowboards, boots, and attendant gear. Large dogs should love the vertical space as it gives them more room to move.
How We Tested It
The Liberty was driven 110 miles over the course of a week in Denver, Colorado on a mix of city streets and highway just after 16 inches of snow buried the city. Road conditions were mostly snow-packed roads, ice patches, and, towards the end of the week, dry pavement. Temperatures averaged the mid-30s F during the day and single digits at night and in the mornings. Cargo space usability was determined with an XL 29er mountain bike, XL commuter bike and a set of skis.
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Gear Institute Rating (Total Score)
- Weight: 4,076 lbs.
- Drivetrain: 4x4
- Engine: 3.7-liter V6
- Hybrid: No