2009 Jeep Liberty 4X4 Review

A refined and comfortable Jeep that can use some extra ground clearance

Sep. 09, 2009 By Dan Sanchez

The 2009 Jeep Limited 4x4 is best described as a refined Wrangler that sacrifices some off-road expertise for improved street comfort and finesse.

As we approached a steep trail out in the back country just north of Big Bear Lake in Southern California, we shifted the 2009 Jeep Liberty 4x4 Limited into 4WD high and began our ascent. While the 201 horsepower and 235 lbs.-ft. of torque from the 3.7-liter V-6 easily made the climb over loose dirt and rocks, it was the loud thud from the undercarriage that forced us to stop and wonder what invisible boulder had jumped into our path.    

We put the Liberty through some of the same trails we challenged with the Wrangler. The Liberty still managed to get traction and provide good articulation.

To our surprise, it turned out that the front steel skid plate hit a small rock about 3 to 4 inches high; the size of rock that we normally wouldn’t think twice about driving over. But despite the fact that the Liberty was equipped with a set of 17-inch Goodyear Wrangler HP tires (P235/65R17), the skid plate ends up being the lowest point on the Liberty’s underside. By the look of things, it had made contact with several rocks before.  

The drawback on the Liberty is its ground clearance. This moderate trail soon became a little too difficult for the Jeep, as several rocks kept hitting the front skid plate.

While it sounded like we tore the oil pan out from the engine, there was really no damage that occurred. Fortunately, the Liberty was outfitted with an optional Skid Plate Group that includes steel skid plates for the transmission, fuel tank, front suspension, and transfer case, as well as a pair of tow-hooks.

It’s a good idea to get the optional Skid Plate Group as you’ll need the protection if you plan on taking the Liberty out on the trail. Otherwise, a 2- or 3-inch body lift would do the trick.



New for 2009 is the Sky Slider open roof that extends into the back seat area.

Our test model’s interior was comfortable with leather seating.

Nevertheless, the lack of ride height limited the type of terrain that the Liberty could handle. Despite our slight disappointment, we didn’t really expect this vehicle to live up to the same off-road agility of the Wrangler. Although it can’t tackle some of the same types of trails as the Wrangler, however, it can get you in and out of primitive campsites, unpaved roads and even tackle some deep ruts with good articulation.

Where the Liberty Limited did shine was in its overall comfort and ride quality. One of the first things you notice about this SUV is that it’s quiet and comfortable. Our test model was equipped with nice convenience options, such as a new Sky Slider open roof that lets lots of air and light in and stretches all the way to the back seat. It also had six-way power, leather seating, an upgraded Infinity amplified audio system with SIRIUS radio, DVD player, and a multi-media navigation system with GPS.

The four-speed automatic transmission also provided smooth shifting and used all of the engine’s horsepower to accelerate quickly and pass slower vehicles with ease. During our test, the Liberty averaged 16.5 mpg in combined city, highway and off-road driving. Not too bad for a vehicle with a curb weight of 4,222 lbs. and can tow up to 5,000 lbs. with an optional Class III hitch.

The interior remains modest, yet functional with plenty of conveniences such as an Infinity stereo system, navigation, GPS and DVD player.



The 3.7 liter V-6 never gave us any indication that it struggled in any situation. Coupled with the 4-speed automatic transmission, it provided smooth acceleration and plenty of torque to climb hills.

Our Liberty was also equipped with Jeep’s Select Trac II active full-time 4WD system. It offered great traction without

The Goodyear Wrangler HP tires measured 235/65R17 and provided excellent traction. A slightly larger tire would also help improve the vehicle’s ground clearance.

having to switch from 2WD to 4WD in loose dirt and unpaved roads. When you needed to lock it into 4WD High or Low, you simply flip the switch on the center console and head up the trail. In addition to this feature, the Liberty was also equipped with Brake Assist, Hill Start Assist and Hill Descent Control. This makes the Liberty an easy vehicle for non-experienced off-road enthusiasts to tackle trails that may be outside their personal comfort zone.

Another benefit to the Liberty is its ESP (electronic stability program) and electronic roll mitigation that keeps the vehicle flat and stable, even during high-speed turns. The long, twisty two-lane road heading down from our mountain top trail area was a perfect test to see how well the Liberty can take a corner. To our surprise, we had fun taking the Liberty around tight corners at speeds we’d normally reach with a Mustang or Corvette. Ok … maybe it wasn’t that fast, but we did have fun pitching it around corners and found that the stability controls on the vehicle turns the Liberty from what would normally be a top-heavy feeling SUV into a sporty ride.

Our experience with the ’09 Liberty Limited proved that it’s a great SUV that’s perfect for light off-road adventures and ski trips into the snow. Its comfort level and road manner is comparable to any domestic sport utility vehicle in its class, yet to its benefits, it gives you the added confidence to know it is easier for inexperienced off-road drivers to handle the roads to the ski lodge or primitive campsites. With an MSRP of $32,985, as tested, it’s also one of the most affordable mid-sized SUVs, and it comes with plenty of options that can help tame your daily commute.

Liberty proved to be a comfortable, low-cost, mid-sized SUV that is more at home on the street, but is still capable in light off-road situations.  


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