2005 Jeep Liberty Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D Renegade 2WD (V6)

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2005 Jeep Liberty
Mitch McCullough

The Jeep Liberty offers a good balance for someone who enjoys the outdoors. Day in and day out, it takes the place of a car or wagon. The Liberty seats four comfortably and can carry up to five people and their gear. Fold the rear seats and it can move two people and some serious cargo. Turn off the pavement and it's able to negotiate most trails with confidence.

True to Jeep heritage, the Liberty offers legitimate off-road capability. In this respect, it stands apart from the herd of compact sport-utility vehicles, few of which offer true off-road capability. The Liberty gives up some refinement and road agility to do this. On the road, it does not ride or handle as well as some of the other small SUVs. But the Liberty is among the best of the small sport-utilities for drivers who need serious off-road capability on the weekend yet need practicality and affordability during the week.

For 2005, the Liberty gets a new engine and two new transmissions. With the addition of an advanced, 2.7-liter common-rail diesel engine, Jeep becomes the first midsize SUV available with a diesel engine in the U.S. The Diesel is backed by a five-speed overdrive automatic transmission. A new, six-speed manual transmission replaces the previous five-speed manual.

The Liberty Renegade has seen the most change for 2005, having been fitted with a flatter hood, taller grille, off-road foglamps and taillamp guards. The Renegade now has functional rock rails, four skid plates, and new options, such as taller P235/0R16 all-terrain tires, a GPS navigation radio and an overhead light bar.

The fresher appearance extends across all 2005 models. All receive a new front fascia, grille, foglamps fender flares, and body side-moldings. Interior refinements include relocated power window switches, new instrument panel cluster graphics, and improved seat comfort. Model Lineup
The 2005 Jeep Liberty is available in three trim levels: Sport, Limited Edition, and Renegade. Each is offered with two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive (4WD).

Three engines are available: a 2.4-liter inline-4, the 2.8-liter turbo diesel, and a 3.7-liter V6. The new diesel engine is available on both Sport and Limited models. The four-cylinder engine is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox. The V6 is available with a heavy-duty five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic that was revised last year for smoother, quieter operation. A five-speed automatic is standard on the diesel.

Sport ($19,190) and Sport 4WD ($20,700) are entry-level models, but receive visual changes for 2005 that add the look of custom details. Both Sport and Sport 4WD come standard with the four-cylinder engine, six-speed manual transmission, cloth interior, wind-up windows, manually operated mirrors, and 16-inch tires on steel wheels. Command Trac, a part-time 4WD system, is standard, as is a six-speaker stereo with CD player. Air conditioning ($850) is optional, however. Power windows and other features can be added as options. The optional V6 is available with manual transmission ($850) or an automatic ($1,675). The Common Rail Diesel, or CRD, is available for the Sport 4x4 ($24,515).

Limited Edition models offer upgraded interior amenties and a better grade of cloth upholstery. Limited ($23,525) and Limited 4WD ($25,035) come standard with the V6 engine and automatic transmission. Air conditioning is standard. Limited 4x4 is available with the diesel engine ($26,734).

Leather is available as part of a big Customer Preferred option package ($1,576) that also includes a programmable overhead console, power seat adjusters, deep-tint glass, power heated side mirrors, a security group, and an AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and Infinity speakers.

On 4WD Limited models, the same package ($1,690) includes Jeep's SelecTrac full-time four-wheel drive. The diesel version includes a bigger battery, P225/75 tires, 6x7-inch aluminum wheels, four-wheel antilock brakes, and an engine block heater. Other options include the Trailer Tow Group ($285), a Trac-Loc locking rear differential ($285), power sunroof ($700) and Sirius satellite digital radio ($195). While the tire pressure monitor and simple warning signal are standard, a roof-mounted tire pressure display, which shows the actual pressure at each wheel, is optional ($75).

Renegade 2WD ($22,910) and 4WD ($24,520) models come standard with the 3.7-liter V6, six-speed manual transmission and Command-trac part-time 4WD system. Renegade comes standard with air conditioning; cruise control; tilt steering; 16-inch graphite-painted aluminum wheels; power windows, mirrors, and locks; illuminated keyless entry; side rails; and many other features. Renegade 4WD models include rugged tubular side rails and rock rails. Automatic transmission ($825) is optional. A premium package ($1,240) adds the automatic, power leather seats, and upgraded door trim panels, along with an overhead vehicle information center that allows the customer to program automatic locking, lighting, and other features.

Side-impact airbags ($490) are optional on all Liberty models, and we highly recommend them. Serious 4WD adventurers may want the optional Off-Road Group ($765 for Sport, $520 for Limited), which includes skid plates for the front suspension, fuel tank and transfer case; a locking rear differential; heavy-duty engine cooling; P235/70R16 all-terrain tires; and tow hooks. Walkaround
With its seven-slat grille and round headlights, there's no question the Liberty looks like a Jeep.

The Liberty's body is tall, providing the driver with a commanding view of the terrain ahead. In terms of exterior dimensions, the Liberty fits between the Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee. With an overall length of 174.4 inches, the Jeep Liberty is slightly longer than the Ford Escape. It's longer than the Wrangler, but significantly shorter and lighter than the Grand Cherokee.

2005 Liberty Sport models get a new body-color grille, provisions for optional fog lamps, and higher turn lamp locations for more protection from road debris. The front bumper runs across the bottom of the grill with a twin-tube design.

Renegade appeals to a slightly different type of buyer than the basic Sport and more sophisticated Limited models. A flatter hood complements the traditional round Jeep headlimps for a distinctive Jeep appearance. A new body-color grille is part of the re-styling for 2005, as are large freestanding fog lamps with black bezels, and a new sill to protect the body sides from road blast. Tow hooks and a bright silver metallic applique across the new molded-in color front fascia are standard features. Bolted flares are also molded-in color for more durability and have chrome-plated attachment details. A new luggage side rack with beefieer molded-in color end pieces, and a brushed silver metallic tubular side rail combine to suggest a rugged appearance. The black off-road light bar, standard in prior years, is now an optional feature. Fender flares, combined with the off-road light bar and taillamp guards give the Renegade a look that stands apart from the Sport and Limited models.

A neat feature on all models: Yanking hard on the outside door handle causes the glass hatch to swing up as the door itself is swinging out, which saves time and effort. Pulling on the handle with less force causes just the glass hatch to swing up. Also, the door swings open from the right, better for curbside pickups at the airport.

The Jeep Liberty debuted as a 2002 model. 2003 brought enhancements aimed at improving on-road stability. 2004 brought upgrades in safety equipment, and in comfort and convenience options. Among them: Chrysler's Enhanced Accident Response System, which unlocks doors and turns on interior lights five seconds after an airbag deploys. Interior
The Jeep Liberty comes with a roomy interior that can accommodate five passengers and a generous amount of cargo, with 29 cubic feet of usable space behind the second row of seats. Sitting in the Liberty gives the driver a sense of spaciousness with 40.7 inches of headroom, best in class, according to Jeep. Door panels are scalloped out for elbow rests, and a grab handle is provided on the passenger's side of the dash. Sit in the Liberty, and the first thing you'll likely notice is that it feels tall in the saddle.

The seats have been an issue in past models. Sport seats we tried in '04 felt firm in the middle, but the side bolsters were too mushy to provide much side support. For '05, they have been noticeably improved through the use of dual-density foam. Also, there's no seat-height adjustment. The side bolsters are still soft, a signal that the Liberty is set up more to absorb vibration than sling around corners. The cloth upholstery, with a diamond-plate inspired fabric, feels like it'll hold up well. The Renegade front seats are tailored with unique cloth center panels and vinyl bolsters. The front seats in the Limited are more comfortable. They are chair-like buckets, softer and more contoured than the seats in the Ford Escape.

Getting in and out of the Liberty is more difficult than it is in some of the more carlike SUVs. The door openings are relatively narrow, the step-up height is a little higher, the seats have side bolsters to get past, and your feet must clear relatively high side sills. The grab handle, located on the A-pillar above the steering wheel, is not in the perfect position to help shorter people swing inside.

The Liberty's rear seats are comfortable, capable of holding three people. Two adults should be happy here. There is even more rear headroom than in the front, and lots of space to slide your feet under the front seats, but knee room is limited. Sliding out of the back seat requires a bit of a stretch down, and your legs drag across the fender. So be sure to clean that area before sending any well-dressed guests back there.

The Liberty offers a generous amount of cargo space behind the rear seats. Caesar the 160-pound mastiff was happy to ride behind the rear seats. Two full-size garbage cans fit side-by-side back there, a feat we haven't seen duplicated in many SUVs. Grocery-bag hooks and cargo tie-downs are provided to keep things from rolling around. An optional cargo organizer opens to a shelf with compartment dividers to keep packages in place, and can be folded flat when not in use.

Fold the rear seats down and the Liberty offers a lot of cargo space (69.0 cubic feet), virtually the same as the Escape offers. Dropping the split rear seat is a one-hand operation in the Liberty; the rear seat bottom stays in place. The cargo floor isn't perfectly flat when the rear seats are folded down, however, and that's our biggest gripe with this vehicle. Nor are the rear seats readily removable as they are in the RAV4. Also, removing the rear headrests requires pressing two buttons at once to release them.

Overall, the interior presents a round motif that looks contemporary, with round door handles, round instruments, round air inlets, a round horn pad. Textures and finishes are nicely done. Big gauges use black-on-beige graphics. The Limited adds attractive satin chrome highlights to the instrument panel and doors. We felt the interior on the Limited was nicely designed and executed with qualilty materials. The Renegade gets real brushed aluminum highlights on the instrument panel that give it a machined look consistent with the exterior theme.

The manual shifter is on the tall side, but works well. The available leather-wrapped steering wheel is comfortable and features well-designed cruise controls.

The accessory controls work well and intuitively. The power window switches are located on the center console, however, more awkward than having them on the door. The manually operated heating and air-conditioning controls work well, though the mode selector demands attention. The radio works well, but uses a separate and poorly located button to preset stations, an unnecessary distraction when driving. The addition of Sirius Satellite Radio is a major plus, especially on a 4x4 that may be driving into areas where radio reception is spotty.

A notable option on Liberty is UConnect, a hands-free, in-vehicle communications system. UConnect uses Bluetooth technology to link your cell phone with the Liberty's stereo speakers. A hands-free microphone, voice recognition interface, and phone button are housed in the rearview mirror. The system works when you set your mobile phone down anywhere inside the vehicle. You can even continue a conversation while entering or exiting the vehicle without disrupting your call.

A power accessory delay feature maintains electrical power for 10 minutes after the key is removed from the ignition or the front door is opened. That's useful when you turn off the ignition then notice you forgot to close the windows.

Safety features add to the Liberty's appeal: The Liberty was the first Jeep to offer optional side-curtain airbags to protect outboard occupants from head injury in side impacts; we recommend this option. Multi-stage front airbags deploy with less force during low speed collisions, or if the occupant is unbuckled, to reduce the risk of airbag-related injuries. The Enhanced Accident Response System automatically unlocks doors and illuminates interior courtesy lights five seconds after the deployment of the front or side airbag; the system also shuts down the fuel pump immediately after the bags deploy. A three-point belt for the center rear seat is standard, a safety feature that's missing from many SUVs. Should the driver fail to buckle up, the new BeltAlert System periodically activates a chime and illuminates a light in the instrument cluster. Seat belts are the most important safety feature on any vehicle and serve as your first line of defense in a crash.

Renegade and Limited offer an optional tire-pressure monitor, which integrates into the information center in the overhead mini-console. The system displays individual pressures for all four rotating tires, and a warning message when the pressures fall below or exceed set thresholds. The spare tire is also monitored. Tire-changing and jacking equipment is stored under the rear seat and can be quickly grabbed as a unit. Driving Impressions
The 3.7-liter V6 works well with the automatic transmission, delivering good reponse. The V6 is rated at 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is EPA-rated 16/22 City/Highway mpg with the manual, 17/21 mpg with the automatic.

The 2.4-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine comes standard on the Sport model, and is only available with the five-speed manual gearbox. We found the four-cylinder with manual transmission to be a smooth combination, though we suspect it may struggle at higher elevations. Besides the lower initial cost, the 150-horsepower four-cylinder gets 20/24 mpg.

We've also had the opportunity to drive a 2005 Liberty with the new 2.7 Turbo diesel. The engine is surprisingly satisfying, combining the horsepower of a V6 (160) with the torque of a V8 (295 pound-feet) and the mileage of a four-cylinder. During a recent week of testing, we averaged about 21 mpg, including a fair amount of time offroad in low range. On the highway, the diesel Liberty becomes an easy cruiser, showing just 2000 rpm on the tach at 70 mph. Our highway mileage was close to 24 mpg, some 30 percent better than the gas V6. The Diesel is rated to tow up to 5000 pounds with the optional hitch.

The new diesel seems to suffer few of the tradeoffs associated with oil-burning engines of the past. There is practically no smoke, and very little noise or vibration. The technology is European, with a very high pressure fuel injection system that burns much more cleanly than earlier designs. There is no warm-up period before starting, because the glowplugs are electronicaly controlled. The turbocharger is an advanced design with variable-geometry vanes that delivers significant induction improvements at both low rpm and high rpm, and at high altitudes.

The Diesel gets the stronger five-speed electronic automatic, which benefits from advanced logic. The transmission, depending on throttle input, can deliver two separate second-gear ratios, a lower ratio for quicker acceleration, a taller one for smooth downshifts.

The Liberty doesn't ride as smoothly on the road as a Ford Escape, particularly over bumps and other irregularities where it bobbles a bit. Nor does it handle as well as the more car-like SUVs. Steering effort is relatively easy at low speeds for a 4x4, nice when parking. On the road, the steering is reasonably on-center, a benefit of its power-assisted rack-and-pinion design. But the long-travel off-road suspension, set up to absorb impact without being overly harsh, makes for lethargic transient response in lane-change maneuvers. That said, the Liberty rides reasonably well for a short-wheelbase 4x4. It doesn't beat the driver up as much as a Jeep Wrangler does. The wider tires of the Limited and Renegade models seem to offer more stability than the narrower tires of the Sport. We've found the Liberty handles winding Virginia backroads well and feels fine on the crowded freeways around Los Angeles.

We've found the Liberty capable of handling fairly gnarly trails. We've crossed steep ditches and gullies, where its short front and rear overhangs paid off. Its tight turning radius is helpful where space is limited, something we discovered while weaving through a stand of tightly spaced trees. We clambered over big rocks and fallen trees and slowly forded boulder-strewn creeks with 18 inches of rushing water. (Jeep says it can handle 20 inches at 10 mph.) Its traction up steep, muddy banks was impressive, with no wheelspin.

Keep in mind, however, that the Liberty is limited by just 6.4 inches of front ground clearance, about the same as a Subaru. Rocks will contact the skid plates, a sound we experienced although we suspect no harm was being done. Another aspect serious trailblazers should note is that the Liberty platform is less upgradeable than Jeep's other 4x4s, such as the Wrangler or Grand Cherokee. However, a locking rear differential is available as a factory option ($285) for the Liberty, and in truly slippery situations, it makes a big difference. If you need a small SUV with the guts to occasionally negotiate irregular terrain or slog down muddy trails, the Jeep Liberty is a good choice.

Four-wheel-drive models come standard with Jeep's tried-and-true Command Trac part-time system. It works great. Shift from 2WD to 4WD on the fly with a slight pull on the hand lever. When the trail is looking really ugly, slow to 2 or 3 mph and while still coasting, shift into neutral, and pull the lever up higher for low range. One complaint, or at least one aspect, of the system is that it's not meant for use on dry pavement, where the wheels bind up when accelerating out of a tight corner. You'll want to shift back to 2WD when you're on solid road.

Selec Trac is an optional system ($395) that offers the modes above but adds a planetary center differential that lets the driver shift into full-time 4WD for year-round conditions. The full-time mode is ideally suited to inconsistent conditions: patches of ice, gravel roads, wet, slippery roads. It also works on dry pavement.

Like most small SUVs, Liberty follows the trend away from body-on-frame to unibody construction. Jeep calls Liberty's construction "uni-frame" because it's a beefed up unibody with frame-like reinforcement rails. This gives the Liberty increased strength and rigidity. That rigidity allowed the chassis engineers to finely tune the suspension without having to compensate for a Flexible Flyer-type chassis. The Liberty suspension uses coil springs at all four wheels. Breaking from Jeep tradition, the front suspension is independent, like the new Grand Cherokee, with forged steel control arms.

For a better off-road ride, Liberty offers eight inches of suspension travel. Short front and rear overhangs (the distance from the tires to the ends of the vehicle) allow steep angles of approach (38 degrees) and departure (32 degrees) in the rough stuff, so you won't be dragging the front bumper in gullies, or even in New York City parking garages. The Liberty approaches the capability of the Grand Cherokee and it will go many of the places that a Wrangler, the king of off-road vehicles, can go. The difference is that the Liberty is more of an occasional off-road prowler, while the Wrangler is built to last in that environment. Still, the Liberty is more at home in the rough stuff than the Escape, RAV4, or most of the bigger SUVs such as the Ford Explorer, which are quickly left behind in really challenging terrain, spinning their wheels and banging up their rocker panels.

The suspension is built for reasonable on-road comfort and to absorb impact. Progressive-rate springs deliver a nice balance of off-road grip and on-road ride comfort, though humps in the road can be jolting. The Liberty feels a bit jouncier on rough pavement; taller, squishier, more off-road oriented than the Escape. With the long-travel suspension, cornering takes on a lower design priority. On rugged terrain, however, the Jeep offers a much more comfortable ride than the Escape because the Ford's limited suspension travel and lightweight components are out of their element in the rough. The Liberty feels more substantial than the car-based SUVs and it is. The suspension is far beefier, and the interior controls don't look like they came out of a sedan or a minivan because they didn't.

All Liberty models come standard with four-wheel disc brakes. We found the Liberty's brakes easy to modulate in heavy stop-and-go traffic. Four-wheel, three-channel ABS is optional and recommended. The ABS is specifically calibrated to handle off-road situations: In low range, the anti-lock brake system allows some wheel lock, such as descending steep gravel hills. On the road, ABS reduces skidding for improved control steering control, but there is some lockup for shorter stopping distances. Summary
Jeep Liberty strikes a balance between off-road capability and on-road sophistication. It's a good choice for drivers who like to venture into the backcountry, but need comfort and practicality in a daily driver. A higher degree of off-highway capability separates the Liberty from other small SUVs. Though less agile on the road than the so-called cute-utes, the Liberty is superior once you leave the pavement.

New Car Test Drive editor Mitch McCullough filed this report from Charlottesville, Virginia; John Stewart contributed to this report.

Model as tested
Jeep Liberty Limited Edition 4WD ($25,035)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Toledo, Ohio
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
side curtain airbags ($490); ABS ($600); Quick Order Package 28F (-$500)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Jeep Liberty Sport 2WD ($19,190); Renegade 2WD ($21,975); Limited 2WD ($23,525); Sport 4WD ($20,700); Renegade 4WD ($23,485); Limited 4WD ($25,035); Limited CRD Sport 4x4 ($24,515); Liberty CRD Limited 4x4 ($26,745)
Safety equipment (standard)
front airbags, driver''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''s seat-belt pre-tensioner, LATCH child-seat anchor system
Safety equipment (optional)
3.7-liter sohc 12-valve V6
4-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
V6, automatic transmission, Command-Trac part-time 4WD, air conditioning, 12-volt accessory outlets, AM/FM/CD w six speakers, power speed-sensitive door locks, headlamps w time-delay off, , illuminated entry, remote keyless entry, map/dome reading lamps, courtesy and cargo lamps, dual power mirrors, tachometer, rear window defroster, variable intermittent wipers, folding rear seat split 65/35, cargo tie-down loops, matching spare wheel; 136-amp alternator, cargo area cover, cargo area trim panel w storage net, cloth low-back reclining front bucket seats, skid plates for front suspension, fuel tank and transfer case, P235/70R16 tires, 16-inch aluminum wheels, body-color fascias, premium body-colored fender flares, front and rear floor mats, fog lamps, body-color side molding

Engine & Transmission
3.7-liter sohc 12-valve V6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
210 @ 5200
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS
Suspension, front
independent, upper and lower A-arms, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension, rear
live axle, dual lower trailing links, single upper trailing A-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

J.D. Power Rating
Overall Quality Not Available
Overall Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Mechanical
Not Available
Overall Quality - Design
Not Available
Powertrain Quality - Design
Not Available
Body & Interior Quality - Design
Not Available
Features & Accessories Quality - Design
Not Available

Overall Dependability Not Available
Powertrain Dependability
Not Available
Body & Interior Dependability
Not Available
Feature & Accessory Dependability
Not Available

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J.D. Power Rating Legend
Among the Best
5 / 5
Better than Most
4 / 5
About Average
3 / 5
The Rest
2 / 5

* The J.D. Power Ratings are calculated based on the range between the car manufacturer or car model with the highest score and the car manufacturer or car model with the lowest score. J.D. Power generates a rating of a five, four, three, or two. If there is insufficient data to calculate a rating, “Not Available” is used in its place.

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