One look at the all-new Liberty, and it's clear where Jeep designers turned for inspiration-the longer, wider, more macho Dodge Nitro.

While the result is a better chassis and a more aggressive look for this Liberty, the consensus around here is that there's still plenty of work to be done. On the test track and on our high- and low-elevation test routes, the Liberty needed a stronger engine and more functional transmission (where you have access to all the gears). A measly 210 horsepower from a V-6 when the rest of the world is getting between 250 and 275 horsepower is too much to ignore.

Inside, the dash layout and material choices left us wanting as well. We understand Jeep is about practicality and function, but the Jeep IP lacks imagination and smacks of cost-cutting. Good for pricing, but bad for image, especially with the Xterra on the market.

Among our favorite Liberty options is the exclusive Sky Slider fully open roof. The pushbutton skylight opens forward and back, depending on which passengers want the sunlight. This one feature was a huge hit with our testers. Add to this a new rear lift hatch, all sorts of standard electronic traction aids (hillhold, hill ascent, ESC, etc), and two 4x4 system choices, and there's a lot Jeep's done right here. Still, it's just not enough.

Ultimately, the Liberty doesn't score higher because the powertrain (it desperately needs the 255-horse, 4.0-liter V-6) and dash layout missed the mark.


2008 Jeep Liberty
Base price range $20,990-$26,785
Price as tested $30,600 (Limited 4WD)
Vehicle layout Front engine, RWD/4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 3.7L/210-hp/235-lb-ft SOHC 12-valve V-6
Transmission 4-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4470 lb (51/49%)
Wheelbase 106.1 in
Length x width x height 176.9 x 72.4 x 70.6 in
0-60 mph 9.9 sec
Quarter mile 17.3 sec @ 79.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 130 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.69 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 30.2 sec @ 0.50 g (avg)
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 15/21 mpg
CO2 emissions 1.13 lb/mile
Ratings
Engineering ***
Design ****
Interior/Functionality ***
Performance **
On-Road Refinement ***
Off-Road Ability *****
Value ****
Bottom Line Good looks and improved on-road feel, but powertrain weaknesses distract.