Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Respectable off-road capability, simple and functional cabin, high towing capacity.
- Modest and thirsty V6 engine, poor headlight illumination, subpar interior materials, upgraded ride and handling still not as carlike as many rivals.
The redesigned 2008 Jeep Liberty is bigger than before and has more premium features and substantially improved on-road ride and handling. Urban- and comfort-oriented buyers will still likely find the Liberty's competition superior in terms of everyday drivability and refinement, however.
The Jeep Liberty first debuted six years ago as the slightly larger successor to Jeep's original Cherokee compact sport-utility vehicle. With an ample greenhouse, high roof line and flared wheel arches, it was an evolutionary departure from that earlier SUV's boxy design, which also paid tribute to the original Jeep Willys off-roader. Not content to simply look the part like many of its car-based SUV competitors, the Jeep Liberty was also designed to venture off road confidently with extreme approach and departure angles, impressive suspension articulation and thoroughly capable 4WD systems.
However potentially useful that off-road ability was, though, we generally found the first-generation Liberty outclassed (particularly in later years) in terms of comfort, on-road handling and refinement. The 2008 Jeep Liberty has been redesigned in hopes of addressing those shortcomings while adding a more rugged image many Jeep enthusiasts thought the previous Liberty lacked. Underneath new sheet metal -- it bears significant resemblance to Jeep's large Commander -- is the same updated platform that's also used for the Dodge Nitro. This platform's updated independent front/five-link rear suspension and power rack-and-pinion steering system help to improve on-road ride and handling.
A nearly 2-inch-longer wheelbase translates into improved interior roominess and seating comfort. There are also additional premium features like rain-sensing wipers, express up/down front windows, remote starting, driver memory positioning and a hard-drive-based navigation system. Versatility is enhanced with a new rear hatch with separate lift glass and an underbody spare tire carrier instead of the previous tailgate-mounted wheel. Also making its debut is an optional new Sky Slider full-length canvas roof that slides open to give the Liberty an airy, Wrangler-like experience.
Jeep fans don't have to worry that the Liberty has gone completely soft. (That's what the Compass is for, after all.) The Liberty still has a solid rear axle and two available "Trail Rated" 4WD systems -- Command-Trac and the updated Selec-Trac II -- as well as hill-descent and hill-start assist technologies. Carrying over from last year is the Liberty's 3.7-liter V6. It's again rated at 210 horsepower, though fuel economy has been improved slightly.
We think the 2008 Jeep Liberty is still a good choice for people planning on using their small or midsize SUV for towing or occasional recreational use. Its low price and simplified trim level structure could also be draws. However, for true off-road ability, the Hummer H3, Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser (not to mention Jeep's own Wrangler Unlimited) are vastly superior. And despite its latest significant refinements and improved on-road manners, the Liberty simply isn't the best choice for consumers who aren't planning on venturing off pavement. For this latter group, we recommend taking a look at models such as the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Toyota RAV4.
2008 Jeep Liberty models
The 2008 Jeep Liberty is a midsize SUV available in Sport and Limited trim levels and with a choice of two- or four-wheel drive. The base Sport model features 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories and a CD stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. The upscale Liberty Limited Edition rolls with larger 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, a power driver seat, heated side mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a high-power Infinity sound system with satellite radio. Many of the Limited's features are also available on the Sport. Major options include 18-inch chrome wheels, the Sky Slider cloth roof or a traditional sunroof, automatic temperature control, heated leather seats, a power passenger seat, an in-dash six-CD stereo, a MyGIG infotainment system with navigation, rear parking assist and Bluetooth.
Performance & mpg
Two-wheel drive or one of two different four-wheel-drive systems -- standard part-time Command-Trac or available full-time Selec-Trac -- are offered on both trim levels. All Jeep Liberty models are powered by a 3.7-liter V6 rated at 210 hp and 235 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a four-speed automatic is optional on the Sport trim level, while the automatic comes standard on the Limited. A properly equipped Jeep Liberty can tow up to 5,000 pounds, among the best in its class. Engine refinements have translated into slightly improved (though still unimpressive) fuel economy this year; EPA estimates are 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway for two-wheel-drive models and 4WD variants with the manual gearbox, while automatic-equipped 4WD models rate a slightly lower 15 mpg/city and 21 mpg/highway.
Antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, electronic roll mitigation and side curtain airbags are all standard on the 2008 Jeep Liberty. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the Liberty a perfect five-star rating in both front- and side-impact crashworthiness. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2008 Liberty its highest rating of "Good" for frontal offset impacts, up from "Marginal" for 2002-'07 models. However, it deemed the Liberty only "Marginal" (second lowest) in side-impact crash-testing.
The new 2008 Jeep Liberty exhibits improved on-road manners thanks to a much-needed suspension overhaul, including retuned springs, shocks and rack-and-pinion steering. The revised chassis, together with a longer and wider stance, contributes to greater stability through fast turns and quick transitions, though there's still a modest amount of body roll and harshness to contend with. Like other Jeeps, the Liberty receives top marks for its off-road prowess, and its long suspension travel helps to tame larger bumps on paved roads, too. The Liberty's unspectacular acceleration with the carryover V6 would be tolerable if it achieved good fuel mileage, but it doesn't -- quite the opposite, really. Also, during night driving we found that the headlights were insufficient and inconsistent in their coverage.
The redesigned five-passenger Jeep Liberty features a 2-inch-longer wheelbase and slightly wider dimensions, which translates into more front shoulder room, more rear legroom and increased cargo capacity compared to the previous Liberty. The interior has also sobered up. In place of the collection of design-y circles that made the old interior resemble a toy is a theme of straight lines and flat surfaces. It is similar to -- surprise -- the Dodge Nitro. And in response to what Jeep claims has been a chorus of complaints from owners, the power window switches have been moved to the door panels from the center console.
For maximum versatility, a fold-flat front passenger seat is available on Sport models and standard on the Limited. Luggage capacity checks in at 31.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up; cargo space is 64.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverallNot Rated
- Side Barrier RatingOverallNot RatedDriver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront SeatNot RatedBack SeatNot Rated
- RolloverRollover3 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of RolloverNot Rated
- Side Impact TestMarginal
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintPoor
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestMarginal
More About This Model
You might think that the 2008 Jeep Liberty midsize SUV is just a Dodge Nitro wearing a Jeep Commander mask.
We wouldn't disagree exactly. We might note that the Jeep is offered with a low-range four-wheel-drive transfer case and the Nitro isn't. The Jeep is available with a very large hole in its roof with a retractable fabric cover, and this homage to the Renault Le Car is not available for any price on the Dodge. And the new Liberty is offered only with the 210-horsepower 3.7-liter V6, while the Nitro is offered with the same motor or a more powerful V6.
Some people grab life by the horns, you see. And others, well, they just like to have fun out there.
It might sound as if we're knocking the 2008 Jeep Liberty for getting the ol' Nitro injection. We're not, really. The original Liberty with its vulnerable-looking big peepers needed to butch up a bit. Jeep says that 60 percent of the buyers of the first-generation Liberty were women. Now Jeep says it expects buyers will be split evenly between men and women and that hermaphrodites won't account for a measurable segment of buyers.
You'll have noticed that the Liberty is now a simpler box than it once was. All the bulbous or rounded features have been shaved and then all the edges have been chamfered off. This is to impart a look of honest capability or legendary Jeep cues or some such thing. The Liberty is now a more handsome, if less distinctive, thing than the outgoing model. And it is anything but cute.
You won't see unpainted gray-plastic fenders and bumper covers on the '08 model, not even on the entry-level Sport version. With two new cheap little brothers — the Compass and the Patriot — the Liberty gets a slight bump up the marketing scale to a more prestigious neighborhood.
No More Funny Business
Of more pressing concern to Jeep than aesthetics, however, has been an improvement in the Liberty's stability on the road. After a report came in from an enthusiast magazine about a rollover of the former model during testing, Jeep made some modifications to the Liberty's suspension. The improvement garnered the Liberty an additional star in the government's rollover rating (from a miserable two stars for 2WD models to a decent three stars).
We anticipate the '08 Liberty will do at least as well now that Jeep has widened the new SUV's track by an inch up front and slightly more than an inch in back. At the same time, the new Liberty is about an inch shorter in height than last year's version. Further, the new Jeep has an electronic stability control system with roll mitigation, something not available for any price on the old Liberty.
Compared to the outgoing Liberty, the '08 model has a wheelbase that's nearly 2 inches longer. (When was the last time a new version of an existing model got smaller, maybe like the 1970s?) All of that extra length has been given over to the rear-seat passengers, who badly needed it. The legroom is still tight — an average-height man sitting behind us had to splay his legs to either side of our seatback — but being forced to sit in the back of a Liberty no longer violates the Geneva Conventions. And while the load height of the cargo floor is a distressing 3 inches higher than the old version, the length of the cargo area has been extended by 3 inches.
The interior has also sobered up. In place of the collection of design-y circles that made the old interior look something like a toy is a theme of straight lines and flat surfaces. It is similar to — surprise — the Dodge Nitro. And in response to what Jeep claims has been a chorus of complaints from owners, the power window switches have been moved to the door panels from the center console.
There's a reason that we have waited until now to mention the Liberty's new powertrain. This is because it is essentially identical to the old Liberty's powertrain. Same 3.7-liter V6 making the same 210 hp and 235 pound-feet of torque. It's connected to the same six-speed manual or four-speed automatic, and even the gear ratios are the same.
Nevertheless, Jeep has managed to increase the V6's compression ratio without forcing the use of premium fuel, and the result is a slight improvement in fuel economy. The EPA numbers look essentially the same — 16 mpg city/22 highway. But given the tougher testing procedures the EPA uses for 2008 ratings, this represents a slight real-world improvement, as well as something the Liberty needs to stay competitive in its class of carlike crossovers.
The V6 engine is torquey enough to live up to its Jeep heritage, we suppose, but the progress of the Liberty (4,030 pounds in 2WD, 4,222 pounds in 4WD) is best described as deliberate. The automatic's shifts are a bit clunky. Simply put, there are far better powertrains out there.
Rocks and Rolls
The Liberty comes in either Sport or Limited guise, and the base models are rear-wheel drive. There are two four-wheel-drive systems offered: the Selec-Trac II full-time automatic system and the Command-Trac part-time arrangement. Either system is available on either trim level. Unless you're pinching every penny, we say get the full-time system since it will give you the best arrangement in inclement weather and still offers a low range should you want to put a few scratches in your new truck by driving around where there are no roads.
We have to let you know that the Liberty isn't quite as agile when it's off-road, although maybe not by much. The longer wheelbase plays a role here, but more importantly, the Liberty abandons its Jeep heritage by relocating the spare tire from its traditional mounting on the hatch (easily accessible for tire swaps on the trail) to a new home under the rear portion of the platform (making the cargo area easily accessible), thereby compromising its departure angle over obstacles.
The 2008 Jeep Liberty is still capable when the road ends and it certainly outdoes the competition in this respect. We're actually more impressed that its on-road handling has improved. A new five-link rear axle and new wishbone-type independent front suspension certainly do improve both ride and handling. The 2008 Liberty doesn't feel as tippy or truculent as the old model. Despite these improvements, the new small Jeep is still a truck at heart, and it's well behind its car-based competitors when it comes to ride quality, body control, steering action and general responsiveness.
Oh, Those Guys
Some will choose to see the 2008 Liberty's personality as evidence of being faithful to Jeep's off-road heritage. But with a raft of largely car-based competitors — and seemingly more arriving every day from all corners of the world — the Liberty has its work cut out for it. Heck, with its similarities to the Nitro and with a number of crossovers and wagons from the Chrysler brands, the Liberty will have enough competition just from its own corporate stablemates.
At least this Jeep is very competitive on the cost side. A 4x2 Liberty Sport starts at $20,990, while the part-time four-wheel-drive Command-Trac version will add $1,610 to the bottom line. The better-equipped Limited starts at $25,175 for a 4x2, and the Limited with Command-Trac four-wheel drive is $26,785. No price has yet been announced for the full-time four-wheel-drive system. But the power-retractable canvas roof is $1,200.
With the 2008 Jeep Liberty, most of the glaring failings of the outgoing model have been addressed, but we're not sure that the combination of these improvements and aggressive pricing is enough in this market anymore.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.
Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV Overview
The Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV is offered in the following styles: Sport 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 6M), Sport 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 6M), Limited Edition 4dr SUV 4WD (3.7L 6cyl 4A), and Limited Edition 4dr SUV (3.7L 6cyl 4A). Pre-owned Jeep Liberty SUV models are available with a 3.7 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 210 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV comes with four wheel drive, and rear wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed manual, 4-speed automatic. The Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. roadside warranty, and a unlimited yr./ unlimited mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV?
Price comparisons for Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV trim styles:
- The Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV Limited Edition is priced between $6,999 and$6,999 with odometer readings between 133107 and133107 miles.
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Used 2008 Jeep Liberty SUV Listings and Inventory
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Should I lease or buy a 2008 Jeep Liberty?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.