After a major redesign in 2008, the Jeep Liberty pretty much stayed the course for 2009.
There were some changes to the suspension calibration and steering, but it was still powered by a 3.7-litre V-6 engine that developed 210 horsepower, and 235 lb-ft of torque. However, the six-speed manual transmission was dropped, and a four-speed automatic was the only choice. With 210 horsepower on tap, the '09 Liberty had decent grunt, but was outgunned by rivals such as the Toyota RAV4, which was good for 270 horses, and the Hyundai Santa Fe, which developed 242. These were both direct competitors, and, in a drag race, left the Liberty behind.
Compared to these two rivals, the Liberty was also a bit on the crude side. The engine was less refined and it featured a surprisingly rough ride. Its offshore competitors also offered up a much more linear power delivery. Fuel economy was less than exemplary: 14.0 litres/100 km in town and 9.7 on the highway, which was inferior to its Asian rivals.
Two four-wheel-drive systems were offered with the 2009 Liberty: Command Trac II and Selec-Trac II. The first was an on-demand arrangement that allowed you to get into all-wheel-drive while in motion, and was accessed via a floor console-mounted roller switch. It was standard equipment. For serious stump-jumpers, the Selec-Trac full-time 4WD system delivered torque more efficiently to the driving wheels and monitored the vehicle's progress to suit driving conditions.
Hill Start Assist, which prevents the vehicle from rolling backward when things get really hairy off-road, was also standard issue, as were four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, a traction control system, and an electronic vehicle stability program. You could also order an optional Hill Descent Control feature, which automatically slows the vehicle down while descending steep inclines. It may not have been the most powerful compact SUV out there, but the Liberty was, and is, one of the most stable and capable off-road vehicles in the compact SUV market. When the pavement turned to gravel and the gravel turned to nothing at all, the Liberty left its rivals in the mud.
The North Edition, which was offered in Canada only, also came with a front-passenger fold-flat seat, fog lamps, roof rails, a speed control system and a cargo compartment cover. Other standard equipment included air conditioning, one-touch driver's-side power window, remote keyless entry, 16-inch wheels and tires and a two-way rear tailgate.
No safety recalls to report from Transport Canada for the '09 Liberty, but the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has one. It concerns an aftermarket lift kit manufactured by Rock Krawler. Some of the bolts used in the kit aren't of sufficient strength and can fail, causing the vehicle to drop in ground clearance. Few of the kits are affected, however, and the manufacturer will replace the suspect bolts.
Four technical service bulletins are on file with NHTSA. Two involve emission sticker corrections, while the other two concern a possibly faulty transmission shifter and potential cold start problems. This latter issue is corrected by dealers replacing the fuel injection throttle body and air duct, while the former shouldn't affect '09 models, as it has to do with the manual transmission.
Consumer Reports is not a huge fan of the Liberty, giving is an "average" used-car prediction. Potential problem areas include paint and trim, body hardware and power equipment. However, it fares better than the '08 model in areas such as the climate control system, body squeaks and rattles and minor transmission issues. Some comments from owners: "Built like a tank," "Took it for an off-road ride and it overheated," "If you're looking for 30 mpg [9.5 litres/100 km], don't buy one" and "If you want a car, get a CR-V."
From a base price of just less than $29,000 for the '09 Sport model, a three-year-old Liberty has dropped in value by almost half, depending on its equipment level. Prices range from the mid-teens for the Sport, to the low-$20,000 range for the better-equipped Limited. Interestingly, two of the Liberty's stablemates – the Patriot and Compass – are valued at almost half of the Liberty.
Tech specs: 2009 Jeep Liberty
Original Base Price: $28,995; Black Book: $19,025-$21,650; Red Book: $15,600-$17,450
Engine: 3.7-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 210 hp/235 lb-ft
Transmission: Four-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 14.0 city/9.7 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Suzuki XL-7, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Xterra