As a mid-sized sport utility vehicle with plenty of room and all the comfort you’d expect, the 2011 Jeep Liberty Renegade doesn’t sacrifice any off-road capabilities. The Renegade model is a little nicer than the Jeep Liberty Sport, but not as well equipped as the Limited. Yet, it has plenty of comfort features that make it great for a road trip and is very capable off-road to handle most obstacles with ease.
But some of the best features of the Liberty Renegade begin with its bold and rugged appearance. Our test model was shod in the new Blackberry Pearl paint with a dark Slate Gray leather interior. Not a color you’d expect on a Jeep, but it looks just as good parked in front of a swanky restaurant as it does in front of a trailhead. The bold Jeep grille and Trail Ready badge on the fenders indicate that this Jeep is ready for the dirt with its Selec-Trac II, full-time on demand transfer case that allows you to manually switch into four-wheel low when you need it. Additional traction comes from Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Assist and Electronic Roll Mitigation which allows even the most novice of off-road enthusiasts complete control and confidence.
The lowest point on the Liberty Renegade is the front axle, which gives the vehicle a maximum ground clearance of 7.8 inches; enough for it to reach primitive campsites, crawl over eroded backcountry roads and climb up rocky grades while you’re seated in total comfort. For us, the Liberty always felt sure footed, not top heavy as we’ve experienced from other mid-sized 4×4 sport utility vehicles. While the ground clearance limits the types of trails you can take it on, the Liberty does have a 28.7- inch approach angle with the air dam, and a 29.9-inch departure angle, which makes it much more capable of handling difficult terrain than other SUV’s in its class.
There’s also plenty of power from the Jeep’s 3.7 liter V6, that’s coupled with a four-speed automatic transmission and 3.73:1 rear axle gears. This powertrain gives the Liberty plenty of torque to take on seep hills, yet provides plenty of passing power and acceleration with better fuel economy than we expected for a mid-sized sport utility vehicle. We drove the Liberty Renegade more than 700 miles from Los Angeles to Moab, Utah and averaged 22 mpg on the highway. The large 19.5-gallon fuel tank also kept us from having to stop frequently to re-fill, allowing us to drive farther and locate the best fuel prices to top-off the tank.
New for 2011 are standard audio controls mounted to the steering wheel. Considering the Liberty Renegade comes with Sirius satellite radio, CD player and MP3 inputs as standard equipment, the steering wheel controls come in handy. Our test model was also equipped with the optional Infinity amplified stereo system with subwoofer that allowed us to connect our iPod and crank Def Leppard tunes to create our own personal concert. Don’t have an iPod or MP3 player? No problem the optional Media Center features a 30 GB hard-drive so you can download up to 6, 700 songs, enough for several long distance trips.
While in Moab, during the annual Easter Jeep Safari, the Liberty Renegade stuck out among a sea of modified Jeep Wranglers with 37-inch tall tires, aftermarket axles and fender scratches that seem more like tattoos of where these vehicles had been and how they got there. Nevertheless, the Liberty Renegade grabbed lots of attention and could arguably be one of the best-looking Jeeps during the entire event. Many Jeep Wrangler owners commented on the new color and asked us to check out the comfortable but sturdy seating in the Renegade. Most liked the convenience features such as the built-in navigation (another option), heated seats and safety features that include advanced multistage front airbags and side-curtain front and rear airbags.
But these Wrangler owners were there to hit the trails and take in the beautiful scenery. While they often took time to remove their vehicle’s soft tops, we were also able to enjoy some fresh and views of the monumental red rocks by simply pressing the button to open the Liberty’s Sky Slider sun roof. We definitely spent most of our time waiting for our colleagues and friends to get ready as they packed up their Wranglers, zipped up windows, hung their doors and got ready to head from the trail back into town; something they grew envious about. Obviously, the Liberty wasn’t equipped to take on some of the same trails as these modified Wranglers could easily climb over, but it was great to experience the outdoors without getting wet, cold, and have plenty of cargo space behind the rear passenger seats to load up on cases of bottled water, food and equipment.
The Liberty Renegade still made it to several trail heads that required climbing up steep slick-rock, crossing washed out streams and a few small staircases. It was also reassuring that the Liberty also has skid plates to protect the underside, while the 16-inch diameter Goodyear Wranglers provided plenty of traction.
In previous year’s we’ve traveled to this event in a 4×4 Wrangler, but after several hours on the road, riding in comfort, and seeing our total fuel bill at the end of the trip, we agreed that this time, we definitely brought the right vehicle.