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2006 Jeep Liberty Renegade Review

Trail-Rated Transformation

A three-quarter front view of a 2006 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4x4

In short: A compact, well-equipped all-terrain vehicle

Once upon a time there was only one Jeep. That off-road pioneer was primarily used to ferry around General Patton and other military folks before more civilian-friendly incarnations showed up. One of those was the Cherokee, which arguably was the first mainstream family sport-utility vehicle. In fact, before the term SUV, such vehicles were almost always referred to as Jeeps, regardless of brand.

Today, the Jeep line-up is quite literally bigger than ever. With the new tiny Patriot/Compass twins, the mid-size Grand Cherokee, jumbo-sized Commander and a new Wrangler on its way, it’s easy to forget about the compact Liberty that replaced the iconic Cherokee in 2001. Although getting along in years, the Liberty is still a very capable SUV off road and provides a decent amount of space, power and versatility.

A rear and interior view of a 2006 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4x4

The Liberty that showed up in our humble quarters was a Renegade 4x4 version that differentiates itself with a slew of styling add-ons designed to make this “cute-ute” more manly looking and off-road capable — it succeeds. Renegade features include fog lights, bolted-on fender flares, alloy tube roof and side rails, and several special jungle-friendly colors like our Dark Khaki Pearl. Sadly, our test car didn’t come with the optional light bar that, with its four lights mounted above the windshield, makes the Liberty look like the go-to vehicle for late-night buffalo hunting. And with high- and low-gear four-wheel drive, such an expedition is certainly possible, since this is a “Trail Rated” Jeep.

Despite its capabilities off road, the Liberty just doesn’t perform well enough on road when compared to newer compact SUVs. Its coil-link rear suspension doesn’t soak up enough impact when bounding over rough roads and its vague steering lacks weight and feel — especially during quick changes in direction. Its 210-horsepower, 3.7-liter V6 is powerful enough, but it starts to roar at mid-level rpms and gets relatively poor gas mileage at only 17 city and 22 highway (EPA figures).

Inside, our Liberty Renegade was well equipped with nice-quality khaki cloth seats, an in-dash six-CD changer, leather steering wheel and sunroof. Head room front and back is excellent, with a good amount of rear seat leg room and trunk space. The front seats are a little cramped for taller drivers, though, with limited adjustment. Also, interior plastics have the rock-hard quality indicative of small kitchen appliances, which contrasts sharply with the improved craftsmanship that has shown up in recent Chrysler Group vehicles.

With more compact SUVs entering the market (including competition from the more on-road friendly Jeep Patriot), the Liberty is a little behind the times. In Renegade guise, however, the Liberty receives an added oomph of testosterone that makes it a perfect vehicle for the guy who dreams of having a manly off-road ride like a Hummer H3 but doesn’t quite have the funds at his disposal.

Read a review of the 2009 Jeep Liberty Limited 4x4

A three-quarter rear view of a 2006 Jeep Liberty Renegade 4x4

Warranty/Service: 3-year/36,000-mile new vehicle warranty.

Price as tested: $27,200

Technical Specifications

Vehicle type: front-engine, 4-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 5-door SUV

Engine: 3.7-liter V6
Horsepower: 210 bhp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque: 235 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed automatic (6-speed manual standard)

Curb weight: 4033 lbs
Wheelbase: 104.3 in
174.4/71.6/70.2 in
Turning circle: 35.9 feet

Brakes: 4-wheel disc with ABS
independent in front;
coil-link in rear
4-wheel drive; traction control, vehicle stability control

Safety: front airbags; optional side curtain airbags; tire pressure monitor

0-60 mph: 9 seconds (approx.)
Top Speed: 115 mph

EPA City: 17 mpg
EPA Highway: 22 mpg

Likes: renegade features look great and add brawn; legitimate off-road credentials; head room; cloth seats; optional buffalo-friendly light bar

vague steering; uncomfortable driver's seat; jarring ride; noisy; rear tailgate operation; console-mounted window switches; rock-hard plastics

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(Updated 04/08/09 SV)

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