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2006 Jeep Liberty Test Drive Review

If you’re looking for a small SUV and you need serious off-roading capability, the 2006 Jeep Liberty is purpose-built for your needs. If you’re planning to spend most of your driving time on pavement, you’re going to want something else to drive.

6.3 /10
Overall Score

A compact SUV better suited to four passengers than it is five, the 2006 Jeep Liberty comes in Sport, Renegade, and Limited trim levels. This year, Jeep drops the standard 4-cylinder gasoline engine and adds standard stability control.

Look and Feel

7/ 10

You can identify the 2006 Liberty as a Jeep with no more than a glance. Equipped with round headlights, a 7-slot grille, and trapezoidal fender arches, it couldn’t be anything else.

This is a small SUV, tall, narrow, and equipped with lots of glass for a terrific outward view. Made for serious adventures off-road, the front and rear overhangs are short, the Liberty sits high off the road, and a spare tire hangs off of the side-hinged tailgate where it is easy to access when the cargo area is stuffed full of gear.

Similar adherence to function before form characterizes the interior. You sit up high, facing a steeply angled windshield, looking at a dashboard snugged close to the base of the front glass. Round gauges and air vents provide a sense of continuity, and there is a huge grab handle for the front passenger to use when the going gets really tough.

Like other modern Jeeps, there is plenty of plastic in the Liberty’s cabin, which makes for easy clean-up even as it cheapens the cabin’s appearance. The dashboard’s modular design more easily accommodates left-hand and right-hand-drive requirements in Jeep’s global markets.


5/ 10

Jeep cancels the formerly standard 4-cylinder gasoline engine for 2006, leaving the previously optional 3.7-liter V6 engine as standard equipment. It makes 210 horsepower and 235 pound-feet of torque, and it drives the rear wheels through a 6-speed manual gearbox or a 4-speed automatic transmission. The automatic is standard with Limited trim, and four-wheel drive (4WD) is optional for all three trim levels.

Another option is a 2.8-liter turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine, which is available with only Sport or Limited trim. It pairs with a 5-speed automatic transmission and comes with only 4WD. It dramatically improves fuel economy from 17 mpg in combined driving to a more respectable 21 mpg.

Equipped with plenty of ground clearance and generous approach, breakover, and departure angles, the 2006 Jeep Liberty is made to excel off-road. Two 4WD systems are available. Command-Trac is a part-time system with a transfer case, while Selec-Trac is a full-time system that retains a low-range setting.

Even so, Jeep tries to make the Liberty decent to drive on pavement, which is where owners spend most of their time. To that end, this Jeep has an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering.

Nevertheless, from the driver’s seat, the Liberty feels slow, clunky, and heavy. Fuel economy is awful, the steering is devoid of feel, it keels over in corners, and this Jeep is generally resistant to respond. Plus, the diesel turns the Liberty into a clatter-trap. However, with a suspension designed to soak up rocks and ruts, it does provide a decent ride quality.

People who spend lots of time off-road will be happy to live with these shortcomings. Everyone else will get tired of them, real fast.

Form and Function

7/ 10

Last year, Jeep redesigned the Liberty’s seats, and they do offer more comfort. However, hard plastic trim on the upper door panel gets uncomfortable if you rest your elbow there while driving.

The backseat space is tight. The seat itself is fine, and everyone aboard the Liberty benefits from more headroom than they’ll know what to do with, but rear legroom is not generous. Plus, getting into and out of the backseat through the narrow space between the rear wheel-well and the center vehicle pillar takes a bit of contortionism.

Around back, Jeep uses a side-hinged cargo door with a flip-up rear window, and the spare tire is hung here for several reasons, ranging from easier access to the preservation of cargo space. The Liberty provides 29 cubic feet of cargo room behind its rear seat, and up to 69 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. These figures are reasonable for the small SUV segment.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, power side mirrors, remote keyless entry, and a tilt steering wheel. The Liberty Sport sits on 16-inch silver-painted steel wheels.

Ripping a page out of the Nissan Xterra playbook, the Liberty Renegade is all dressed up with places to go. Up front, the Renegade adds awkwardly placed fog lights, while up on top a robust tube-style roof rack is ready for adventure. Fender trim that looks bolted on, unique 16-inch aluminum wheels in Mineral Gray, and rock rails help even the 2WD Renegade to look the part. Options include all-terrain tires, skid plates, tow hooks, and a cool overhead light bar.

If the Renegade looks tough, the Limited is the upscale version of the Liberty. It wears plenty of chrome trim, has shiny 17-inch aluminum wheels, and features nicer interior materials. Plus, it gets a power driver’s seat, a cargo cover, and a spare tire cover. So classy.

Options, depending on the trim level, include leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power sunroof, power heated and folding side mirrors, and dark-tinted glass. A premium sound system is also available, as is a Trac-Loc locking rear differential.

Tech Level

9/ 10

The Jeep Liberty is not a high-tech vehicle, unless you count remote keyless entry and a full-time 4WD system as the pinnacle of cutting edge thinking. As such, there isn’t much to talk about on this front. Or is there?

Forget that a CD player is standard equipment. The options list contains a couple of interesting tech features, especially for this class and price point.

There is the expected CD changer, of course, and the Infinity premium sound system is nice. But you can also get a navigation system for this Jeep, as well as the automaker’s Uconnect Bluetooth cell phone technology. Basically, Uconnect allows you to connect your phone to the vehicle’s speakers, and using a microphone allows a driver to make and receive calls without touching the cell phone.


5/ 10

Now that Jeep includes stability control as standard equipment, the Liberty comes with this important safety feature as well as antilock brakes and traction control. Side curtain airbags are an option.

The stability control system should eliminate some of the worry associated with the Liberty’s mediocre 3-star rollover resistance rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA also gives the Liberty a mix of 4-star and 5-star crash protection ratings.

Ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) are less positive. In IIHS testing, this Jeep earns a Marginal rating in the moderate-overlap frontal-impact test and a Poor rating for the seats and head restraints. The IIHS has not tested the Liberty for side-impact protection.


5/ 10

Prices for the 2006 Jeep Liberty range from almost $22,000 to nearly $27,000, and you’re paying a premium for the Jeep brand and for this SUV’s off-roading capability. If such things matter to you, then you likely think the Liberty is worth the price of entry. If they don’t, you won’t.

Updated by Christian Wardlaw

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Jeep Liberty Questions

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Rain water gets in somehow and the front passenger side carpet gets wet. It has a sunroof, but I'm not sure where it's coming from. Any ideas? Thanks.