Pros: Quality of power train, interior and exterior finish, handling and power
Cons: Seating and pedal position
I'm extremely pleased with my '03 Liberty Ltd.
Power from the 3.7L V6 is excellent and abundant throughout the RPM range. The suspension in the Liberty is typical Jeep...rock solid. I had about 500lbs of concrete mix bags in the back storage area, and could hardly notice any drop in suspension. Unloaded, the ride is a little bumpy, but the cornering for a taller short wheelbase vehicle is excellent. I'd say it's better than a Mercedes ML320, and Subaru Forester, though not as sure footed as a BMW X5.
This vehicle while a solid performer off-road (especially with proper tires) is also exceptional in the city. The turning radius is amazing and you'll rarely be left sitting at a light watching the SUV (and most cars) beside you pull away.
The stock Goodyear tires are good on the highway, excellent in snow and good on ice, though if you want to take it off road a more aggressive tire should be considered. The abundant 4-wheel drive options, and a little common sense, will also ensure you safely get to where you need to go regardless of road and weather conditions.
Fuel economy is poor, but this is a heavy vehicle, with abundant torque and power and I'd say is respectable considering the above factors. (Though, the new diesel might give the best of both worlds)
The 4 wheel discs provide excellent stopping power, though the lack of standard ABS with this package is disappointing.
Trim and Finish:
The interior trim is very clean, not overdone, and not cheap looking or cheap in feel. Gauges are easy to read though the seating position puts the furthest rightmost controls at a bit of a reach. I've also found the position of the gas and brake pedal to be awkwardly placed, especially when stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. The brake seems to be placed too high above the gas pedal, and both pedals seem to be placed too far left, resulting in a driving position with a somewhat angled right leg.
The heated seats and mirrors, steering wheel mounted controls, overhead trip computer, sunroof/moon roof, and heated leather electric adjustable seats in the Ltd edition give it an abundance of refinements.
After owning a Jetta with 500k plus on it, I wanted something that would last me just as long. After 2 years, and 50,000 kms I have had only a few minor problems, and none with the power train. Occasionally when the turn indicator resets, the interior light will flash on, and I've found the wipers do not hold to the entire window through their travel when driving at highway speeds.
Cargo and Storage:
Cargo space is excellent "if" there are only two people and the rear seats are down. Chrysler should take a look at their mini vans, and incorporate a fold-flat rear seat in the Liberty. The Liberty is not the vehicle to take the family and dog on anything more than a day excursion as cargo space with the rear seats up and 2 passengers in the back is minimal. Stick an 85lb Golden Retriever in the back, and your cargo space is gone. Cabin storage is also fairly lean as a result of a very small glove box. Good thing the Liberty is great for towing, because you'll need to pull a utility trailer if you plan on carrying any decent size load with passengers.
While the Liberty is rugged in terms of off-road ability, and will perform better here than most SUV's, the exterior styling, while classy, is somewhat feminine. As a male owner of a Liberty, many people have been more than happy to make me aware of this. The Liberty's lack of masculinity may be a result of it's more rounded compact appearance than it's Cherokee predecessor giving it the dreaded "cute" look similar to the Rav 4 and CRV.
The Liberty is an excellent vehicle that will perform in any environment and does what it is supposed to do very well. The Liberty is not a people hauler, or a penny pincher at the pump, but it wasn't designed to be either, and if your looking for these features your probably in the wrong market. If you need to haul people, buy a mini van. If you're looking to save money on gas, buy a Jetta diesel or a hybrid vehicle. If you're looking for an all around well built vehicle that will get you to work and play regardless of conditions, in the city or in the country with all the creature comforts, and with plenty of muscle, buy a Liberty.