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2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

June 3, 2005 10:26 AM EST | Jeep , SUV's | Email to Friend

View large imageWe've never done better than 13 mpg in the V6 Jeep Liberty. That isn't just a number that makes you feel bad, it's a number that makes you feel poor, especially when you're driving what's supposed to be a budget SUV.

But the Jeep Liberty diesel came through with 21 mpg against a 21 city/26 highway rating. Our CRD tester also recorded the best tank of this group, 25 mpg over 220 miles. Some of our forum members have been disappointed with their early mileage, but our test vehicle came to us with 7,500 miles, needless to say, well past the break-in period.

Like most diesels, the Liberty's 2.8-liter turbodiesel inline four-cylinder balances modest horsepower (160) against big torque — 295 pound-feet at just 1,800 rpm. This combination gives the Liberty CRD plenty of grunt at low speeds and surprisingly good passing power on the freeway. In fact, with all the torque, there's very little work for the standard five-speed automatic transmission.

Diesels tend to tire at higher engine speeds, and although the Liberty CRD loses some stamina when climbing highway grades, acceleration is still acceptable.

Unfortunately, the diesel Jeep is not without a few drawbacks. Even with two fewer cylinders, the drivetrain adds almost 300 pounds of extra curb weight (4,306 pounds total), and seven-tenths of a second to the truck's 0-to-60-mph time, now 10.9 seconds. It also adds about $2 grand to the price tag, though with the added equipment that comes standard on the diesel, the difference is really just $845.

Another problem is noise. The hybrids go silent at stoplights, the Liberty chugs and clatters in rhythm with the delivery truck in the next lane. Some call it endearing, others call it irritating.

Finally, there's the emissions issue. Diesels emit less carbon dioxide than gasoline engines but release more nitrogen oxide and soot, especially when they run on the high-sulfur diesel fuel sold in the U.S. The availability of lower-sulfur fuel in 2006 will help some, but in order to meet tougher 2007 emissions standards, the Liberty CRD will need a particulate filter and/or an onboard fuel reformer. Already you can't buy one in California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York or Vermont.

Soy-based biodiesel fuel is another alternative Jeep is exploring — all Liberty CRDs leave the factory running on a 5-percent biodiesel blend — but the lack of uniform standards for its production impedes widespread use.

Emissions aside, it's tough to argue with the jump in fuel economy on the Jeep Liberty diesel, provided you like the rest of the package. This is still the hard-core off-roader of the cute-ute class. That's great and all, but it means lots of body roll and slow steering in trade for rock-crawling capability.

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