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2005 Jeep Liberty

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD Limited 4X4

Base price: $32,440
Price as tested (including freight): $42,870
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger compact SUV
Engine: 2.8-litre 4-cylinder diesel
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Horsepower: 160 @ 3800 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
Cargo capacity: 821 litres (29 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption: City 10.5 L/100 km (27 mpg)/Hwy 8.0 L/100 km (35 mpg)

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD Road Test
Jeep liberated from diesel drawbacks

By Bill Roebuck

2005 Jeep Liberty LimitedA curious thing happened last week when I pulled into an Esso station with a bright red 2005 Jeep Liberty CRD Limited 4X4. It wasn't my usual gas station because of my need for diesel fuel.

I swiped my credit card, put the nozzle in the tank, and started to pump -- then everything shut down. Next, I heard the station attendant on the intercom. "Sir, did you know you're at the diesel pump? Are you sure you really want diesel?"

"Yes, I really do," I replied, as I spotted him checking out the shiny SUV from behind the glassed-in store. He'd thought I was making a mistake and cancelled the operation, so I had to start over again.

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD DieselBut I could see why he was trying to protect me from making such an error, so kudos to him for being alert. The Liberty, a fully equipped Limited model, sure didn't look like any diesel. After all, it's the only compact SUV in North America to be offered with a diesel engine. The only clue to the type of engine on the outside is the small CRD logo on the rear.

Of course, if the attendant was closer, he might have heard the rattle of the 2.8-litre Common Rail Diesel (CRD) inline four-cylinder engine as I pulled in. Despite DaimlerChrysler's claim to the contrary, the engine still sounds like a traditionally noisy diesel at low speeds and at idle. At least there's no smell or black smoke from this engine, like with older types.

By the way, the engine rattle disappears completely at speed. On the highway, although the ride is somewhat noisy, the sounds you hear are from the tires and wind, not from the engine.

The new diesel option on the Liberty accompanies a facelift for the 2005 model. The new appearance includes a revised front grille and bumper design, as well as updated fog lamps, fender flares and side mouldings.

Inside, the changes include relocated power window switches -- now less conveniently located on the centre console, a revised instrument cluster -- with a harder-to-read speedo and tach, and improved seat padding -- though still without enough side bolstering to hold you in place when tossing around on rough roads.

2005 Jeep LibertyWhat's really good about the Liberty is its ruggedness. Despite the classy appearance, it's as ready for off-road duty as a rock-crawling, Rubicon Trail-tested Jeep TJ.

But why would a buyer choose the diesel over the gasoline model? There are certain drawbacks. The aforementioned gas pump was coated with grime and dark brown oil, as was the ground all around it. And later, I had to wash my hands three times to get rid of the diesel smell.

Keeping a pair of work gloves in the back could solve the smell problem, because the benefits of diesel will be important for some drivers -- especially those who value fuel economy and pulling power.

DaimlerChrysler says the four-cylinder diesel has the acceleration of a V6, the pulling power of a V8, and the fuel economy of a four-cylinder.

Although acceleration is a bit sluggish from a dead stop, yet there's plenty of oomph for on-ramps and passing on the highway.

An optional tow package allows the Liberty CRD to pull up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb), which is impressive for such a small vehicle.

The CRD delivers about 30% better fuel economy and 20% lower C02 emissions than a similarly sized gasoline engine. I got well over 670 km on my first tank of fuel (it has a 78-litre capacity), mainly driving at typical Highway 401 speeds.

Over the week, I averaged 9.9 L/100 km. I paid exactly the same price for diesel as regular gasoline.

The 160-hp diesel offers a whopping 295 lb-ft of torque at just 1,800 rpm, perfect for putting the Liberty to work towing a trailer or hauling out stumps for a cottage expansion.

The extra power is courtesy a turbocharger. It's a new, efficient design and displays no noticeable turbo lag. Another innovation on the engine is the use of 'smart' glow plugs that warm up in just two seconds, compared to up to 10 seconds for old-style plugs.

All this comes in an all-wheel drive vehicle that feels less 'trucky' than some minivans. Although the ride is a bit busy, handling is aided by an independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering.

This model was equipped with the standard Selec-Trac four-wheel drive system, which can be set in 2WD, 4WD high or 4WD low.

2005 Jeep Liberty cargo capacityCargo capacity can be expanded by lowering the 65/35-split rear seat, although the rear headrests must be removed first. The seats go almost flat. A full-size spare mounts to the exterior of the rear door, freeing up space inside.

When loading it, you have to watch out for the cargo door window, which flips up unexpectedly quickly and could whack you in the head if you're standing too close. The tailgate is hinged on the left for easy curbside loading.

This Jeep was equipped with a neat, optional cargo organizer/shelving system behind the rear seat. It folds flat when not in use, but can be quickly assembled into a box with several compartments to keep smaller goods from rolling around. It also serves as a shelf to expand cargo-carrying versatility.

Options on our test model, which added almost $10,000 to its price, included a navigation system; leather trimmed, powered and heated seats; a six disc stereo with an old-style changer in the cargo area; steering wheel mounted audio controls; a trailer tow group; supplemental side air bags; a sunroof and a tire pressure monitoring system.

Although the loaded-up Liberty CRD has a luxury car price, it offers a great deal of flexibility for those who make heavy duty demands on their vehicles. And for long distance driving, there's not much that can beat a diesel.

Copyright Bill Roebuck, 2005

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