2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
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Review and photos by Russell Purcell

When DaimlerChrysler announced that its popular Cherokee model was ready to be replaced, many off-road fans began to moan and groan, fearing that the platform’s replacement would inevitably be more road worthy than trail worthy, and Jeep would continue to move away from its rugged heritage. When the 2002 Jeep Liberty emerged as the Cherokee’s replacement, it was obvious that the vehicle was an excellent compromise, offering a more civilized ride and improved amenities while preserving the all-terrain capabilities expected in a product wearing the Jeep badge.

A facelift and a transplant

Model year 2005 finds the Liberty with a new engine option, the 2.8-litre Common Rail Diesel (CRD) inline four-cylinder engine. This makes the Liberty the only compact SUV in North America to be offered with a diesel engine. Consumers choosing the CRD-equipped Liberty over its gasoline-fired brethren are currently limited to a five-speed automatic (with overdrive) as their only transmission choice, but a six-speed manual unit may soon be offered if there’s enough demand.

The Liberty gets its first facelift as well, with a new front grille and bumper treatment, as well as revised fog lamps, fender flares and side mouldings. The renovations continue on the inside, with relocated power window switches, a revised instrument cluster and improved seat padding rounding out the interior changes for all Liberty models in 2005.


2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
Click image to enlarge

While the build and styling may not be as refined as some of the other ‘cute-utes’ in the marketplace, none can match the Liberty diesel when it comes to fuel economy or pulling power. Jeep is marketing the engine as having the acceleration of a V6, the pulling power of a V8, and most importantly, the fuel economy of a four-cylinder. The big news is that the CRD delivers approximately 30 per cent better fuel economy and 20 per cent lower C02 emissions than a similarly-sized gasoline engine.

The 2.8-litre CRD inline four-cylinder engine is mated to a unique multi-speed automatic transmission. This innovative gearbox acts electronically to select from two separate ratios for second gear (based on the position of the throttle and engine load), ensuring the vehicle is delivering power as efficiently as possible and to best suit operating conditions.

Unlike the diesel engines you may have experienced in the past, the CRD doesn’t intrude on your driving enjoyment. It generates so little noise, smell or smoke that most people will just assume you are driving a gasoline-powered Liberty. There is a little more noise at higher speeds or when the engine is working hard, but that is a small trade-off for 160 horsepower and a stump-pulling 295 lb-ft of torque (at a mere 1,800 rpm), not to mention admirable fuel economy numbers. The noise is more prevalent when the engine is cold, but seems to lessen with extended drive time.

No muss, no fuss

The CRD uses an advanced high-pressure fuel injection system that burns much cleaner than earlier diesel engine designs. Noticeably absent is the traditional warm-up period associated with starting diesel engines. The CRD tackles this task for you, handling glow-plug prep electronically.

The turbocharger is also an advanced design, utilizing variable geometry vanes to guarantee its boost will work across the engine’s entire rpm range as well as at higher elevations. There is virtually no turbo lag at all.

All Liberty models exhibit excellent and predictable road manners; a low centre of mass and wide stance gives them a solid, confidence-inspiring feel when cornering or executing a pass. Big, beefy disc brakes assisted by ABS help bring this competent performer to a complete halt without much drama. Tight steering and relatively smooth gear transitions reflect the company’s awareness that today’s consumers want to feel like they are in a car, not a truck, when going about their everyday activities.

Off-Road Prowess

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
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Previous tests of the Jeep Liberty have proven that its compact dimensions, relatively low centre of gravity and healthy ground clearance make it a nimble rig to take off-road. Jeep’s marketing team wants to announce the Liberty’s off-road skills to the commuter audience, and has attached “Trail-Rated” badges to the fenders.

Two different four-wheel drive systems are offered: Command-Trac II and Selec-Trac. The main difference is whether or not the vehicle can be put into two-wheel-drive. Selec-Trac is standard on Liberty diesels, and is a part-time/full-time 4WD system. This transfer case allows for 2WD, 4WD High-Range, Low-Range and Neutral.

I had a chance to take the Liberty diesel for a jaunt in the snow during my test period, which included a very steep stretch of snow and ice-covered pavement. Under normal driving conditions, the Jeep would spin its rear wheels as I tried to climb the slick surface, and on the way down, the tail wanted to race the nose to the bottom whenever I put any pressure on the brakes. Once I selected either part or full-time 4X4 mode, however, the all-terrain Goodyear Wrangler ST tires grabbed the snow and climbed easily up the hill. The descent was best handled in 4-Low, letting the engine do the braking once first gear was selected. When touching the brakes on such a steep, low-grip slope, the vehicle still wanted to swing the back end around.

Very few of the Liberty’s rivals offer this versatility, and none offer diesel engines. Jeep’s marketing materials stress that “the low-speed/high-output capability of the CRD is very handy on the trail, adding control and extra ‘grunt’ when needed to climb steep trails.” While this is true, and the Liberty diesel is a capable vehicle, hardcore off-road fans looking to rock crawl or tackle severe terrain would be better advised to order the incredible Jeep TJ-based Rubicon. Still, the Liberty can hold its own against most other SUVs on the market.

Sport or Luxury?

The first wave of Jeep Libertys equipped with the CRD was largely delivered in Sport trim. The upmarket Limited model is now rolling into dealerships for fans of extra niceties like power-operated leather heated seats, premium audio and navigation systems. Unfortunately, no Renegade model is planned at this time, but buyers can order much of the Renegade’s gear to dress up their Liberty diesels at the dealership’s parts counter.


For 2005, every Jeep Liberty comes standard with advanced multi-stage driver and front passenger airbags. Supplemental side-curtain units for both front and rear are available for $450, and are designed to protect occupants from flying glass and debris in the event of a side impact. These are a must-have option if you plan to carry passengers on a regular basis.

Diesel Extras

The Liberty diesel comes with a larger battery, 16-inch steel wheels wearing P225/75 all-season tires, four-wheel ABS-equipped brakes, Select-Trac part-time four-wheel-drive, and an engine block heater as standard equipment. The Off-Road Group adds skid plates, a locking rear differential, heavy-duty cooling, larger 235/70R16 tires, and tow hooks.

Knowing that many buyers selecting the diesel option plan to use the generous torque to pull a trailer,

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
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Jeep offers an optional tow package which allows the Liberty CRD to pull up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs). That’s an impressive number for any compact vehicle, let alone one with a four-cylinder.


It’s very easy to get comfortable with the Liberty, as all instruments and controls fall easily to hand, as well as to eye. One of my previous complaints was the awkward placement of

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
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the power window controls on the centre console, but there is now a second set of controls on the door where you would expect them.

Standard equipment includes air conditioning, AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers (a premium Infinity system is available with steering wheel-mounted controls), power windows, locks and mirrors, and cloth-faced, almost canvas-like high back bucket seats with integrated headrests.

I found it interesting that Jeep’s marketing materials harp about all-new seating, which incorporates dual-density foam “to provide optimal cushioning and comfort.”

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
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Truthfully, I found the front sport seats a bit too padded for my liking; as I am six-foot-two, I felt like I was floating toward the headliner. I wasn’t impressed with the high seating position in the latest Liberty, either; I felt like I was riding atop a pile of phone books and hung on to the steering wheel just to keep my balance when cornering. The tall seating position is exaggerated by the tall side windows, which left me with the unsettling sensation of being exposed. The seat also placed me too close for comfort to the steering wheel and dashboard, even when slid back to the limit of its mounting rails. I guess taller individuals are to be directed towards the Grand Cherokee and Durango models, if comfort is priority number one.

Storage Options

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
Click image to enlarge

Loads of storage bins and cupholders are scattered about the vehicle and there are map pockets on the front doors, but seatback pockets would be a nice addition. An easily-operated 65/35 split rear seat makes the generous cargo area even roomier, especially since the full-size spare is relegated to the exterior rear door mount. An innovative power-operated glass hatch becomes a handy feature when your hands are full of bags or hyperactive puppies, and pops open quickly and quietly via the entry remote. A right-to-left swinging tailgate means that curbside loading will be a breeze, and all those groceries can be held securely by seatback bag hooks, a removable net and a sliding cargo cover.

For 2005, Jeep offers a unique, optional cargo organizer/shelving system behind the rear seat. This ABS-plastic device folds completely flat when not in use, but can be quickly assembled into a corral-like box to keep smaller goods safe and secure. When used as a shelf, it holds up to 13.6 kg (30 lb) of cargo when placed in its upright position, and up to 45.3 kilograms (100 pounds) when lowered.

Big on Style

The Liberty has established itself as a favourite with consumers who actually use the off-road capabilities, and its size and rugged design had made it a strong seller since its debut for 2002. The designers took some styling cues from the Jeepster and Dakar show cars to give the Liberty the style lacking in the Cherokee, but they were careful to maintain the convenient size and feel of the earlier design.

2005 Jeep Liberty CRD
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The Liberty line brought Jeep into the 21st century with modern dials, gauges, and an ergonomic interior. A much rounder but sleek exterior accentuated by very futuristic taillights wears an instantly-recognizable Jeep front end design. Two large round headlamps separated by the brand’s trademark seven-slot vertical grille were incorporated into the Liberty’s design as a nod to Jeep’s rich history.


While the Liberty Diesel is a new entry to the Canadian market for 2005, DaimlerChrysler has been selling diesels abroad since 2004. In Europe, almost half the vehicles on the road run on diesel, which is generally cheaper. This is not always the case in North America, where the price of diesel usually stays quite high while gasoline prices alternately soar and dip. Over here, diesel is mostly used by large transport trucks, heavy equipment and large pickup trucks, so finding a station that carries it can often be a hassle, especially in urban centres. That doesn’t mean you should steer clear of a diesel-equipped Liberty, but before you buy one, balance its impressive torque and fuel economy against your environment and how you plan to use it. In many cases, one of the gasoline models may be a better fit.

Technical Data: 2005 Jeep Liberty Diesel Sport

Base price $32,440
Freight $1,050
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $33,590
Type 4-door, 5-passenger compact SUV
Layout Front engine/4WD
Engine 2.8-litre inline 4-cylinder common rail diesel
Horsepower 160 @ 3800 rpm
Torque 295 lb-ft @ 1800 rpm
Transmission Multi-speed automatic
Tires P225/70R16 all-season
Curb weight
Wheelbase 2649 mm (104.3 in.)
Length 4430 mm (174.4 in.)
Width 1819 mm (71.6 in.)
Height 1783 mm (70.2 in.)
Ground clearance 163 mm (6.4 in.)(Front axle)
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)
Warranty 3 yrs/ 60,000 km
Powertrain warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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