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Story and photos by Paul Williams
Santa Barbara, California – The 2005 Jeep Liberty arrives this Fall with detail changes to the exterior and interior, but the big news is the available turbocharged 2.8-litre, four-cylinder, diesel engine.
The Liberty CRD (common rail diesel) is new to North America, although a diesel version of the Liberty has been available in Europe for several years (where it’s marketed as a Cherokee).
The engine is made by VM Motori, which is owned in part by Detroit Diesel, a division of DaimlerChrysler. Jeep executives believe that the timing is right to introduce diesel-powered vehicles to North America in response to high fuel prices and their impact on SUV owners, especially.
Prices haven’t been disclosed, but expect a premium over gas-powered Liberty models, which carry 2005 base pricing of $27,630 (Sport) and $32,340 (Limited).
Projected to improve mileage by 25%, the diesel engine makes 160-horsepower at 3,800 r.p.m. and a prodigious 295 lb.-ft. of torque at a low 1,800 r.p.m. Towing power is equal to the 3.7-litre V-6 at 5,000-pounds. Jeep describes the engine as having the acceleration of a V-6, the torque of a V-8 and the fuel consumption of a four-cylinder. The Liberty CRD has a driving range of approximately 750-kilometres.
One transmission is available for the CRD, a five-speed automatic. Ron Smith, DaimlerChrysler Canada’s marketing chief, says a manual transmission is available in Europe, and if there’s demand here, he doesn’t see why it can’t be brought in.
The noise, vibration and harshness of older diesels have been significantly reduced in the CRD by using several technologies based around the engine, body structure and insulation. Modifying the induction system, adding balance shafts and a new cover, reduces noise from the engine. The vehicle’s structure was also modified to use hydro mounts for the engine. These function like fluid-filled shock absorbers to dampen vibration between the engine and the body. Finally, an acoustic belly pan is attached beneath the engine to absorb its noise, and acoustic insulating materials are used under the hood and in the cabin.
Once up to speed the vehicle cruises along with a pleasant diesel hum, to the point that most people would be unlikely to discern any difference between it and a gasoline-powered four-cylinder vehicle. However, when starting or at idle, the diesel chatter is easily identifiable.
This engine is much cleaner-running than diesels of the past. It uses “common rail” technology to directly inject fuel into an open combustion chamber through a high-pressure tube (or rail). The high pressure atomizes the diesel fuel, which produces leaner combustion and increased power. The system also burns fuel more completely, reducing hydrocarbon and nitrous-oxide emissions, as well as producing less particulate matter (soot).
There was no diesel smell or visible exhaust from the vehicles we drove in Santa Barbara.
The diesel engine package includes 16-inch aluminum wheels, Selec-Trac full-time transfer case, anti-lock brakes, and a hybrid cooling system (electric fan pluse engine-driven fan. Power windows and air conditioning are standard.
Journalists in Santa Barbara received limited opportunity to drive the Liberty CRD, as most of the attention was focussed there on the new Grand Cherokee. In brief drives around town, the truck impressed with its strong acceleration (especially from standing-starts) and tractable behaviour at city speeds.
The Liberty receives a freshened exterior and interior across the range. Outside it gets a new front facia, grille, fog lamps, fender flares, bodyside mouldings, new standard roof-racks and wheels. Interior refinements include relocated power window switches, new instrument cluster graphics, seat contours and fabrics, improved tire-pressure monitoring system, and an available U-Connect (Bluetooth) communications system. As well, the seats are more comfortable, Jeep says.
The diesel option is available on the Liberty Sport and Limited versions, and all Liberty’s sold in Canada are “Trail Rated” which means they’ve been designed to perform in a variety of off-road conditions in terms of traction, ground clearance, manoeuvrability, articulation and water fording.