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2005 Jeep Liberty CRD Limited Review

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on April 1, 2006
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Photographers: Steve VonSeggernCourtesy of DaimierChrysler

We wish diesels were an option on every 4x4. The new generation of light-duty diesels don't stink or smoke, they are much quieter than their predecessors, they get great mileage, and best of all, they lay down all that torque that us 'wheelers love, all at a very low and drivetrain-friendly rpm.

We have been working hard for months to get a Liberty CRD in to our long-term fleet. However, Liberty CRDs have been selling so well that Jeep has not been able to make enough of the bug-eyed 'utes with the oil burner from Italy. So, it was to our surprise when our Liberty finally showed up at the office, loaded to the gills with equipment and sporting that little CRD badge on the tailgate.

The Liberty CRD is the same as most Liberty SUVs, except for the 2.8L four-cylinder diesel under the hood. This little turbocharged twist mill puts out a respectable 160 hp and a mighty 295 lb-ft of torque (the 3.7L V-6 Liberty only has 235 lb-ft), which means it can tow 5,000 pounds. It also gets great mileage, as our Liberty, not even broken in yet, has averaged over 21 mpg in its first 2,500 miles, and the typical range is over 400 miles between fill-ups. For less than a grand, we think the CRD option is a bargain.

We have found that the little diesel starts up easily when cold, but is a little clattery at low rpm and idle. This characteristic is reduced with some speed and on the highway the engine is perfectly acceptable. While there is some turbo lag, the Liberty has plenty of passing power in reserve, and it is pretty quick off the line. If you are not careful, it even has enough torque to light up the inside tire while turning during the 1-2 shift.

The navigation system works well on the pavement, but also has the ability to track your progress off-road.

In addition to the diesel engine, we loaded our Liberty up with navigation, leather seats, seat warmers, and just about every option Jeep would let us click off on the order sheet. We love the maneuverable size of the Liberty and good visibility around town. Even our staffer who makes a regular commute to the office thought it did well in L.A.'s stop-and-go freeway dance.

We haven't had a chance to do any real 'wheeling in the Liberty yet, but we expect it to do well with its full skidplating and limited-slip differential. We also expect it to be easy on services since our maintenance indicator doesn't show our first service until 7,500 miles.

So far, our experience with the CRD has gone well, and we think the Liberty is a great little SUV. We'd like to see a couple more power points up front, and a little more storage for cell phones and wallets, but overall our first three months with this little trucklet has been great and we are looking forward to logging lots of comments in the log book in between those infrequent fuel entries.

Report: 1 Of 4
Previous reports: None
Base price: $23,435
Price as tested: $30,600
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever-actuated two-speed with full-time capability

An Optima red-top battery comes standard with every Liberty CRD.

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 2,588
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 21.46
Test Best tank (mpg): 23.53
Test Worst tank (mpg): 17.45

This period: None
Problem areas: None

What's Hot, What's Not:
Hot: Diesel engine torque, no smoke or smell, great range, fast fill-ups
Not: Diesel clatter at idle, grabby brakes when cold, some turbo lag

Logbook Quotes:
* "Cold startup is immediate with no smoke or smell."
* "Wish I had more 12V sockets in the front seat area."
* "I dig the happy little engine from Italy."
* "There is turbo lag at times, and the engine could be a little more refined down low."
* "Wow-430 miles on the first tank!"

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