Driving from California to Illinois in the middle of January on Interstate 80 can be a fool's mission. So naturally, this is when and how we moved our long-term diesel-powered Liberty from sunny SoCal to the frigid farmland of our Midwest Bureau in northern Illinois. As expected, we endured blizzard-like conditions, shockingly high winds and bitter cold-and that was just crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Six states, almost 2,000 miles and 34 hours driving time later, we arrived at the Midwest Bureau with a deer-in-the-headlights look, a fast-food-induced gastric collapse, and breath that would stop a charging rhino. The Liberty, on the other hand, seemed no worse for wear. Not only had it flawlessly conveyed us halfway across the U.S. in often treacherous weather, the 2.8L turbodiesel had posted an impressive new record of 27.6 mpg.
Within a few weeks of our arrival in the Frozen Wasteland, winter got really serious. One memorable day a slew of rain fell, followed by snow, followed by a staggering drop in temperature, which bottomed out at minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Needless to say, we unraveled the as-yet-unused engine block heater cord (standard with the $1,240 diesel engine package) from the base of the dipstick for that one. With just two hours of plug-in time, the Italian-built four-cylinder engine started like it was a summer day in Tampa. The next night the temperature dropped to minus-10, so we just gave it an hour of plug-in time with the same result. We don't plug it in for anything under 0 degrees anymore, and it starts fine with just the standard brief diesel cold chug and a few puffs of diesel smoke. We also have no fuel gelling problems to report. During the aforementioned multiday Frost Fest, we did have an issue with the ABS and brake warning lights staying lit, but as we suspected, it was obviously a cold and ice issue because it resolved itself when the winter temperature returned to what Illini refer to as normal.
Report: 2 of 4
Previous reports: Apr. '06
Base price: $23,325
Price as tested: $30,505
Four-wheel-drive system: Lever-actuated part-time two-speed
Miles to date: 8,506
Miles since last report: 5,918
Average mpg (this report): 22.7
Test Best tank (mpg): 27.6
Test Worst tank (mpg): 18.8
7,500-mile service: Lube, oil and filter; tire rotation
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not:
Hot: V-8-like torque (295 lb-ft); impressive towing capacity (5,000 pounds); decent approach/departure angles (36.7 and 31.15 degrees, respectively)
Not: Sometimes jarring ride; gauge cluster limited to temperature, fuel, speed, and rpm; wimpy street-biased tires
* "Occasional bone-jarring ride motions on road."
* "The engine is perfect in high-altitude passes."
* "The smooth-shifting trans reminds me of a CVT transmission."