Author Topic: Green Car Journal Review: Jeep Liberty CRD  (Read 2171 times)

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Offline Jeffy

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Green Car Journal Review: Jeep Liberty CRD
« on: June 07, 2005, 03:38:30 PM »

Jeep Liberty CRD
By Kellen Schefter

 Jeep presented its new diesel-powered Liberty SUV first at the New York Auto show, and then in Southern California where Green Car Journal road tested this fuel efficient SUV. The choice of venues is interesting since they represent two of the five states where emissions regulations preclude this vehicle from being sold. Still, it’s possible there’s a plan behind this apparent anomaly: Apparently, Jeep is making a statement.

Bring up the subject of emissions regulations with Jeep executives or engineers and the frustrations brooding beneath the surface come through. One senior-level manager shared his exasperation that California in particular – with high-quality diesel fuel already available and a seemingly arbitrary emissions cutoff point for diesel passenger vehicles in place – would effectively deny new car buyers a highly-efficient alternative to the gasoline-powered mid-size SUV.

Of course, the folks at Jeep maintain that their business model is unaffected by the exclusion of the California, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and Maine markets, and are satisfied meeting their sales targets in the 45 remaining states. With a limited run of 5,000 units and strong expressed interest, they probably will.

But the clever marketing gesture still succeeds, whether premeditated or not, in taking a subtle jab at lawmakers and what’s viewed as their restrictive regulations, while simultaneously laying the groundwork for DaimlerChrysler’s version of a greener automotive future.

 With the Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI and now the Jeep Liberty CRD, DaimlerChrysler is clearly hoping to illustrate to the American car buyer something that Europeans have widely accepted: diesel engines can offer much improved efficiency in nearly every automotive segment. In fact, the company sees enough virtue in diesel technology to believe it will carry the automobile all the way to the eventual introduction of fuel cells. In other words, expect to see more diesel engine offerings from DaimlerChrysler here in the years to come even as the drive to a hydrogen highway progresses.

For now, the Jeep Liberty CRD is the first mid-size SUV to offer diesel power in the U.S. Its 2.8-liter, 4-cylinder Common Rail Diesel (CRD) is the same unit that powers about 70 percent of Jeep Liberty models in Europe. Sourced from VM Motori, an Italian company partially owned by DaimlerChrysler’s Detroit Diesel, this engine features an efficient direct injection system that supplies fuel at pressures up to 24,000 psi. Such high pressure produces finer atomization, leaner combustion, and higher power...key to a more modern diesel engine. An electronically controlled, variable geometry turbocharger also features moveable turbine vanes, acting like a small turbo at launch and a large turbo at higher speeds. During testing, this sophisticated system worked seamlessly while driving the hills above Santa Barbara, California, achieving its aim of delivering responsive low- and high-end torque.

At start-up, there’s no mistaking this Liberty’s powerplant for anything but a diesel. The distinctive engine clatter is present while idling around town, but at highway speeds – which are achieved with remarkable ease – engine noise is all but indiscernible. Other common diesel quirks of the past, such as smoke and odor, are completely absent. Glow-plug warm-up time is down to less than two seconds on a cold start.

 This represents solid advancement on the diesel front, with Jeep going to great lengths to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness levels. This is partially due to engine balance shafts, fluid-filled hydro engine mounts, and generous amounts of sheetmetal dampening, among other notable measures
This diesel engine fits quite well with Jeep’s “Trail-Rated” image. The CRD engine’s 160 horsepower itself is unremarkable, but a substantial 295 lbs-ft of torque is available at a low 1800 rpm, a typical diesel characteristic that provides power right where you want it for trailering, cargo carrying, or slow speed rock-crawling. The CRD-equipped Liberty offers a tow rating of 5,000 pounds, the same as the gasoline-powered V-6.

The Liberty CRD is equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission and 4WD, a package that allows an estimated city/highway fuel economy rating of 22/27 mpg and a driving range approaching 500 miles. This is quite impressive for a 4,306 pound SUV, especially when contrasted with the 17/22 mpg fuel economy rating of the gasoline V-6 automatic Liberty variant. While a 2WD CRD version with a manual transmission would be lighter and likely offer even better fuel economy numbers, the decision to go 4WD-only and focus on the needs of Jeep’s core buyers is understandable.

Priced at $25,125, Jeep’s Liberty CRD is a reasonably comfortable, supremely capable sport-utility vehicle that brings much-needed fuel economy improvements to its segment, while making no compromises in the process. The model is billed as offering the torque of a V-8, the acceleration of a V-6, and the fuel efficiency of a four-cylinder. That sure sounds like progress to us in a vehicle segment where fuel efficiency is too often lost in the dust.
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