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From a Rumble to a Gentle Purr

2005 Jeep Liberty Sport CRD

By Warren Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 2, 2005; Page G01

It began with a rumble, in the manner of a person awakening from a deep sleep with a heavy cough. I did not like this.

I'd lately grown accustomed to smooth diesel engines -- advanced common-rail versions that ran so quietly it was hard to tell if they were diesels.

2005 Jeep Liberty Sport. (DC - Jeep)

Nuts & Bolts

Complaints: That very noisy cold-weather start. DaimlerChrysler must do something about that, especially in a marketplace that remains suspicious of diesel technology.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories. I tested the four-wheel-drive version of the Liberty Sport CRD, which is expressly designed to run off- and on-road. It performed well in both environments -- although off-road, in this case, amounted to little more than dirt- and gravel-strewn paths.

Head-turning quotient: It is the noisy kid who gets attention but who wins deep and abiding affection for overall, consistently good performance.

Body style/layout: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, four-door, mid-size SUV with rear hatch. The Liberty Sport also is available in rear-wheel drive.

Engine/transmission: The Liberty Sport CRD is equipped with a 2.8-liter, four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that develops 160 horsepower at 3,800 revolutions per minute and 295 foot-pounds of torque at 1,800 revolutions per minute. The engine is linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The Liberty Sport CRD has seating for five people. Maximum cargo capacity is 100 cubic feet. Diesel fuel capacity is 20.5 gallons. It can be equipped to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Mileage: I averaged 26 miles per gallon, in mostly highway driving.

Safety: Dual front air bags, antilock brakes, automatically tensioning seat belts. Wear those belts!

Price: The base price on the four-wheel-drive Liberty Sport is $22,495. Dealer invoice price on that model is $21,574. Price as tested is $25,345, including $1,240 for the common rail diesel package (diesel engine, engine heater, antilock brakes), $1,000 in other options and a $610 destination charge. This is a potentially high-demand vehicle. Prices will vary. Prices here are sourced from the Chrysler Group and www.edmunds.com.

Purse-strings note: It's a buy. Compare with Ford Escape (including the hybrid version) and the Toyota Highlander.

So, this greeting from the 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engine in the 2005 Jeep Liberty Sport CRD (Common Rail Diesel) was disconcerting. Harrumph, rumble, rumble, clatter-cough! What was that?

I felt betrayed. I'd long been a vociferous advocate of new diesel technology -- clean-burning, fuel-efficient diesels -- engines absent the noises, odors, emissions and operational difficulties that stigmatized diesels of old.

I had driven many vehicles with these new engines, especially the super-efficient common-rail diesels that deliver their fuel to combustion chambers precisely under uniform pressure, thus assuring a more complete burn of the air-fuel mixture, yielding more power with a minimum fuel penalty and fewer particulate emissions.

Harrumph, rumble, rumble, clatter-cough! I was dismayed. How could this be? Maybe it was the frigid night air. The temperature had fallen to 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Wet things froze. Maybe the engine was reacting to the cold. Older diesel engines normally did that sort of thing.

But this was a new engine, a much-revised version of a four-cylinder diesel used by DaimlerChrysler AG in a number of its European-market products. Allow me to digress:

The modern automotive industry is a melange of global relationships, of which the Liberty Sport CRD's turbo-diesel -- the first such engine installed in a mid-size SUV sold in the United States -- is a product.

The engine is made by Italy's VM Motori, a company partly owned by Detroit Diesel, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Germany's DaimlerChrysler AG.

DaimlerChrysler, formerly Daimler-Benz AG, owns what was once America's Chrysler Corp., which now exists as the Chrysler Group -- a divisional entity within the DaimlerChrysler empire.

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