2006 Jeep Liberty

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Key Specs

of the 2006 Jeep Liberty. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Steering and handling
  • Ride comfort on most roads
  • Seat comfort and support
  • Reasonably quiet running (gasoline models)

The Bad

  • Four-speed-automatic behavior
  • Short seat bottoms
  • Diesel-engine noise

Notable Features of the 2006 Jeep Liberty

  • Gasoline or diesel power
  • 2WD or 4WD
  • Moderate dimensions
  • Low-range 4WD gearing
  • Classic-look Renegade model

2006 Jeep Liberty Road Test

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Joe Wiesenfelder

At a time when price per gallon is as volatile as fuel itself, interest has returned to diesel technology, which turns our attention to the diesel version of Jeep's compact sport utility vehicle, the quick-selling Liberty CRD (technically either the Jeep Liberty Sport or Limited 4x4 trim level with optional equipment). Diesel engines are about 20 percent more efficient than comparable gasoline types, so they burn less fuel. In this country, diesel engines have long come in heavy duty pickup trucks, and more recently in the Ford Excursion and Hummer H1 SUVs, but the only companies to sell diesel passenger cars in recent times have been Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

The Jeep Liberty has changed little recently, so I'm concentrating on the diesel aspect in this report. I'm a diesel fan, in part because of a fascination with biodiesel — the alternative fuel on which I'm most bullish. Diesels have a bad reputation in the U.S., where they're perceived as dirty, smelly, cacophonous and underpowered. People complain that diesel fuel is too hard to find, too messy to dispense and not substantially cheaper than gas. I got into the Jeep Liberty thinking all these notions were overstated and out of date.

Thanks to trucks, old-school engines and General Motors' catastrophic attempt in the late 1970s and '80s to convert gasoline engines into diesels, Americans generally are turned off by the very idea. What they don't realize is that there are actua...

At a time when price per gallon is as volatile as fuel itself, interest has returned to diesel technology, which turns our attention to the diesel version of Jeep's compact sport utility vehicle, the quick-selling Liberty CRD (technically either the Jeep Liberty Sport or Limited 4x4 trim level with optional equipment). Diesel engines are about 20 percent more efficient than comparable gasoline types, so they burn less fuel. In this country, diesel engines have long come in heavy duty pickup trucks, and more recently in the Ford Excursion and Hummer H1 SUVs, but the only companies to sell diesel passenger cars in recent times have been Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen.

The Jeep Liberty has changed little recently, so I'm concentrating on the diesel aspect in this report. I'm a diesel fan, in part because of a fascination with biodiesel — the alternative fuel on which I'm most bullish. Diesels have a bad reputation in the U.S., where they're perceived as dirty, smelly, cacophonous and underpowered. People complain that diesel fuel is too hard to find, too messy to dispense and not substantially cheaper than gas. I got into the Jeep Liberty thinking all these notions were overstated and out of date.

Thanks to trucks, old-school engines and General Motors' catastrophic attempt in the late 1970s and '80s to convert gasoline engines into diesels, Americans generally are turned off by the very idea. What they don't realize is that there are actually many very smooth, quiet, refined and potent diesel car engines in the world now.

Unfortunately, the Jeep Liberty's is not one of them. The turbocharged 2.8-liter inline-four-cylinder starts like the diesels of yore, with a raucous clatter that dies down only somewhat as the engine warms up. It's not an engine so much as a gem tumbler. Now, I wouldn't be so harsh if ... if the Liberty weren't. But seriously, if diesel engines are to stand a chance of making inroads in North America, people need to recognize that the Liberty CRD is hardly the best that technology has to offer. The reality is that many Americans have been exposed to modern executions of diesel power by sharing the road with Mercedes and Volkswagen diesel models. They just didn't know it.

So what exactly is good about diesels? Torque is good, and diesels have plenty of it. Take a look at the ratings below for the Liberty's diesel and gasoline engines.

 

Jeep Liberty Engines
  Gasoline Diesel
Type 3.7-liter V-6 2.8-liter inline-4
Horsepower 210 @ 5,200 rpm 160 @ 3,800 rpm
Torque (lbs.-ft.) 235 @ 4,000 rpm 295 @ 1,800 rpm
Redline 6,000 rpm 4,300 rpm
EPA-Estimated Fuel Economy
(city/highway, mpg)
17*/22 22/26
*Four-speed automatic; six-speed manual is 18 mpg city
Manufacturer data

 

Clearly, the diesel has more torque than horsepower, and gobs more torque than even the larger-displacement V-6. This is not a bad thing for the stop-and-go nature of U.S. motoring. In practice, the Liberty CRD lurched off the line like a stallion. The automatic transmission has five gears, but I noticed when accelerating onto the interstate that the stallion went a bit lame.

I drove the Jeep Liberty CRD on a private off-road course, where another benefit of diesel power was evident: the ability to climb over obstacles without breaking a sweat. I switched the rear transfer case to low gear, put the transmission in 1st and took my foot off the pedals. The Liberty CRD did the rest. It's no Jeep Wrangler, but it is still a smart off-road choice. The four wheels needed no coaxing to climb moderate inclines, and it even descended the declines in a more controlled fashion than the gasoline version did. A diesel's higher compression ratio gives it more engine braking.

Roughly half of the vehicles sold in Europe are diesel, mainly because fuel is much more expensive there and concern about greenhouse gases is greater. Because diesels burn less fuel, they release less carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas. But aren't diesels dirty? Yes, here in the U.S. they pollute more than gasoline, but greenhouse gas technically isn't a pollutant. Car pollution, also called emissions, includes stuff like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, both of which are in high concentrations in diesel exhaust. Their contribution to smog is why diesel car sales are outlawed in California and a few restrictive Northeastern states.

Overseas, low-sulfur fuel and additional onboard pollution controls make diesel cars dramatically cleaner. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is requiring the phase-in of this cleaner fuel starting in June 2006, after which any new, properly equipped diesel that burns it will meet stringent new standards.

When the time came to return the Jeep Liberty, I went to the web to find a diesel filling station. I had to drive a little farther than I would for gas, but I rationalized it away. When I arrived, the diesel pump was out of order. Then I drove around looking for another one, beginning to feel the inconvenience I'd dismissed before. When I finally found one, sure enough, the pump handle was coated in the oily diesel fuel, which doesn't evaporate like gasoline does. The concrete was coated, too. When the tank was full, I literally skated back to the front door and got in, tracking a film of diesel fuel and its accompanying odor with me and onto the driver's seat, the steering wheel and floor mats.

My receipt told me that I'd bought 10.7 gallons at $2.90 per gallon. Unfortunately, at the time, a few weeks ago, regular gasoline was selling at the same station for $2.35 per gallon — about 23 percent less. That means that if I got the true 20 percent better fuel economy with the diesel, I still paid a little more than I would have for gas.

Historically, diesel fuel cost considerably less than gasoline. Then it crept up, overtaking gasoline prices in the fourth quarter of 2004. Ever since, it has been neck-and-neck, with diesel occasionally more expensive. In the past six months, higher diesel prices have dominated, thanks mainly to the Gulf region's brutal hurricanes. To oversimplify, gasoline is basically further-refined diesel, which means high demand for one affects the other's availability, and gasoline got the priority.

Fuel pricing is always complex and seldom follows rules. Diesel fuel is similar to home heating oil, so late autumn and early winter typically bring scarcity that raises diesel prices. Now that we're almost through a warmer-than-average winter, one would expect diesel prices to come down. We're still waiting. Now, as this review publishes, the price remains higher: an average $2.54 per gallon nationally, while regular gasoline is $2.37.

The more I learn about energy, the more it seems that it's an industry in balance. Significantly cheaper fuel will never come. The most we can hope for are alternatives that are slightly more affordable or that have some other benefit, such as renewability, lower pollution and domestic sourcing. Biodiesel offers all of these and is compatible with petroleum diesel. If its availability increases, there's no shortage of cars overseas that offer diesel engines, including some we're accustomed to in the States, like the Liberty.

So with all the downsides of diesel and the Jeep Liberty CRD, why has the model sold so quickly? Because some people just like diesels. Their fuel economy is better, they have greater towing torque, and diesel engines tend to last twice as long as their gasoline counterparts. I also believe there's a type of person who buys a diesel not in spite of but because of its roughness. They like waiting for a glow plug to warm up before starting the engine. They like the clatter. They like filling up at an exclusive pump and generally feeling like they have something unique. Nowhere is this rough and crude engine type going to succeed more than in the rough and crude genre of off-road vehicles. Given the Liberty's market success, don't be surprised to see more diesel SUVs in the future.

 

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Latest 2006 Liberty Stories

Consumer Reviews

Exterior Styling
(4.4)
Performance
(4.3)
Interior Design
(3.8)
Comfort
(4.0)
Reliability
(4.0)
Value For The Money
(4.1)

What Drivers Are Saying

(4.0)

Trail Rated

by mawhitaker13@yahoo.com from OH on August 6, 2018

Great car: Summer = Cold Air Winter = HOT Air ! Perfect for High School or College Commuting ! TRAIL RATED ! Yes this car can go off road! CB and Integrated Driving Lights included Read full review

(2.0)

horribly unconfortable to drive

by Not Happy from Westfield on July 30, 2018

not thrilled not happy with mpg or comfort I'm 5 '7 and everything is to far forward to reach comfortably. Seat design is horrible. I am not happy with this vehicle at all it rusts very quickly from ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2006 Jeep Liberty currently has 10 recalls

Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2006 Jeep Liberty has not been tested.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Liberty received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker