Jeep beefing up Liberty lineup By MARY CONNELLY | Automotive News (08:15 April 07, 2004) Jeep is beefing up its 2005 Liberty lineup, offering a diesel engine and restyling the Renegade as an image leader. Jeep is getting renewed attention within the Chrysler group as the company broadens existing lines such as the Liberty and adds new models during the next three years. The 2005 Renegade gains a "more rugged, classic Jeep appearance," the company says, and leads the Liberty lineup. The freshened exterior has offroad foglamps and taillamp guards, a flatter hood, and a taller grille. The aim is to reach "those who may have longed for a four-door Wrangler," says Jeff Bell, vice president for Jeep marketing. The 2005 Liberty Sport and Limited models also are updated with a new front fascia, grille and body side moldings. The 2005 models go on sale in the fall. A 2.8-liter common rail diesel engine equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission is optional on 2005 4x4 Liberty Sport and Limited models. The engine, supplied by VM Motori of Italy, is rated at an estimated 160 hpat 3,800 rpm. Jeep is billing the model as the first mid-sized SUV diesel in the United States and is touting improved fuel economy and reduced emissions. In the first three months of 2004, Liberty sales climbed 15.4 percent to 42,951 units. Liberty was introduced as a 2002 model. Seventy-five percent of buyers are new to Jeep, the company says. ----- Newest Jeep designed to be off-road tough, on-road mannered By MARY CONNELLY | Automotive News (16:41:13 April 09, 2004) The 2005 Grand Cherokee is Jeep's answer to a tough question: how to satisfy hard-core Jeep loyalists in an era of more refined SUVs. Jeep will try to appeal to both tastes by portraying the redesigned vehicle as an off-road SUV with on-road manners. The 2005 model will continue to offer two rows of seats, not three, in deference to the demand of Jeep loyalists. But the suspension is reworked to improve ride comfort. And three four-wheel-drive systems are available on the new SUV for traditionalists who want a mechanically operated transfer case as well as for those who never want to pull a lever. The juggling act reflects the issues facing the Jeep brand as a whole. Jeep is trying to stay true to its off-road roots while expanding its product range to compete with a new generation of more carlike SUVs. Grand Cherokee sales were off 7.5 percent in calendar 2003 to 207,479 units. The redesigned vehicle goes on sale in the fall in the United States. Jeep loyalists ran the show when it came to deciding one of the most crucial aspects of the 2005 Grand Cherokee: size. "Buyers told us they didn't want us to grow the vehicle," says Rick Aneiros vice president of Jeep and truck design at the Chrysler group. "These people are passionate about this. They don't want a bigger vehicle." "Three rows of seats are a weight and a cost," Aneiros says. "It would have pleased 10 percent of the people and upset 90 percent." Nevertheless, the five-passenger 2005 Grand Cherokee is 5.3 inches longer than its predecessor but designers have tried to minimize a larger appearance by giving the SUV a more upright, slab-sided stance. The new model is available with three engines, including for the first time the Chrysler group's 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi engine. Jeep will promote the 325-hp Hemi-equipped Grand Cherokee as the first SUV to offer cylinder deactivation. The system deactivates four cylinders during cruising and light acceleration, increasing fuel economy by up to 20 percent, the company says. The Hemi is optional in the 4x4 Limited. A 3.7-liter single-overhead-cam V-6 rated at 210 hp is the base engine. The engine is standard in the 4x2 and 4x4 Laredo. Formerly, the Grand Cherokee's base engine was a 4.0-liter I-6. A 4.7-liter SOHC V-8 carryover engine is standard on the 4x2 and 4x4 Limited. The base engine is paired with a new five-speed automatic transmission. The new transmission and the carryover five-speed transmission teamed with the Hemi and 4.7-liter V-8 offer interactive shift control for the first time on the Grand Cherokee. The shifter is fully automated or the driver can manually select each gear. The three four-wheel drive systems cover the gamut: Quadra-Trac I is a permanent all-wheel drive system, like that in a Subaru, that the driver does not ever shift. It's designed for city slickers who rarely venture off road, but want added traction on snowy or wet roads. Quadra Trac II allows the driver to shift electronically from low to high ranges or to neutral. The system works well off-road and on the street. Quadra-Drive adds electronically controlled limited slip front and rear differentials for off-roading. Maintaining off-road prowess while delivering more comfort on-road was a prime goal of the SUV redesign. A new independent front suspension will deliver a more comfortable ride, more precise steering and better handling, the company says. Another upgrade is the Chrysler group's first application of an active stabilizer system to reduce body roll. Header-mounted side airbag curtains for the front and rear passengers are optional. Grand Cherokee production for markets outside North America will begin in the first quarter of 2005 in Graz, Austria.