The watering hole was on the unmarked border between Botswana and neighboring Zimbabwe--about 100 yards from where we were eating dinner. For a long time, there was no activity. Then, suddenly, the silence was broken when a herd of elephants came tromping in through the trees, the light of the near-full moon illuminating the scene.

We were staying at the Elephant Valley Lodge in the Lesoma Valley in the Kasane Forest Reserve bordering the famed Chobe National Park, on day two of our African adventure. We drove a 2005 Jeep Liberty (still called the Cherokee in overseas markets)--the new Renegade and the 2.8-liter four-cylinder common-rail direct-injection turbodiesel (CRD), now available for the first time in North America.

Since its inception, the Liberty has been available overseas with turbo-diesel power, essential for success in the European SUV marketplace where fuel costs between $4 and $5 a gallon. Jeep's new direct-injection turbodiesel offers an electronically controlled, variable-geometry turbocharger, central to its outstanding efficiency, featuring moveable vanes that allow it to act like a small turbocharger at lower speeds, while at higher speeds these vanes adjust, giving it the efficiency of a larger unit. The engine serves up class-leading low-end torque (295 pound-feet) while those who commute great distances will appreciate its fuel economy (22 city/27 highway). On our trip, our CRD averaged more than 21 mpg, most of which was off-pavement.

Beyond the improvement in fuel economy, the CRD offers Liberty owners two major advantages. The excellent low-end torque provides increased capability off-road, while the wide powerband gives the Liberty excellent towing capabilities: 5000 pounds when equipped with the optional 545RFE five-speed automatic transmission. This refined engine casts aside preconceived ideas about diesel noise, vibration, and smell.