Mercedes-Benz builds the torquey 3.0-liter common-rail turbodiesel that's under the hood of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD. You're going to hear more about that when the sport/utility goes on sale in the first quarter of 2007, Chrysler Group won't be shy about the DaimlerChrysler connection, either.

We took a limited drive in the Grand Cherokee CRD and can report it's a much better Jeep diesel than the discontinued Liberty CRD, which Chrysler says sold beyond expectations at 11,000 units. The Liberty's Italian-derived turbodiesel was an ancient four-cylinder that won't meet tough new NOx standards that come into play by the end of this year. The Grand Cherokee's Benz diesel is a quiet, smooth V-6 that comes to the States first in late 2006 in the Mercedes E320 CDI sedan.

It's a worthy first diesel in a U.S.-market SUV, good for off-roaders or those who need to tow up to 7400 pounds. Jeep will deliver each Grand Cherokee CRD with five-percent biodiesel (B5) from its Jefferson Avenue assembly plant in Detroit. For the uninitiated, it's not gas-engine smooth; you'll feel some shake in the steering wheel at low rpm. But from inside, there's no smell and very little noise to hint at the fuel you're using. Estimated EPA is 19 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the open highway.

The engine has to wind up past 2000 rpm for the turbo to do any serious work, so low-end torque doesn't feel great, and with the diesel's early 4500-rpm redline, you run through the torque band and the five automatic gears quickly. The CRD offers good sport/utility performance, which means it can get you into traffic easily, but it won't be mistaken for a performance vehicle. The engine makes 215 horsepower at 3800 rpm and 376 pound-feet at 1600, all the way through to 2800.

The Grand Cherokee has been on sale with a Mercedes turbodiesel in Europe since the 2005 model year, so import to the U.S. is a no-brainer. And if it does well here, the engine might find its way into other U.S. Chrysler products, including the 300 and Dodge Durango. What's more, it looks like the first in an onslaught of European diesels in U.S.-market SUVs.