2020 Jeep Wrangler: EcoDiesel Designed for Off-Roading

Jeep loyalists have been wanting two things for a long time: a Jeep pickup truck, and a diesel engine in the venerable Wrangler. This year, they’re getting both.

Jeep gave them a pickup truck over the summer when the 2020 Gladiator arrived. And now, just in time for the holiday season, Jeep gives the gift of diesel in the Wrangler. The Wrangler EcoDiesel is available in Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon trims.

An all-new, third-generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine is bolted under the hood of the 2020 Jeep Wrangler — a $4,000 option and a great gift for Wrangler buyers, especially those who want to take their Jeeps off-roading. Jeep also plans to offer an EcoDiesel in the Gladiator.

Wrangling a diesel engine into the Wrangler was no easy task. Although the new engine is a “cousin” to the EcoDiesel in the Ram 1500 pickup, it had to be quite different, according to Mauro Puglia, chief engineer of the new diesel engine. Puglia told journalists gathered for the launch of the Wrangler EcoDiesel that the engine was designed specifically for the Wrangler. “This is not just a facelift, this is a brand-new engine,” he said.

The new diesel engine develops 260 horsepower and sends 442 lb.-ft. of torque to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission. The high torque number is especially important in off-road conditions.

Jeep invited journalists to Zion National Park in southern Utah to get a first look at the new diesel Wrangler in some pretty challenging off-road conditions. Zion is a popular off-roading area with spectacular rock formations.

After spending the day plowing through sand and crawling over rocks, I was thoroughly impressed with the performance of the new diesel Wrangler. Because of the high level of low-end torque, the diesel Wrangler powered up steep rock hills smoothly and surefootedly. My driving partner and I found it much easier to keep a steady throttle and avoid wheel spin when climbing up jagged rocks. The new Wrangler walked up some pretty technical climbs without issue.

Even though the Wrangler has an 11-inch ground clearance, some drops and large rocks caused the Wrangler to bottom out on the difficult off-road course. But not to worry, Jeep has installed additional skidplates to protect vital parts. The Wrangler EcoDiesel has a 44-degree angle of approach, a 22-degree breakover, and a 37-degree rear departure angle. The bottom line is this Jeep can cover some very serious off-road terrain.

On the road, the new Wrangler EcoDiesel isn’t that much different from the gasoline Wrangler. It’s not the smoothest ride on the planet, but it’s acceptable. Torque from the diesel engine boosts acceleration significantly, though. When you punch the throttle in a gasoline Wrangler at 60 mph it accelerates normally. Punch it in the EcoDiesel Wrangler and the vehicle rushes forward with gusto.

All diesel Wranglers have Dana 44 front and rear heavy-duty axles. Additionally, they feature a 3.73:1 axle ratio. A pair of transfer cases are offered: the Rock-Trac two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio on Rubicon models, and the Command-Trac part-time two-speed transfer case with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio on Sport and Sahara models.  — Steve Wheeler, Motor Matters

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