Is the Diesel Worth the Wait?
Not so long ago, you really only had four choices when buying a new Jeep Wrangler: two or four doors, soft or hard roof, manual or automatic and color. But with Wrangler sales through the roof and full power from FCA behind the latest JL Wrangler, current buyers of the iconic Jeep are really spoiled for choice, especially when it comes to engine options, with no less of five engine options available in the range. The latest to hit the streets is the long-awaited diesel engine, and we hit the test track in a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel to see if the wait was worth it.
Jeep’s new EcoDiesel engine is actually one that buyers of the Ram 1500 have known for a few years now. Now in its third generation, the 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel turbodiesel undergoes specific Wrangler modifications (such as the ability to withstand up to 30 inches of water) and produces 260 horsepower in the same manner as in the Ram, but “ only ” 442 pound-feet of torque, down 38 pound-feet from the pickup. An eight-speed automatic transmission comes standard with the EcoDiesel engine, as does all-wheel drive. New diesel is only available in four-door Wrangler Unlimited models – Jeep says the take-up rate would be too low on two-door Wranglers to warrant the investment. Ditto for a manual transmission.
How fast is the Wrangler Diesel?
Diesel engines aren’t known for being fast – and neither are Jeep Wranglers either – but our 2020 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel really impressed us on the track. Its 7.5 second time from 0 to 60 mph and its 15.8 second quarter mile to 86.3 mph make it the second fastest four-door JL Wrangler we’ve ever tested. It’s a tenth of a second faster at 60 mph and two tenths faster through the quarter mile than our long-term Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, which is equipped with a 2.0-liter turbocharged eTorque I-4 developing 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque.
Our long term gasoline, however, is starting to make a difference in our other performance tests. Wrangler diesel’s best 60-0 mph stop was 139 feet (2 feet longer than our long run), and it only averaged 0.66 g on the skidpad and 29.8 seconds at 0, 54 g in figure eight. Our soft hybrid long-term Wrangler averaged 0.70g and doubled the number eight in 29.3 seconds to 0.55g on average. The shorter time of the four-cylinder can be largely attributed to its curb weight of 4,766 pounds, compared to the 5,061 pounds of the similarly equipped Diesel Wrangler.
The fastest four-door Wrangler we tested was a Wrangler Sahara equipped with the standard 3.6-liter V6 with 285 horsepower and 260 lb-ft and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Without the rugged off-road hardware of the Rubicon models and weighing only 4,391 pounds, it accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, through the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds to 89.9 mph, and, thanks to its more urban tire orientation, stops from 60 to 0 mph in 128 feet and runs the figure eight in 28.3 seconds at 0.58 g.
How does the Wrangler EcoDiesel work?
Just like in the Ram, the EcoDiesel feels incredibly smooth in the Wrangler. Its 442 lb-ft of torque arrives early in the Jeep’s power group, giving you a satisfying, lag-free thrust in your seat while the Wrangler accelerates. Unlike the eTorque turbo-oven Wrangler, which has a touch of turbo retardation during acceleration, the EcoDiesel mill provides its 240 horsepower linearly over its entire narrow power band, even managing to have sufficient passing power at speeds highway, which many diesel engines lack. As in the V6 and four-cylinder models, the Jeep’s eight-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and intelligently, with a well-spaced transmission difference.
While the diesel engine is certainly the flagship change from the 2020 Wrangler lineup, there is another less publicized one that was made for all Wranglers in the 2020 model year – the steering feel is now improved. One of the few complaints we’ve had about our long-term Wrangler is its heavy, wandering steering, which could make long journeys exhausting on and off the road. For 2020, Jeep has made both the steering valve adjustment and pump calibration changes that result in lighter steering and less effort. The steering is both better in the world on the road, where it weighs well in corners and does not require constant corrections on highways and off-road, because the steering wheel does not return as suddenly on difficult obstacles.
Is Wrangler Diesel good for gas?
All other things being equal, the EcoDiesel engine is by a hair the most satisfactory engine of the Wrangler range. But that is before taking into consideration both the efficiency and the price.
Let’s start with the first. Until the Wrangler 4×4 Plug-in Hybrid arrives later this year, the EcoDiesel is the most efficient Wrangler variant available, rated by the EPA at 22/29/25 mpg city / highway / combined. It’s about 14 percent more efficient combined than the 22/24/22 mpg rating of four-cylinder Wranglers, and 45 percent more efficient than Wranglers equipped with the standard V-6 and the eight-speed automobile in option, rated at 18/23/20 mpg. In field tests, we found that the fuel efficiency difference between the EcoDiesel and the four-cylinder eTorque engine was much narrower – during the average week, our long-term Wrangler reached around 20 mi / gal in Los Angeles, while the EcoDiesel, on the same duty cycle, reaches about 22 mpg.
How much does a Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel cost?
The waters get muddier when you factor in the prices. The EcoDiesel engine is actually $ 6,000 more than the standard V6 ($ 4,000 for the engine and $ 2,000 for the automatic transmission required), and $ 4,500 more than the turbo-four (the engine is cooked in the price, but the required transmission is $ 1,500). I strongly suggest reading our first drive of the Wrangler EcoDiesel where Scott Evans breaks down the cost per mile differences between the three engines, but the calculations don’t look good for the EcoDiesel. The CliffsNotes version is as follows: it will take 203,125 miles of road to recover the cost difference between the base V6 and the diesel engine, and 281,250 miles to compensate for the difference with the four-cylinder Wrangler.
Ultimately, therein lies the biggest problem with the Wrangler EcoDiesel: its price. The Wrangler is already an expensive SUV (our nearly loaded Rubicon tester started at $ 49,290 and cost $ 62,345), and $ 6,000 is a big investment for a more efficient engine, yes, but not a lot. The EcoDiesel is smooth, fast and powerful, but as the numbers show, the speed and efficiency difference between it and the Wrangler’s turbo-four powertrain is small. As much as I like to drive the Wrangler EcoDiesel, but with these calculations, I opt for the turbo-four rather than the diesel any day of the week.
|Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel 2020|
|STARTING PRICE||$ 49,690|
|TESTED PRICE||$ 62,745|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, 4-wheel drive, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||3.0-liter 260-valve, 442 lb-ft DOHC, 24-valve turbodiesel V6 engine|
|EDGE WEIGHT (DIST F / R)||5061 lb (52/48%)|
|Length x Width x Height||188.4 x 73.8 x 73.6 inches|
|0-60 MPH||7.5 sec|
|QUARTER OF MILE||15.8 s at 86.3 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||139 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.66 g (average)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||29.8 s @ 0.54 g (average)|
|EPA CITY / HWY / COMB FUEL ECON||22/29/25 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY / HIGHWAY||171/130 kW-h / 100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.90 lb / mile|