2020 Jeep Wrangler Sahara EcoDiesel Drivers' Notes | Diesel fans, rejoice

We find out if a $4,000 diesel engine improves the Wrangler formula

2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel Sahara
2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel Sahara / Image Credit: Zac Palmer
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Still rough and ready for anything, but subtle design changes, new features and a nicer interior upgrade this off-road icon.

  • Trim
  • Engine
    3.0L Turbodiesel V6
  • Power
    260 HP / 442 LB-FT
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
  • Engine Placement
  • Curb Weight
    4,737 LBS
  • Towing
    3,500 LBS
  • Seating
  • Cargo
    31.7 Cu-Ft.
  • Base Price
  • As Tested Price

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel adds one more big choice to the mix for potential Wrangler buyers. As most things tend to be with Jeep’s legendary off-roader, it’s an expensive choice, but EcoDiesel buyers will get a whole lot for their money. The biggest draw is efficiency. Our best guess (the EPA hasn’t released official numbers quite yet) is that the Wrangler EcoDiesel will be rated at approximately 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg for highway driving. That’s leagues better than the efficient 2.0-liter turbo that’s rated for 22 mpg on the highway in four-door form. It also allows it to achieve the 500-mile range Jeep is touting with the EcoDiesel. Power is healthy from the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6, as Jeep claims the engine makes 260 horsepower and 442 pound-feet of torque. There are no official acceleration times from Jeep, but it feels plenty quick with the strong torque off the line. Towing capacity doesn’t increase beyond what’s already available at a stubborn 3,500 pounds.

Our flavor of Wrangler EcoDiesel for a couple weeks of motoring happened to be the Sahara trim. Before touching the options list, a 2020 Wrangler Sahara is heading out the door at $40,140. Of course, ours isn’t anywhere near that price, coming in at $56,945. The biggest kicker of all is the $4,000 diesel engine option that also requires adding in the $2,000 eight-speed automatic transmission. Our tester also has the $3,995 Sky One-Touch Power Top. It’s nice, but the price tag isn’t. LED lighting adds $1,045; a leather interior tacks on another $1,495, and the 8.4-inch infotainment system with navigation adds $1,695. Needless to say, it ain’t cheap.

The diesel engine posed the biggest question of all to us in terms of value. Recouping that engine cost in fuel savings would take a long time. But it could also be a huge selling point for someone who loves diesel engines but still wants to go off-road. The Colorado ZR2 with its 2.8-liter four-cylinder diesel was the big oil-burner winner there for a long while, and the Wrangler EcoDiesel is a fine candidate to join the competition.

Assistant Editor Zac Palmer: Putting a diesel engine in a Jeep Wrangler is something that has never been done by Jeep. Until now. My takeaway: Why wasn’t this done years ago? Low-end torque is exactly what a vehicle like the Wrangler benefits from, and that’s just what we get with this excellent diesel engine.

There’s no mistaking this Wrangler for a diesel from the second the engine turns on. It’s loud. But in this kind of a vehicle, I like that. The Wrangler is an incredibly loud vehicle already. Wind noise tries its best to drown out the tire roar, causing the radio to be turned up, which eventually leads to yelling. No, there’s nothing luxurious about it, but that’s not the point. When I check the expensive option box for the diesel in a Wrangler, I want to know it’s there as I’m crawling through mud and rocks or gunning it through some sand. Putting this engine in a Wrangler is a neat (and possibly niche) thing to do — Americans’ appeal with diesel engines more or less starts and ends with heavy duty pickups. But Wrangler buyers are unique themselves. This engine undeniably fits the off-roader, and if you’re fine skipping the refinement of the 2.0-liter turbo, the EcoDiesel can make for a lovely partner.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: I’m generally a fan of diesel-powered vehicles, with the rare exception. I love my wife’s GLK BlueTec, I enjoyed the Chevy Silverado Duramax we just had in the office, and I found the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel to be quite the champ. I also carry some nostalgia for the diesel Jeep CJs of yore. Then we got this Jeep in the office, and I, among others, was excited to drive a Wrangler powered by Chrysler’s updated grease-burner.

And I thought it was great! At first. After a while, I started to get tired of the clatter of the diesel motor, which is way more noticeable here than in the Ram because of the Jeep’s canvas “Sky One-Touch Power Top.” The whistle of the turbocharger was a near-constant part of the background noise, too. Not too big of a deal — a little extra noise is part of the Jeep experience. It was cold, and the glow plug ignition delay threw me off, as it took longer than I’m used to.

In the morning, I had to get fuel. No problem, as there’s a diesel pump near my house. The pump, though, was super slow, like less than a gallon a minute slow. I spent a minute calculating whether it’d be quicker to find another diesel pump, or just to wait for this to fill up. But then I’d have to either go out of my way, or wait until I got off the highway in another 30 miles to find a pump along my route. And I wasn’t even sure where there’d be another pump, as I usually just go to this one. I decided to wait it out, in the cold. Then, when I went to put the fuel cap back on, it was smeared with diesel. I got whiffs of the stuff all morning whenever I drank or ate something.

After that, the $4,000 premium for the diesel Wrangler doesn’t seem so hot despite it being a great engine. Am I just falling out of love with diesel?

Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore: Can the Wrangler be a daily driver? I’m going to focus on that for my entry. It’s an age-old argument. People do it. Are the compromises worth it? I’m going to say yes, but it’s a close call. 

I’m a big fan of the Wrangler. I’ve done the Rubicon Trail and a decent amount of off-roading, and through that lens I’d actually argue against using the Wrangler for daily duty. You don’t need it. The rational argument is spend your money on an SUV that’s more functional and comfortable. You just don’t need the Wrangler’s capability to get to the store or the office. And the compromises – it’s loud and the interior is sparse – are severe. Getting in and out of the back seat, especially with a toddler, is hard to accomplish without a few head bumps. The car seat fits back there just fine, but accessing it is a challenge. The steering is also comically numb. I was constantly correcting my lane position. It’s also expensive. Our EcoDiesel-powered Unlimited Sahara stickered for $56,945, which gets you a pretty nice Mercedes-Benz GLC or BMW X3. There’s scant published IIHS or NHTSA safety data for this new generation. Previous models never did well, which gives me pause. 

All that being said, I’d still think about getting a Wrangler. You learn to live with the compromises and enjoy the fact you get to drive a Wrangler. There wasn’t a day that went by I wasn’t genuinely excited to drive it. The steering isn’t that bad, or at least you get used to it. While you don’t need the trail-conquering prowess of the Wrangler, on wintry mornings you’re not at all concerned about your commute. The EcoDiesel under the hood of our tester is intriguing, but I would opt for the V6 or turbo four. For around town, it’s tough to beat the I4’s punch. 

The cabin, while spartan, is a pleasant place to spend time. The visibility is solid and there’s a decent amount of room in the cargo hold. FCA’s Uconnect system brightens things up, and all the Jeep Easter eggs are quirky and fun. Plus, the Wrangler looks awesome. So yeah, close call — but I could see the Wrangler as a daily driver. 

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