2020 Jeep Wrangler Diesel Review — On and Off-Road With the New EcoDiesel Engine

by: Edmunds     Published on: 13 November 2019

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We finally get behind the wheel of the diesel 2020 Jeep Wrangler! In this video, Dan Edmunds drives the new EcoDiesel variant of one of our favorite off-road vehicles in its natural habitat. We learn about the myriad advantages of the diesel engine, from its superior torque to extended range. We've put more than 40,000 miles on our own gas-powered long-term Jeep Wrangler Unlimited four-door. We're confident that we would have enjoyed every one of those miles much more had the EcoDiesel engine been available when we bought it. Even if it never pays for itself in fuel savings, the EcoDiesel is worth considering. 2020 Jeep Wrangler Diesel ReviewThe 2020 Jeep Wrangler is finally available with the promised EcoDiesel V6, and the wait has been well worth it. The EcoDiesel engine is 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. That's slightly less power than the 2.0-liter turbo-four and the 3.6-liter V6, but its torque output crushes them both because neither gasoline engine can muster even 300 lb-ft. We may have been sold on horsepower our entire lives, but torque is what you feel when the light turns green, when you roll onto the throttle to pass someone, or when you creep over a fallen log or any rocky off-road obstacle.The Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel's abundant torque lives up to all the advance billing. Acceleration is smooth and strong. At cruising speed, the sound of the diesel disappears into the background — which, in a boxy Jeep, consists of a not insignificant level of wind noise. It only comes back into consciousness when things load up as you climb a grade or pull out to make a pass. In cases like this, it's not necessary to instinctively jump on the throttle to force the transmission to kick down a couple of gears. It just moves out smartly, dropping down what feels like one gear, at most.It rides and handles much like any equivalent gasoline-powered Wrangler we've driven. We test-drove both the subdued Sahara and the rowdy Rubicon. Both are steady, and the steering feel that comes with the Wrangler's solid front axle and recirculating-ball steering is the same as ever: indistinct and vague, but somehow predictable and easy to manage.It's all part of the plan. These vehicles aren't supposed to feel any different from their gasoline counterparts. Jeep retuned the suspension but only to compensate for the heavier mass of the diesel powertrain and its exhaust after-treatment systems.You can get the EcoDiesel in the Sport, Sahara and Rubicon models, but only in the Unlimited four-door body style, which makes sense in practical terms. Jeep believes the smaller and lighter two-door does not necessarily need the extra grunt. Beyond that debatable point, the reality is there simply isn't enough underbody space to package the diesel engine's more complex exhaust system.A diesel's massive torque and superior fuel economy (and therefore driving range) are significant advantages when you're exploring wild places. But abundant torque and driving range are also beneficial to pavement-bound consumers. A diesel engine can be a hard sell in the case of sedans and more family-oriented SUVs because of its noise and vibration, but Jeep people might see it as a feature, not a drawback.Jeep Wrangler Diesel Off-RoadThe diesel's extra torque is even more eye-opening when pavement turns to dirt, and after dirt turns to deep sand and rocks. Our test course consisted of large boulders, sandstone ledges, awkward off-camber situations and lots of sand. Delicate throttle control is critical in such tricky terrain, and the EcoDiesel proves to be even easier to manage than we expected.Switch the Jeep's transfer case into low-range gearing and you've got plenty of torque, even at idle. Only gentle pressure is required to build enough steam to climb slopes you might need help climbing up on foot. Ledges and steps are easy to surmount without anything like a brute-force approach. In a weird way, it feels as if you can almost idle up and over almost anything, but at any speed you choose because you don't have to stab the throttle and rev the engine much to get the torque you need.Read more about the 2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel: Make sure to subscribe to Edmunds to get all of the latest videos on car reviews, automotive news, car comparisons, and shopping advice. Subscribe: Edmunds will help you find your perfect car with unbiased and useful reviews, advice, pricing, and tools. Visit us at #JeepOffroad #Edmunds