Picking up the 4-door Jeep Wrangler Limited Rubicon Eco-Diesel, the first thing I noticed, man is it ever big. But not as big as it could be, which I found out later at a Colorado Cars and Coffee! Growing up, I learned to drive on a full-sized Jeep Wagoneer, then later a Commando, neither were small, though, for some reason, this Wrangler seemed huge!
The Wrangler has its roots in the capable workhorse the CJ, or Civilian Jeep, which began life as a little 1940’s military vehicle designed to be transportable, useable anywhere, fixable on the fly, and to a point, disposable. Those small jeeps as they were called by the GI’s became so loved that the soldiers brought them home, and now they are one of the most American of vehicles, spawning a whole group of all-terrain capable vehicles, and eventually what we know today as an SUV.
Picking up the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited in Rubicon Trim with an EcoDiesel engine, I had to throw a leg up to get in. Which was where I was surprised at the super-size of this vehicle. Turns out, it is the size of any full-size pickup truck on the market today. Visually, I never thought of the stock Wrangler as being so high up, and this press loan from FCA was not even what you would call “Lifted.” Being in Colorado, I soon found it was not the biggest jeep, nor the smallest. With classic Jeep styling and fenders and its rugged tough-guy looks, it can go from highway cruiser to off-roader quite quickly, as you will see from our video.
Don’t Mess WITH MY JEEP.
The mantra of the enthusiasts is not to change Jeep, and FCA has taken that to heart. Anyone remember the rectangular headlight debacle? One of my thoughts on FCA vehicles is that body styles are rarely updated. So, how does Jeep keep their products up-to-date? By making them more Jeep than ever before, just like they do with the Dodge brand, which is more Horsepower. Making modern Jeeps more off-road capable, even though many only see paved surfaces. Mopar makes these accessory upgrades useable, not just pretty to look at like some aftermarket suppliers do.
Jeep Pumps Iron
Throughout the years’ Jeep aficionados have customized their Jeeps, making them bigger, taller, and as bad as can be, in a good way. After taking this one to the Lafayette Colorado Cars and Coffee, I see owners have taken that to the next level. Visiting the Chicago Auto Show earlier in the year, I was impressed that MOPAR, the FCA parts and performance brand, has not missed that opportunity in the least. Providing plenty of Jeep Branded accessories that are just as tough, just as big, and just as Jeep as you could ever want. Excellent work, MOPAR Performance Parts Team.
My thoughts on the 2020 Wrangler
I was quite impressed with the jeep-ness of the Wrangler, rugged, and to a point refined with modern technology. A little rough here and there, like door straps, but nothing that was out of character for what is a true adventure vehicle. Any World War II GI would be proud to drive this 2020 Jeep Wrangler.
The EcoDiesel Engine
This third-generation EcoDiesel V-6 engine is produced at the FCA Cento facility in Ferrara, Italy. And is a $4000 option only available on Jeep’s 4-door Wrangler and FCA’s Ram 1500 pickup truck. I found the powerplant to be quite dynamic with improved fuel economy, I got 23 mpg in general use. No doubt it will win awards like the previous generation of FCA diesel engines have.
This EcoDiesel engine features a new-generation water-cooled turbocharger with variable geometry turbine (VGT) and low-friction bearings that increases efficiency and responsiveness. High-pressure (29,000 psi/2,000 bar) direct-injection fuel injector nozzles that were redesigned along with the cylinder head intake ports to match the newly designed and optimized combustion chamber, reducing fuel consumption with updated exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system that draws gases in after the diesel particulate filter. All of this minimizes the loss of efficiency of the turbocharger, thus increased fuel economy, which is the ultimate goal.
The 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 uses dual overhead camshafts (DOHC) with four valves per cylinder is set with A compression ratio that has been optimized to 16.0:1 from 16.5:1 to improve fuel economy and reduce engine noise. Though I found the clatter, quite nice to listen too. The engine block is cast with compacted graphite iron, which provides strength to dampen vibrations, weighs less than gray cast iron. A forged steel crankshaft and connecting rods are used for strength and durability, it features chain-driven overhead camshafts and aluminum alloy pistons cooled on the underside via oil jets. Heat-treated aluminum cylinder heads use individual bearing caps to reduce friction and minimize NVH. The turbocharger Charge Air Cooler (CAC) is located at the base of the grille, in front of the radiator, to maximize cooler operating temperatures.
This 3rd generation engine provided plenty of power and torque and 23 mpg. The engine started quickly and clattered away like you want a diesel to do. This is a new diesel engine co-developed by FCA engineers in both North America, and Europe is for exclusive use in the US Market. The 2nd generation EcoDiesel won awards for the best engine, and it was an option on the 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 3rd Generation EcoDiesel will not be offered on any other Jeep models according to conversations I have had with Jeep’s Michigan based team.
This 3.0-liter Eco Diesel is for North American products only, while in Europe, the Wrangler sports a 2.2 MultiJet II turbo-diesel engine. This new EcoDiesel is for 2020 Jeep Wranglers, and 2020 Ram 1500 pickups. Producing 260 horsepower and 480 lb.-ft. (light duty) and 1,000 lb.-ft. (heavy-duty). Meanwhile, the Ram will also offer the Cummins 6.7-Liter standard output turbo diesel with 370 HP and 850 lb.-ft torque on the 2500 and a high output version with 400 HP and 1,000, lb.-ft of torque on the 3500. Not getting that in the Jeep.
Diesel engines continue to be embraced by the truck and off-road community, while most consumers have little interest in the power plant. Maybe it is because of the smell of diesel fuel, which I forgot is often strong on your hands after refueling, and I found that out when pumping it at a self-serve station.
The Orginal 4×4
Wrangler four-door models with the 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 engine, rated at 260 horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque, with ESS standard come with a new eight-speed automatic transmission with hill descent control, a $2K option, designed to handle the increased torque output of the diesel engine.
The Rock-Trac® 4×4 System offers a heavy-duty two-speed transfer case with a 4:10 rear axel ratio mated to Dana front (M210 Wide) and rear (M220 Wide) axels. An electronic front disconnecting Stabilizer bar provides more flexibility when climbing rough terrain. All very well controlled from switches on the center stack. While this Wrangler came with 17” wheels and nice beefy BF Goodrich, it shows that it is not afraid of going out into the snow or trekking.
The Wrangler Rubicon model features next-generation Dana front and rear heavy-duty axles, enhanced off-road rock rails, and the Rock-Trac NV241 two-speed transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio. Wrangler Rubicon also includes electric front and rear locking differentials, Tru-Lok Electronic Locking Differential feature locks power and distributes it evenly between the wheels for impressive traction. At the same time, the electronic sway bar disconnect system allows the front wheels to drop and compress for optimum suspension. A disconnecting front sway bar and 33-inch BF Goodrich KM All-Terrain tires, taking the Wrangler to the highest level of capability off-road. Tough, durable, and capable of delivering exceptional traction, the taller tires and high fender flares give Wrangler Rubicon an outstanding 10.8-inch ground clearance. And yes, you can go all out and do the 33-Inch All-Terrain Tires and High Clearance Fender Flares.
Inside The Wrangler
While Jeeps are made to get muddy, dirty, and filled with things from the outside world, it is a shame to dirty this one up, though it can take it. While you will not find enormous amounts of unneeded space, the footwells are tight though even with boots on, you will have enough room for your feet and maybe even a little more. The seats in our tester were leather-trimmed and quite comfortable, equipped with adjustable heat, which made them even more comfortable. The dash is quite complete with its digital gauge screen and optional 8.4 touchscreen preimium audio package that displayed navigation and other apps as well as radio. This upgrade is $1,695 and, in my opinion, worth the investment. Switches for the door windows and auxiliary switches are all dead center. The classic automatic shifter is what you would expect, not a dial or a button, as is the 4-high|low range selector, and hand-operated emergency brake.
Jeep designers have gotten hooked on hiding little Jeep symbols all around the vehicle, which can be a fun treasure hunt, and they show up where you least expect them too. Like the words “since 1941″ on the dash display or the little topless jeep climbing down one side of the gauge cluster and up the other on startup (see video). The classic Jeep Grill or even just an outline of a Jeep or the headlights and grill show up where you would least expect. – Next time you are in a Jeep, look for these Easter Eggs.
In a Jeep, you can go all buttoned up, or all stripped down, take the doors off, take the top off, even drop the windshield. While I did take the rear side panels out and stowed them in the provided storage bag, I never quite figured out how to drop the windshield, having seen Jeeps with them laid down on the hood. Take the doors off if you want. Really all I did in this Wrangler was retract the cloth roof all the way back to take in the late winter Colorado sun. And it was wonderful and easy to do so at the touch of a button.
As a long-time Jeep enthusiast, I was quite taken by how nicely appointed this Wrangler was, and even more impressed on how easy it drove, no matter the road surface. I did find the door straps that encase the wires to the power windows and locks on the door rubbed my shins, which took some getting used to. And it was not easy to keep the vehicle temperature controlled from head to toe. If your upper body was warm, your feet felt cold, and vise-a-versa.
Would I buy this $64,380 Jeep?
Why, yes, I would. Though I have to say, I am more attracted to two-door Jeep Wranglers for their looks. I really liked the EcoDiesel engine and the options that this test vehicle had, which are only available in the four-door Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. And no doubt once you buy the Jeep, you will immediately start looking for upgrades, even if it comes looking like it is already tricked out from the dealer. And there are a lot of suppliers as well as Mopar to help you make your Jeep, all your own.
Words and photos by William West Hopper on location along the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies – March 2020. Will is a long time automotive journalist and enthusiast who first learned to drive on a 1966 Jeep Wagoneer with a manual 3 on the tree, no power steering or brakes. He moved to a 1973 Jeep Commando and had a passion for off-roading and Jeeping ever since.