A new turbo EcoDiesel engine is available in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) models. (Manufacturer photo)

A new turbo EcoDiesel engine is available in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) models. (Manufacturer photo)

2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel: Don’t call it an SUV

The new engine produces 442 lb-ft of torque. Its partner is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Jeep Wrangler has reached a milestone this year with the offering of a turbo EcoDiesel engine that provides the best fuel economy and most torque Wrangler has ever known.

The new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 is available only in Wrangler Unlimited (four-door) models, which come in Sport, Sport S, Sahara, and Rubicon trim levels. It generates 260 horsepower and a rousing 442 lb-ft of peak torque, available from 1,400 rpm to 2,800 rpm. Its partner is an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Inside the cabin, successful noise reducing measures keep out engine sounds, although the EcoDiesel has almost none of the clacking associated with diesels. Road and wind noise are largely kept away as well, but it’s not a zendo. Hard acceleration produces some roar, but that’s a nice thing.

There’s nothing like tons of torque to liven up performance, and with this engine, you can drive a Wrangler and have more than enough acceleration on demand to enter freeways with alacrity, get around slower drivers on highways without getting tense, and make fast emergency maneuvers in traffic.

The EcoDiesel engine is even more of a boon in extreme off-roading conditions.

Fuel economy ratings are 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. On the face of it, these numbers might not seem impressive, but for the notoriously low-mpg Wrangler they’re a pretty big deal. In the current lineup, a four-door 2020 Wrangler equipped with the also-available 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine is rated 18 mpg city, 22 mpg highway, and 20 mpg combined. Routinely getting five more miles per gallon of fuel adds up to serious saving quickly.

The 2020 Wrangler Rubicon interior is a masterwork of classic Jeep design. (Manufacturer photo)

The 2020 Wrangler Rubicon interior is a masterwork of classic Jeep design. (Manufacturer photo)

Base pricing with the $1,495 destination charge included is $43,620 for the Wrangler Rubicon model I drove for this report. The EcoDiesel engine is $4,000 on top of that, and requires a $2,000 fixed charge for the eight-speed automatic transmission upgrade.

In automotive categorizing, Wrangler is considered a compact SUV, listed along with the Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and others. But to my mind, Wrangler is in a category of its own. The go-anywhere capability, fold-flat windshield, removable doors and roof, and one-of-a-kind design – it’s not a compact SUV, it’s a Jeep. The way Harley-Davidsons aren’t motorcycles, they’re Harleys.

Comparing the differences between a conventional compact SUV and the Wrangler for car-buying purposes is ludicrous. One is carlike, sophisticated, and practical. The other is just pure fun.

That’s not to say Wrangler is a hot mess when it comes to comfort and amenities. The old Wranglers were undeniably harsh but this Jeep has been gradually getting more refined over the years, which actually upsets some of its diehard fans. The current fourth-generation Wrangler, introduced a couple of years ago, made a quantum leap in road manners, convenience features, advanced technology, safety, and 4×4 sophistication.

Let’s go back to the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel at hand. You Wrangler diehards will be aghast at the total cost of my tester: $63,715. I am too, kind of. But this isn’t your slightly sketchy nonconformist brother-in-law’s old Wrangler, and it does include the extra $6,000 for the fantastic powertrain.

The remaining $14,095 is nicely divided between optional equipment groups for driver-assistance features, advanced safety systems, leather seats and trim, LED lighting, towing mechanicals and whatnot. So, it’s easy to pick and choose without much agony.

There are only two optional items that would make me cry if I couldn’t have them: the $3,995 Sky One-Touch power top, and the $1,695 multimedia system with 8.4-inch display with touchscreen and manual operation, SiriusXM radio, Wi-Fi hotspot, navigation, and an astounding 552-watt Alpine premium audio system with nine speakers.

Fuel economy ratings for the new EcoDiesel engine in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. (Manufacturer photo)

Fuel economy ratings for the new EcoDiesel engine in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are 22 mpg city, 29 mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined. (Manufacturer photo)

2020 JEEP WRANGLER UNLIMITED RUBICON ECODIESEL

Base price, including destination charge: $43,620

Price as driven: $63,715

Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.

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