2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 EcoDiesel by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all-new Jeep Gladiator and came away extremely impressed. The Glad was an intriguing combination of Jeep, pickup truck, and convertible. But that’s not the only surprise coming to us from Jeep this year – there’s an all-new EcoDiesel model that’s been long awaited, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on one.

Dive Right In

Well that’s easy enough as our tester came in a beautiful blue Jeep calls Ocean Blue. From the front it could be any Jeep – and that’s good – we love the round headlamps, the seven-slot grille, and the trapezoid wheel flares. It looks rugged and tough.

It also promises lots of fun, with removable doors and a fold-down windshield, although that takes a fair amount of time to do. Unlike our Gladiator and other Jeeps that have removable roof panels, our tester had the Sky One-touch power top, and we loved it.

A fabric top that you can crack open for a little air or keep powering back to open bathe both rows of seats in glorious sunlight. It works quickly, and it’s a real pleasure to use – and also handy to button everything up quickly when you want. Jeep says the one-touch power can be used at speeds up to 60 mph, which will suit most of your daily commute or off-road adventures just fine.

The rest of our Jeep was the familiar four-door model and standing tall on its off-road capable suspension and handsome 18-inch alloy wheels, it’s one great looking beast.

The Beast is a Beauty

Open the door though, and we were surprised. This is one swanky Wrangler! While our Gladiator was nicely put together, it was a little monotone in color. Our Sahara kicked that to the curb with beautiful Dark Saddle leather seats with Sahara logo that looked big bucks. It also brings some contrast and lightness to the interior. We also had a nice leather wrap on the wheel, shift lever and parking brake and even a premium wrap around the instrument bezel.

It’s funny how familiar things become. Last week we fumbled a bit with the Gladiator’s center controls for the window switches – now they feel like old friends. The gauges are similar too, with nice clear analogue speedo and tach. Oh, one big difference – on the Glad the redline is at 6,500 rpm, on the EcoDiesel it’s in the weeds at just 4,500 rpm. More on that later.

Suiting the upscale plush vibe, our tester had the optional 8.4-inch display, and although it doesn’t sound like a big deal over our recent tester’s 7-inch screen, it really makes things easier to see – especially like our WAZE app, even though our tester had Navigation as well.

While we didn’t use the navi, we got plenty of great use of the Alpine audio system. We love the speakers that are mounted above and behind the front row seats that shower down the sound on you – handy on a vehicle that can be driven so open.

The rear seats are comfy too – and they fold down flat for plenty of storage space. Access to the rear is through a swing-out rear door and a flip-up rear window which is pretty easy. We should also mention that our Sahara had an easy to push button on each door to power unlock – unlike our Gladiator that required hitting the key fob. How spoiled we’ve become….

Speaking of open, we absolutely loved the Sky One-touch top. It’s a game changer, giving you a wonderful environment at the touch of a button, without having to get out of your seat. It doesn’t matter, any drive with the top open feels like you’re on vacation. Hawaii anyone? It’s also notably quiet when fully closed.

Famous engine. Infamous Inventor

Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel is best known for his namesake engine. But there’s also intrigue about his disappearance on a boat on Sept 19, 1923 and later washing up in the North Sea. Murder? Suicide? Slippery deck shoes? We’ll probably never know.

What we do know, is that his engine is a sweetheart. This 3.0-liter, 6-cylinder turbo engine comes from the Dodge Ram pickup, and it is full of turbo diesel goodness. While 260 hp sounds nice, the real telling number here is a jaw dropping 442 lb.-ft of torque, which comes in just off at idle at 1,400 rpm. Teamed to the mandatory 8-speed automatic, it has that characteristic chug, chug, chug of a diesel at idle that’s endearing.

Come for the idle, stay for the grunt. This thing wafts away from stoplights on a huge wave of torque that’s addictive and fun. And feels more like a big V8 under the hood. Figure a mid-6 second 0-60 mph. Quick indeed for a big, heavy 4×4. Speaking of 4-wheeling, the Diesel would be a vehicle of choice, barely idling gives you all the power you need to crawl, climb and conquer.

While we didn’t get to enjoy that, we did enjoy the diesel’s impressive efficiency. Jeep says you can expect 26 mpg combined, and we got close at 24 – but we were Diesel-footing it most of the time.

Depending where you are, Diesel fuel can be a good bit less, but you probably won’t make up the cost difference for the engine and transmission in the Wrangler. You’ll come close enough to make it a realistic choice though, and that’s fine by us. ‘Cause we love torque!

The ride and handling are excellent too. While we thought it would be choppy, especially after the long wheelbase Gladiator, we found the long-legged suspension serves up excellent comfort in the day to day. And we also liked the much shorter overall dimensions, that made maneuvering around town and parking a snap.

The dimensions pay off in the rough stuff, with a best-in-class approach angle of 44 degrees, breakover angle of 27.8 degrees, departure angle of 37 degrees and a ground clearance of 10.9 inches. It’s hard to imagine much getting in your way.

Like the Gladiator, the steering on the Wrangler is a little vague, so on the freeway you’re constantly correcting. While that takes some attention, at least you can turn on the Adaptive Cruise Control, and let the Jeep take care of speeding up and slowing down for traffic.

Torque is Cheap?

Uh, maybe. With the variety of flavors that the Wranglers come in, you can get into a Wrangler with all the looks and cool Jeep vibe for just $28,295. Basic, no Diesel, but fun.

There are a variety of choices including 2-door, 4-door, hardtop, convertible, and a choice of engines including a turbo 4-cylinder, a mild-hybrid e Torque assist on 4 and 6-cylinder engines, a 285 hp, 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 like the one in our Gladiator, and also EcoDiesel.

Something for everyone, right?  Our Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 started at $38,645. Going for the Diesel comes in at a cool $4,000 and requires the $2,000 8-Speed automatic.

Our loaded tester embraced the option sheet and came in at $57,940. Go for an off-road maniac Rubicon and you can clear the $60,000 hurdle.

Good news, though, choose carefully, and you can have a Wrangler Unlimited Sport 4×4 with Diesel and come in at $39,200.

Competitors? Hard to think of one…A Mercedes G-Class starts at $135,000. The new Land Rover Defender will start at $49,900, but we’ll guess it will be much more expensive when optioned out. And besides, you really going to go get one those muddy, dirty and scratched up?  You could opt for something more conventional like the Toyota 4Runner, and while it is capable, it’s not a Wrangler. No, the Jeep stands alone.

Charismatic, Capable, Powerful, and Efficient, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler with EcoDiesel is one of a kind.  



Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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