First Drive: Diesel Engine Makes Jeep Wrangler a Better Off-Roader

December 06, 2019 by Nicole Wakelin, @nicolewakelin

The Jeep Wrangler is already the go-to choice for many off-road enthusiasts. But the new diesel engine option in the 2020 Jeep Wrangler makes it an even more appealing vehicle.

Whether you plan to climb up the side of a boulder-strewn mountain or do nothing more strenuous than drive to the office, the diesel engine is a bonus. A recent drive of the Wrangler on highways and in the scrub near Zion National Park in Utah demonstrated how much the diesel power plant adds to an already capable off-roader.

It all comes down to its impressive torque. The 3-liter turbocharged V6 EcoDiesel in the Wrangler has 260 horsepower with a whopping 442 pound-feet of torque at 1,400 rpm. This is paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission that is specifically calibrated to handle the extra torque.


2020 Jeep Wrangler 3-liter V6 EcoDiesel engine


The EcoDiesel is only an option on four-door models and there’s no manual transmission, so it has a more limited range of configurations. On the plus side, third-generation Dana 44 heavy-duty solid front and rear axles, which are usually standard only on the Rubicon, are standard on every Wrangler EcoDiesel. The base Sport starts at $37,795 while the Sahara comes in at $44,645 and the top Rubicon is priced from $47,795.

On-road, the extra torque makes merging into heavy highway traffic effortless. It accelerates up to speed long before reaching the end of the on-ramp and has no problem delivering extra power to pass slower vehicles. There’s the expected bit of additional noise from the diesel engine, but it’s nothing intrusive, even with an open roof.


In the dirt, it’s not just a matter of horsepower. Torque matters. Serious off-road adventures involve terrain that is anything but smooth. Whether it’s loose gravel, large rocks, or simply uneven ground, the torque provided by a diesel engine makes it easier to tackle these challenges.

Despite commercials that often show vehicles speeding over rugged dirt roads, off-road driving isn’t about speed. It is about control. Drive slow and steady when crawling over rocks. In a typical gas-powered vehicle, a heavier foot is needed on the accelerator to reach the point where there’s enough torque to edge a vehicle over obstacles in its path.

The driver then has to quickly ease up on the accelerator to avoid going too fast on the other side. It takes time to master this skill. Riding along with a driver who’s new to the process is a bit like riding with someone who is learning to drive for the first time. It makes for plenty of rough starts and stops. Even with an experienced off-roader, it can be a challenge.


Swap the gasoline engine for a diesel, and suddenly a heavy foot on the accelerator is unnecessary. Maximum torque on the Wrangler EcoDiesel comes in at 1,400 rpm. There’s no need to go hard because there’s lots of torque and it comes in low on the rev range. A light touch is all that’s required. The driver has an easier time maintaining control and modulating speed over changeable and challenging terrain.

While the Jeep Wrangler is ready to go off-road in any guise, the EcoDiesel engine provides a greater measure of control so the driver and passengers can relax and enjoy the trip. Look for the 2020 Jeep Wrangler with the EcoDiesel engine to arrive in dealerships this month.

Jerry Hirsch November 1, 2019
Land Cruiser cemented Toyota’s U.S. reputation for vehicle reliability and automotive dependability.

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