Thanks to your voices on social media, our long-term Wrangler is a Rubicon Unlimited with a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmission. For the uninitiated, the Rubicon Wrangler is the most off-road vehicle model, and Unlimited is Jeep’s way of saying it has four doors. This is in line with the Wrangler EcoDiesel. It is only offered on four-door models with automatic transmission but is available at all equipment levels, including Rubicon. (Jeep says that it is technically possible to match the diesel with the two-door body or the optional six-speed manual transmission, but with each of these options accounting for only 10 percent of all Wrangler sales with overlap between them, the business case “does not work.)
With the two Wranglers almost identical except for their engines, we can answer the question of every Jeeper: Is diesel worth the money? To get there, we must first answer some other questions.
Power and performance
The third-generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 under a Wrangler’s strapped hood delivers 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque. There is slightly less torque than other versions of this engine offered in Ram and Jeep products, and it is mostly the result of modifications needed to make the engine fit and meet Wrangler-specific requirements such as 30-inch water resistance. But ignore it, because it has only slightly less power and much more torque than 2.0T (270 hp and 295 lb-ft) or optional 3.6-liter V-6 (285 hp and 260 lb-ft).
The diesel gets a hardened version of Jeep’s eight-speed automatic, but the gears are the same, as is the rear axle ratio on the Rubicon models. This means that we can directly compare our long-term Rubicon Unlimited 2.0T against Rubicon Unlimited EcoDiesel in straight acceleration, and as you can expect if you can diesel, it is a little slower. We clocked our long-range Wrangler at 7.6 seconds to 60 mph with nice test equipment; a stopwatch test by EcoDiesel puts it between 8.0 and 8.5 seconds. The diesel will probably be the slowest Wrangler among the three engine options to date, but its instant torque makes it feel as fast as the 2.0T.
Read about our long-term Wrangler 2.0T here.
In fact, this is our favorite version of the third generation EcoDiesel yet – even if it’s not fast. A 2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel that we recently tested felt lazy at low revs and had to be kicked to get moving. The Wrangler EcoDiesel runs just like the excellent 2.0T, but it does much better burnouts.
The diesel towing rating is the same as that of the 3,500-pound petrol engine. This is because towing is a function of cooling, braking and other factors in addition to force and torque.
Fuel economy and range
The EPA rates a 2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited with 4WD and 2.0T engine to 21/22 mpg city / highway. During normal driving, however, the longtime Wrangler wrangler, Christian Seabaugh, has seen a self-reported fuel economy from the on-board computer from an average of 14 mpg to 23 mpg on the highway depending on conditions. The EPA estimates that the SUV will cost you $ 1,850 a year in gasoline and take you 452 miles on a full tank.
Unfortunately, the EPA has not yet released its fuel economy values for the diesel Wrangler. Jeep says that the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel should give us an idea of how the Wrangler EcoDiesel should do, which we think will do about 22/30 mpg. This is backed up by the onboard computer, which reported an average of 30 mpg during a few hours of mostly highway driving. After a full afternoon of serious driving and rock crawling in four lows, the computer reported an average of 18 mpg. Jeep says the diesel Wrangler will go more than 500 miles on a tank.
Gas V-6 Wrangler Unlimited 4WD, for comparison, is also EPA-rated at 18/22 mpg with eight-speed auto. The EPA estimates that it will cost you $ 1,950 a year and give you 430 miles on a full tank, $ 100 more and 32 miles less than its estimate for the 2.0 turbo model.
To get those numbers, the EPA assumes you drive 15,000 miles a year and spend 55 percent of them on the highway. The estimated annual fuel cost is calculated at a national average of $ 2.60 per gallon for standard unleaded lead and $ 3.06 per gallon for diesel (but values change based on market prices). The 2.0T engine runs on 87 octane, but Jeep recommends 91 for optimal performance and efficiency.
Do the math
Jeep says the EcoDiesel engine will cost $ 3,250 more than the optional petrol V-6 and $ 4,500 more than the 2.0T, with a starting price of $ 39,290 for a base sports model. Between that and the cost of diesel, there is a big premium on the front. The Wrangler EcoDiesel also has a 5.1-liter DEF tank that will need to be filled approximately every 10,000 miles. A pair of 2.5-liter DEF bottles costs about $ 20.
Let’s talk about these cars in terms of operating costs per mile on the highway. If diesel gets 30 mpg and a gallon of diesel costs $ 3.06 per gallon on average, fuel costs will be $ 0.102 per mile. Add to that the $ 20 cost for DEF was 10,000 miles, the operating cost for the diesel is $ 0.104 per mile. Based on the 22 mpg highway rating for the 2.0T and V-6 Wranglers and an average normal fuel cost of $ 2.64 per gallon, the highway cost for these cars will be $ 0.120 per mile.
Thus, diesel costs $ 0.016 less per mile to drive on the highway than both gasoline-powered Wranglers. To regain the cost share over a V-6 Wrangler, you would need to cover 203,125 highway miles – over a 2.0T Wrangler, you drive at least 281,250 miles.
Of course, calculations based on the national average do not paint a personal picture. Your mileage may vary, but regardless, the diesel engine will probably not pay for itself while the original owner is driving it.
If you plan to keep your diesel Wrangler deep into three-digit mileage, you will eventually run out of fuel over the gas engines. If you do not normally have a vehicle for that long, the diesel Wrangler will not save you money even with its impressive fuel economy (but if you plan to do a lot of towing, the difference will decrease because diesels tow more efficiently).
But here’s the thing: You did not buy a 4WD Wrangler Unlimited to save money. You buy it to make Jeep stuff. You buy it for 10.9-inch ground clearance, a 44-degree approach angle, 27.8-degree angle of inclination and 37-degree departure angle. You buy it for all stones and clay and sand with the statistics that let you drive over. You buy it for how it makes you feel when you run it over these things, plus how it makes you feel on the way to work, the store and everywhere.
By accepting that a Wrangler is a fundamentally irrational and emotional purchase, this thing knocks it out of the park. It does not feel slower than other Wrangler Unlimiteds, and the extra 450 pound diesel engine on the nose makes no difference in how it steers or handles. It sounds and smells like a diesel on the outside, but you do not notice it from the inside either. And once you get it out on a proper jeep track, all the low torque makes it easier than ever to climb over or around anything in the way.
Our long-term Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited 2.0T cost $ 57,110 as tested. If you still spend more than 1.5 times the average cost of a new car on a terrain-focused Wrangler, the extra $ 4,500 is definitely worth it to know you got the best deal, no matter how long it takes for diesel to increase efficiency. to pay off its original price premium.
Looks good! More details?