By on June 11, 2020

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara EcoDiesel

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4 Fast Facts

3.0-liter turbocharged V6 (260 hp @ 3,600 rpm, 442 lb-ft @ 1,400-2,800 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel drive

22 city / 29 highway / 25 combined (EPA Estimated Rating, MPG)

10.6 city, 8.1 highway, 9.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

Base Price: $38,645 (U.S) / $43,620 (Canada)

As Tested: $55,925 (U.S.) / $60,825 (Canada)

Prices include $1,495 destination charge in the United States and $1,995 to $2,695 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.

When people complain about Jeep Wranglers, it’s often to remark on how the on-road dynamics suffer in the name of off-road capability.

Jeep has come a long way in that regard, with the current Wrangler better balancing its off-road mission against the need for on-road comfort and competence. But one complaint remains: the common observation that, with either gas engine, the Wrangler could stand to gain some low-end grunt.

Enter the EcoDiesel.

The updated 3.0-liter turbo V6 oil-burner will be sold by Fiat Chrysler as a fuel-economy booster, hence the name “EcoDiesel.” And the EPA numbers aren’t bad — 22 mpg city/29 mpg highway/25 mpg combined. As for power figures, the 260 horsepower on tap are actually 10 and 25 fewer ponies that what’s available on the 2.0-liter turbo four or the 3.6-liter gas V6, respectively, but the 442 lb-ft of torque dwarfs the other two’s numbers (295 and 260).

Thing is, even if Wrangler owners are more likely to hit the dusty trail than owners of most other utility vehicles on the market, they still have to drive in urban and suburban environments. And the stoplight-to-stoplight run, along with the freeway merge, become easier with more torque on hand. Which is exactly what we have here.

I didn’t get a ton of seat time, as this Wrangler arrived at my door very early in the pandemic, before I got a sense of how much driving I could do without upsetting authorities. As the shelter-in-place rolled on, I was able to get out of the house more and put miles on loaners. But in the confusing first days of coronavirus time, I, like most, shuttered myself indoors.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara EcoDiesel

Still, I got enough wheel time to sense that the shot of torque is a welcome addition to the Wrangler experience. Around-town driving is more pleasurable than before, and the power will make merging easier.

[Get new and used Jeep Wrangler pricing here!]

The only bummer is the lack of an available manual transmission with this mill, at least for now. This isn’t the standard #savethemanuals lament – I’ve accepted manuals only really belong in sports cars, base work trucks, and certain off-roaders. Since the petrol Wrangler is available with three pedals, it seems wrong that this one isn’t. Not to mention how fun it might be to row one’s own with more torque on tap.

Otherwise, the driving experience, near as I could ascertain from a relatively low-mileage loan, is pretty standard Wrangler. Steering that needs corrections, some ride harshness, some truck-like motions; yet all of these mitigated as best can be.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara EcoDiesel

Speaking of steering, FCA made tweaks to both the Wrangler and Gladiator to address complaints leveled by overfed shrimp-eaters like me. I didn’t quite notice the difference in this Wrangler – again, perhaps due to lockdown life – but I had two Gladiators (including the desert-runner Mojave) shortly after, and both behaved much better than the one I drove last summer.

The rest of the Wrangler experience is on display here, too. Same famous looks, same modernized interior. Same off-road goodies – Dana 44 heavy-duty axles are standard, front and rear, on all trims equipped with EcoDiesel, as just one example.

Those three trims are base Sport, mid-level Sahara, and top-dog Rubicon. I was given possession of a Sahara for a week, and standard features included remote keyless entry, heavy-duty suspension, skid plates for the transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank; UConnect infotainment, 7-inch infotainment screen, 7-inch TFT gauge-cluster screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and satellite radio.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara EcoDiesel

Options included leather seats and interior trim bits ($1,495); heated steering wheel, front seats, and remote start ($995); LED lights, including fog lamps ($1,045); and 8.4-inch infotainment-system screen, navigation, and premium audio ($1,695). A dual-top package that allows the owner to rock both the hard and soft tops (not at the same time, mind you) ran $2,295, and a safety package including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert cost $895.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara EcoDiesel

Another safety package added adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and brake assist for $795. A storage bag for the soft top cost $75 and the transmission added $2,000, while the engine added $4,000. It also added an anti-spin rear diff and 18-inch wheels, a Dana front axle, and a 3.73 rear-axle ratio. A final $495 was tacked on for a proximity key.

With destination, that’s $55K. A bit steep, but getting all of the best – and worst – of the Wrangler experience while doing so with more power at your right foot’s call is definitely value added.

“Wrangler: Just add torque” has a nice ring to it.

[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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20 Comments on “2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Review – Diesel Brings a Boost...”

  • avatar

    Geez, $55K for a fairly basic Jeep, does the “safety package” alert you if you get too close to trees and big rocks? How about crossing a stream, is there a high-water alert?

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    At $55k, this should be Exhibit A for the term “fashion accessory”. Even the base price of $38k is ridiculous.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t personally think 38k is too bad all things considered, but they definitely add on accessories in a way that Porsche would be proud of.

      • 0 avatar

        When the Nissan Versa can be optioned-up to a $24k price point, $38K for a (mid-trim, don’t confuse a base mid-trim for a base model) Wrangler seems logical to me.

        Nissan charge for rubber cubby liners, floor mats and an armrest on the dang thing.

  • avatar

    Jeeps are overpriced to begin with. The Unlimited is a unit crying out for this sort of power-plant but $4k more? That means around $5k in Canada. The Jeep Gladiator is already in PowerWagon price territory.

    I read somewhere that Chevy will no longer offer the baby Duramax in the Colorado. People I’ve talked to say it is way under-powered compared to the V6 but the 8 speed gear hunts like crazy.

    I’d love a baby diesel in an offroad rig but the price of admission is a bit too steep.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m looking forward to seeing how the 2.7 turbo works in the colorado. That seems like a really good fit for that class of truck and the extra torque should give them an easier time calming down the 8speed tune. At least in theory.

  • avatar

    I’m kind of flabbergasted at the price point. Not kind of, actually. 55K USD = 75K Canadian, plus taxes, mid-eighties to drive away…. is that what a Jeep costs??? Does it make any kind of sense that a LR Defender can be had for significantly less?

  • avatar

    Yeah, as most have pointed out, the price is insane. If you configure a Wrangler Sahara on the web site and then check the diesel option, you’re into a $4,000 adder for the engine, and then another $2,000 for the 8-speed auto that sits behind it.

    Last November I bought a 2005 Jeep Liberty CRD used with about 95k miles on it. Out of curiosity I looked at original MSRP online (autobytel), and the options package is a fraction of the cost! Selecting my Liberty CRD Limited over the standard 3.7L Limited gets you the 2.8L turbo diesel, the 5-speed 5-45RFE trans that’s shared with the Grand Cherokee and Ram instead of the 4-speed 42RLE little brother, and the Corporate 8.25 rear axle instead of the considerably weaker Dana 35, all for the grand total of $1635!

    Beyond that, parts are more expensive, harder to find, and 15 years on this VM Motori 2.8L is pretty widely shunned by Jeep dealerships. Most will either turn down working on it, or bluff you out the door with crazy repair pricing. I know how to turn a wrench (and did for a living for a while), so I can support my silly purchase, but I would never wish an aging one of these on someone who wasn’t extremely mechanically and “forum search” savvy. Luckily there are 2 or 3 online retailers who sell parts specifically for these CRD vehicles, so they likely will remain available, but again…they’re expensive. Diesel emissions in 2005 basically consisted of O2 sensors, cats, EGR system, and I think Evap. Good luck with all your fancy new emissions systems, especially once they’ve all been stream-dunked and caked with mud.

    • 0 avatar

      We’ve had a 2005 KJ CRD as well for about the last 3 years, and it’s been a fascinating exercise in bulletproofing. Ditto parts availability.

      Dealers don’t want to touch them – there have been a couple of DRB-III-related things that I’ve needed to have them do (literally just recalibrating the speedo for the tyres and forcing a TCM relearn), and they don’t even want to do that. On the one hand, not letting a Jeep dealership’s mechanics near your vehicle may be a good thing, but on the other hand, DRB-III tools are stupidly expensive to buy and the dealer’s the only realistic option. When they don’t even want to make an easy hour’s labour for hooking up the scan tool, you know there’s a problem.

    • 0 avatar

      What sorts of things have you done in the name of bulletproofing? This engine is absolutely hot garbage to work on so the less of that I have to do, the better!

      When I first got the KJ it hadn’t yet had its original t-belt replaced so I planned to do that, and then it became a game of “might as well replace ‘this’ too”. After 95k miles, the EGR system was actually still connected to this one so the bearings in my rockers were trashed, so they went on the list. All-in-all I wound up replacing the t-belt and tensioner, water pump, t-stat, all cooling hoses, radiator hoses, rockers/lifters, accessory belt and tensioner, idlers, fan clutch, I broke the delicate little plastic fuel return line so I had to buy that, Weeks stage 1 and 2 kits to deal with the EGR *ahem* problem…I think that was about it in the engine bay. That was about $1600 on top of the $4000 purchase price so not a bad up-front investment if it’s going to be a reliable vehicle. Very regrettably, I put off buying an Eco Tune through Green Diesel Engineering and missed their shut-down by literally 3 weeks. Now I think I’m outa luck on that front.

      By the time I finished all that work, I was almost certain I was going to unload the vehicle before anything else crept up because the engine is just that bad to work on, but having now put about 8000 miles on it since, it’s really kinda won me over. It tows like a champ, it’s relatively nimble and peppy on the road, and constant “is that a diesel!?” comments never really get old.

      • 0 avatar

        Sounds like you’ve been to as well – good. That’s where the remaining KJ CRD brain trust exists for North America.

        Anyway, my bulletproofing list runs along these lines:

        – HD Tahoe fan clutch with GM 11-blade fan
        – HDS Model 001 Thermostat
        – Stage 1 & 2 Weeks kit
        – Provent 200
        – ARP head studs
        – Replaced rockers
        – Timing belt, tensioners, water pump, alternator decoupler, etc.
        – Carter in-tank fuel pump
        – Silicone vacuum lines everywhere

        There are a few things I’m forgetting in all of this, but you get the idea. And yep, GDE was shut down about a month before I was ready to send the ECU in to them as well, which sucks.

        I too was going to put it up for sale as well some time ago, but held onto it for pretty much the same reasons you did. This also isn’t the time I want to be getting into either payments on something off the CPO lot, or buying another $5K-ish used vehicle, so decided to just keep it going.

        All things considered, though, if I had to do it over again, an XJ with a Cummins Repower 2.8 would almost be a less-annoying job – do it once and be done as opposed to having something new and exciting to deal with every 6 weeks or so until all the gremlins are chased down.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, LostJeeps was pretty much my home page for a month or two, and my internet history didn’t show much beyond SasquatchParts and idParts. I think the porn sites were starting to get “middle child syndrome”.

      I hadn’t come across the Tahoe fan/clutch hack…that’s interesting. I went with the Hayden HD clutch which seems well regarded. It’s been doing fine so far. I considered the ARP head studs, but was a little wary about the “1 by 1” bolt replacement procedure that I’d read about, and really didn’t feel like pulling the whole head after all the other work. Plus, it wasn’t causing an issue at the time. If the head gasket blows I’ll probably just …cry.

      I was blown away by the fact that the cam gears are actually machined for keyways, but they still didn’t bother to use them! Despite buying and using the t-belt tool kit for the 2.8L (the affordable one, not the thousand-dollar dealer one) I still had the crank pulley off a tooth the first time I reassembled it. That t-belt was extremely tight to wrap! I was able to correct it by just removing the front cover though…I didn’t have to take apart anything else.

      I’m still considering the in-tank fuel pump. I went the Elephant Hose Mod route rather than the Provent, and went with a Stant t-stat. I actually didn’t know about that HDS dealie, so thank you for that! I may look to that in the future! Next steps for me are a new high-side AC line and accumulator because it’s been real hot here in MD the last week or so and it sucks not having air conditioning!

      What oil have you been using in yours? I went with the Delo 5W-40 for my first couple of changes.

      • 0 avatar

        The nice thing about the Tahoe fan / clutch upgrade is that the A/C now runs cold in crawling traffic. Pretty useful in 96°F (and climbing) weather, especially since the KJ’s also running a 190°F thermostat vs. 173°F stock. I did do the Hayden HD CRD fan clutch first, but after getting two in a row that only lasted about 4 months apiece, went with the GM swap. Maybe I just got two from the same bad batch.

        Definitely do the in-tank pump, and replace the fuel filter head with the updated (blue heater plug) one if you don’t already have it. Since you have the Weeks kit installed, I’d suggest reverting the EHM to stock, which will help with equalising crankcase pressure. This shouldn’t be an issue since there’s no more soot going into the intake, and will help to dissolve any crud still coating the walls of the manifold. Oil vapour in the intake isn’t really an issue, but mixed with soot it definitely is.

        Oil: I’ve been using Rotella T6 5w40 on a 6500-mile change interval. Seems to be doing fine with that.

    • 0 avatar

      I appreciate the advice! I’m hoping to keep this thing running a while because it really fits my needs right now, and as much of a headache as it can be when it requires attention, it sounds so cool when I turn that key! How many miles are on yours? About the time I was up to my eyeballs in replacement parts and pretty sure I was gonna unload the thing, I saw one listed for sale on the Delaware Craigslist by the original owner with 230k miles on it and a claim of no major repairs to the drivetrain. It gave me some much needed warm and fuzzies about the whole situation.

      • 0 avatar

        No worries, and I hear you on the it-fit-my-needs equation: even though I’m into this thing like I’m helping to birth a calf, there really isn’t an equivalent vehicle that I could replace it with. Towing is part of the equation for me, so diesel is definitely preferable to a gas – but there’s nothing out there in a compact or midsize diesel that can be had secondhand at a reasonable price (yet).

        Right now it has about 161,000 on it. Bought it with 105,000 on the clock, so have racked up a significant percentage of the miles on it. I’d be concerned about one with 230,000 on the clock and no maintenance – the original valves have around a 200,000 mile MTBF, so it may be due to drop a valve any day now, which will result in Bad Things Happening.

  • avatar

    Yes, the diesel is an expensive option on an already expensive vehicle. But having a diesel option is better than not having a diesel at all.

    Feedback on forums is fairly positive on the engine/trans combo. I would certainly consider one for resale value alone.

    • 0 avatar

      The regular Wrangler already has such high resale value that it’s questionable how much a diesel would help.

      Especially one with known issues in the past.

  • avatar

    LMAO 56 Grand for a Wrangler that looks like a $30k Wrangler – keep it, thanks.

  • avatar

    This isn’t a car review, its an options and price list.

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