2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Review - Diesel Brings a Boost

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

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.
2020 jeep wrangler unlimited sahara review diesel brings a boost

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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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  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.
  • ToolGuy You make them sound like criminals.