2020 Jeep Wrangler goes diesel – Toronto Star

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Fast facts
Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel: four doors, five passengers, compact Sport Utility. Full-time four-wheel drive.
Price: Sport — $43,495; Sahara — $47,495; Rubicon — $51,245.
Engine: 3.0-litre V6, double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, direct fuel injection, turbocharged diesel.
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Power/torque, horsepower / lb.-ft.: 260 @ 3,600 r.p.m. / 442 lb.-ft. @ 1,400 — 2,800 r.p.m.
Fuel consumption, Transport Canada city/highway, L/100 km: n/a.
Competition: Nothing else that really can do everything this vehicle can do.
What’s best: Diesel engine offers tremendous bandwidth with massive torque and impressive fuel consumption, off-road capability better than ever before, interior quality and ride comfort vastly improved since last makeover
What’s worst: Noisy top up, noisier and windy top down; it’s a Jeep Wrangler, so not for everybody (which might be a “What’s Best” in the eyes of its fans)
What’s interesting: Keeps two disparate customers — the off-roader and the off-poseur — equally happy.
SAINT GEORGE, UTAH—Driving off-road is all about two things — traction and torque.
The Jeep Wrangler — that’s the small Jeep — has the best off-road tractive capability of any production vehicle.
Diesel engines are all about torque.
Put them together and you get the Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel, the first compression ignition engine in the little Jeep.
It is on sale now, starting at $43,495 for the base Sport trim, $47,495 for the Sahara, and $51,245 for the Rubicon.
More on pricing in a moment.
The impetus for this addition to the Wrangler lineup?
Simple — customer demand.
Jim Morrison (no, not a reincarnation of The Doors’ lead singer, but the gentleman whose official title is simply “head of the Jeep Brand — North America”) said that over the past decade the three most common requests from customers have been:
Because they asked so politely, Morrison (being a polite Canadian) had little choice.
Only the long-wheelbase four-door Wrangler gets the option of Herr Diesel’s brilliant invention.
The gasoline-engined Wrangler is available in both short-wheelbase two-door and longer four-door versions.
Traditionally, the off-road enthusiast has wanted the shorter, more nimble two-door.
But as the capability of the four-door has improved, its added on-road utility has made it the overwhelming choice, accounting for some 90 per cent of Wrangler sales.
Jeep didn’t believe the potential for a two-door EcoDiesel merited the investment, so it’s four-door only.
The Rubicon, named after one of the toughest off-road courses in this universe, gets the “Rock-Trac” four-wheel drive system, with front and rear lockable differentials, a sway bar disconnect feature to increase available axle articulation and a 4.0:1 final drive ratio, giving a 70:1 overall ratio in low range. This thing will almost climb walls.
If you aren’t a dyed-in-the-wool off-road enthusiast, these things may not be as important to you, so Sport and Sahara use Jeep’s marginally less capable but less expensive “Command-Trac” system, also with a two-speed transfer case with a 2:72:1 low-range final drive ratio. It will get these customers out of any traction trouble they are likely to get themselves into.
Mauro Puglia, chief engineer for the EcoDiesel engine family within Fiat Chrysler Alfa Romeo (FCA), is Italian, so it seems natural that the engine is assembled in FCA’s facility in Ferrara, Italy.
Puglia said the block of the 3.0-litre twin-cam four-valve V6 power plant was essentially carry-over, but just about everything else is changed.
A host of upgrades to the oily bits in pursuit of reduced internal friction and less turbo pressure loss improve both performance and fuel consumption.
It develops 260 horsepower at 3,600 r.p.m., and 442 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,400 and 2,800 r.p.m., effectively not so much a torque “curve” as what a former colleague used to refer to as a torque “plateau.”
This is more than previous versions of this engine, although not quite as much, it must be said, as the 480 lb.-ft. it makes in the Ram pickup truck.
Pete Milo, chief engineer for both Wrangler and Gladiator, said tighter packaging space in the Wrangler resulted in some compromises, but noted that the torque was more than sufficient for the task at hand.
He added this torque meant a strong surge on-road from rest to about three grand, which is where most of our driving is done. It results in a great “seat-of-the-pants” feel, as he put it.
A 5.1-U.S. gallon tank for urea, necessary to clean up the engine’s exhaust, is large enough to need refilling only at scheduled oil change intervals.
The 69.3-litre fuel tank should give a range of more than 800 km, the longest in Wrangler history, and some 30 per cent better than what the gas engines provide.
Spring rates have been recalibrated to account for the added 180 kilograms of weight, and additional sound deadening has been fitted to reduce interior noise levels.
The only available transmission is an eight-speed automatic, recalibrated to handle the added torque and the projected off-road use.
The aforementioned Jim Morrison is no stranger to off-roading himself (you might think that would be a given for the head of an off-road brand, but you’d be surprised). He has driven the newest Jeep on that Rubicon Trail.
He said he could “unquestionably attest to its incredible off-road capability.”
Am I going to take the word of a marketing guy? Even a Canadian marketing guy?
Not a chance.
So, we came to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks in the extreme south-west corner of Utah to put this claim to the test.
The scenery here is beyond spectacular. More so, in my view, than the better-known and somewhat grandiosely named “Grand” Canyon a bit to the south. Because here you are essentially in the bottom of the canyon looking up, rather than on the edge looking down.
It is magnificent. A true bucket-list destination.
Our first hour or so was on the highway. After all, even the most dedicated off-road freaks spend most of their time on-road.
If you haven’t been in a Jeep for a while, you might be — should be — impressed with the interior. Thanks in no small part to the influence of Montreal-raised Ralph Gilles, who is head of design for FCA, the appearance and assembly quality of Chrysler’s interiors has leapfrogged most of the competition in recent years.
The big jump in Wrangler was the all-new model introduced for the 2018 model year. A handsome, comfortable and functional place to be.
We tried it first with the top in place, which proved to be quite civilized. The engine note was nicely muffled and, when cruising, you’d be hard-pressed to tell you were in a diesel.
There was some flapping from the fabric roof, and also one weird noise that sounded exactly the same pitch as the turn signal indicator. It turned out to be a minor leak in a mis-fitted soft top, the sort of glitch that’s not unheard of (ho, ho) in pre-production vehicles.
When we went top-down, which involves disassembling the entire gubbins and tossing it in the cargo hold, we went whole hog and also took off the doors. I had sort-of forgotten that doing so also loses your side-view mirrors, so even I had to depend on the “blind-spot” warning system.
There were no issues with minor wind leak noises now, because, well, we were pretty much in the wind. Fun for a while, it quickly gets old on the highway.
Needless to say, National Park rangers take a dim view of off-roading in the park itself. So Jeep laid on a course on a nearby private ranch for us to test the Wrangler’s mettle.
All Jim Morrison’s promises were kept.
Our off-road test vehicles were all Rubicons. With the prodigious torque under foot from just above idle, you don’t need much, if any, throttle in the heavy going. Ease the truck towards that big boulder, and just let it idle itself on over it.
Land Rover’s old slogan for off-roading always applies: “As fast as necessary, as slow as possible.”
There are no “fastest laps” in the off-road world. Getting home “not on the hook” is the only prize worth winning.
The following statistics may only have relevance to off-roaders, but an approach angle of 44 degrees, 22 degrees of “breakover” and a departure angle of 37 degrees attest to this vehicle’s athleticism.
The 33-inch tires provide all sorts of ground clearance. Disconnecting the sway bars gives that added 33 per cent axle articulation.
I just hope my photos do justice to what this vehicle can do.
Jeep also understands that just as few Porsche owners ever run their cars at 250 km/h on the Autobahn, not all Jeep owners ever push their vehicles into the sorts of trials we put these through.
So, while all Jeeps come with four-wheel drive and will go places non-off-road enthusiasts simply would not believe, what counts is the ability to do so should they be asked.
Now, about those prices. They are $7,395 higher than for the 3.6-litre V6 engine that’s standard in Wrangler. But that engine comes with a six-speed manual transmission. The eight-speed autobox that’s standard on EcoDiesel is a $1,795 option with the gasoline engine, so the actual EcoDiesel hit is $5,600.
Worth it? Depends on how you will use the truck, how much you drive and how long you plan on keeping it.
I’m a compression ignition fan from way back, so it would be my choice, hands down.
But that’s why they give you the choice.
The Wrangler EcoDiesel is designed to give off-roaders unparalleled capability, and off-poseurs (did I just make up a term?) much better fuel economy.
If Jeeps are your thing, this should be your truck.
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