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First Drive Review: 2020 Jeep Wrangler's new EcoDiesel powertrain is strong and smooth

Jeep has added an available diesel powertrain to its Wrangler lineup for the 2020 model year.

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

The Jeep Wrangler was all-new for the 2018 model year. It showed off a fresh look, updated interior, and improved capability and gave buyer's the choice of several gasoline engines. What it didn't offer was a diesel engine option. That changes for the 2020 model year.

The addition of a diesel engine is a big deal for those who do lots of towing and off-roading. While the Wrangler in its four-door guise can tow up to 3,500 pounds with any of its current engine options, there are several good reasons to go with a diesel if towing is a priority.

2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel The new engine produces produces 260 horsepower.Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

It all comes down to torque. The turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 EcoDiesel now offered in the Wrangler produces 260 horsepower with 442 pound-feet of torque at 1,400 rpm. That's significantly more torque than the 260 pound-feet at 4,800 rpm of the 3.6-liter V6 or 295 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm offered with the 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which are the two gas engines available for the Wrangler.

That extra low-end torque makes a big difference when there's 3,500 pounds of cargo trailing behind the Wrangler. It improves the Wrangler's ability to quickly accelerate up to highway speeds so merging into heavy traffic is less stressful. It also makes towing that load up a steep grade easier and helps the Wrangler maintain its speed.

2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel Each Wrangler EcoDiesel model gets badging labeling it as such.Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Off-road, that same torque helps provide a smoother and more controlled driving experience. Instead of needing a heavy foot on the accelerator to edge the Wrangler across challenging terrain, the extra torque of the diesel engine does the job with minimal acceleration.

That extra torque required several modifications including a recalibrated 8-speed automatic transmission. There are also third-generation Dana 44 heavy-duty solid front and rear axles, which are only found on the Rubicon trim in models with gasoline engines.

Lastly, there are extra skid plates to protect the urea tank and fuel water separator. Aside from those changes, the Wrangler EcoDiesel is much the same as a Wrangler equipped with a gasoline engine.

2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel The model retains its off road prowess.Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

This includes impressive capability. There's up to 30 inches of water fording and a minimum of 9.7 inches of ground clearance with fuel tank and transfer case skid plates to protect the Wrangler when traversing uneven terrain.

Inside there's room for five passengers with a durable and comfortable interior. While the Wrangler is a fun way to tackle the morning commute or cart the kids to school, Jeep knows weekends might not be so tame.

2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel The Wrangler is still as capable as ever, including being able to ford 30 inches of water.Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

After all, this is an SUV with removable doors, a removable roof, and even a windshield that drops down flat against the hood. There's a good chance the interior of a Wrangler will spend some time covered in mud and water. That's perfectly fine. Jeep designed it to handle all that muck.

The Jeep Wrangler with the EcoDiesel engine adds an extra element of off-road capability and makes towing easier than ever. It's available for a $4,000 premium across the 4-door Wrangler range and set to arrive in dealerships later this year.

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The Grand Cherokee gets a plug-in powertrain for the first time.

Jeep

Jeep just announced the all-new fifth-generation 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee, featuring a new exterior and interior, updated tech, and class-leading capabilities from its optional engines. However, the big headline here is the new Grand Cherokee 4xe, a plug-in hybrid SUV that follows the Jeep Wrangler into electrified off-roading.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 4xe makes all-electric off-roading possible.Jeep

As it did with the Wrangler, Jeep electrified the Grand Cherokee for the new model year. The new 4xe powertrain is available in the Limited, Trailhawk, Overland, Summit, and Summit Reserve trims. It uses a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four-cylinder engine and features an all-electric driving range of 25 miles, fuel economy of 57 MPGe, and a total combined driving range of 440 miles. The powertrain also produces 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe All Grand Cherokee models get a more upscale interior for the 2022 model year.Jeep

With the water and terrain involved in off-roading, an electric motor and plug-in components could be a recipe for disaster, but Jeep took steps to protect sensitive parts of the drivetrain and vehicle. All high-voltage electronics are seats and are waterproof, and Jeep says that the Grand Cherokee 4xe can ford water of up to 24 inches in depth. The battery also comes with its own heating and cooling system to hold it in the ideal temperature range for optimum performance. The powertrain delivers impressive capability, as Jeep says a Grand Cherokee Trailhawk 4xe was able to tackle the Rubicon Trail on electric power only.

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe The 2022 Grand Cherokee gets updated tech and safety features.Jeep

The 4xe's charging port is located on the front fender to allow easier charging in tight spots. LED indicators show the charging status and there's an LED battery monitor inside the vehicle on the instrument panel. Three driving modes allow the driver to select the right vehicle and powertrain behavior for the situation. Hybrid mode combines both the electric motor and gas engine, and balances the two for the best fuel efficiency and performance. Electric mode operates on electric power only until the battery's power is depleted. eSave prioritizes the gas engine to preserve battery power. As with all PHEVs, the Grand Cherokee 4xe functions like a traditional hybrid once the battery's power is mostly depleted.


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Larger tires headline the upgrades.

Jeep

The off-road wars are heating up. This year alone, we've seen the new Ford Bronco, Rivian's R1T electric pickup truck, new off-road models of the Ford Ranger, GMC Canyon, and Chevrolet Silverado, and more rugged versions of the Subaru Outback and Forester. Jeep, already deep in the game, doesn't need to do much to bolster its off-road offering, but the brand is doing just that for 2022. The automaker is offering a new Xtreme Recon Package for the Wrangler Willys SUV, which brings more capability and style to the boxy off-roader.

Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon Package The package can be ordered for Wrangler Willys models later this year. Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon Package

Beyond beefy 35-inch tires tires, the Wrangler Willys with Xtreme Recon Package gets a 1.5-inch factory lift, a 4.56:1 axle ratio, 17-inch wheels and swing gate reinforcement. Jeep says those improvements give the Willys best-in-class approach and departure angles, ground clearance, and water fording capability. Approach angle improves to 47.4 degrees, breakover angle improves to 26.7 degrees, and departure angle jumps to 40.4 degrees. The extra ride height also pushes ground clearance to 12.9 inches and the water fording depth to 33.6 inches.

The package's 35-inch tires make the Willys Jeep's third Wrangler model with hardcore rolling stock. It joins the Wrangler Rubicon and Wrangler Rubicon 392 in the 35-inch club, all of which can be equipped with the tires directly from the factory.

Jeep Wrangler Willys Xtreme Recon Package A factory lift helps improve ground clearance and capability.Jeep

The Xtreme Recon Package can be ordered starting in October and will be available for the Jeep Wrangler Willys with 3.6-liter eTorque engine. The package adds $3,995 to the Wrangler Willys' price tag, which brings the total starting price to $40,930, including a $1,495 destination charge.

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