One-Day Drive

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 2021 Kia Seltos is a fresh addition to the company's portfolio.

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

You can learn a lot about a person by going on a road trip with them. Sharing a cramped space for days on end will bring out the best and worst in everyone.

Are they clean or messy; patient or not; tolerant of their companions' playlist picks or a more discerning musical connoisseur? All of this goes into whether a road trip partnership will be a success or failure. And there's a similar equation to be balanced with the other member of the road trip crew: the car itself.

2021 Kia Seltos Kia has made the Seltos stylish and given it unique paint color options.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

A proper road trip requires (ideally, anyway) a few things from an automobile. Decent fuel economy is always nice, as is ample cargo space for both your haul and supplies. Comfortable seats are a must, a decent stereo and convenient storage cubbies for drinks, food, phones, and whatever else must be kept close at hand.

Finally, the car must be a good companion — not too noisy and harsh, and definitely no complaining about the heat. Just smooth acceleration and an enthusiasm for eating up endless miles of American asphalt.

The new 2021 Kia Seltos checks every box.

The review car for my 1,700-mile road trip was the top-of-the-line Seltos SX Turbo AWD, weighing in at $29,485 after an extra $345 for the Starbright Yellow paint that was either a rather pleasing shade of dark yellow or an unfortunate sickly green, depending on the light. At least it photographs well, which is probably the point.

2021 Kia Seltos The Seltos is well appointed for a sub-$30,000 car.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Even for just under thirty grand, the Seltos SX was totally loaded with useful features: Automatic high beams (which seem silly until you have them, then they're essential); adaptive cruise control (ditto); active lane keeping; a large center touchscreen; wireless phone charging; a Bose stereo; and a full safety suite including pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, and rear-cross-traffic alert. The only safety feature it was missing, somewhat weirdly, is automatic windshield wipers — a small complaint, really.

The center console, which is an essential part of road trip kit, is particularly well thought out. There's a bin just ahead of the shift knob that's the perfect size for both your smartphone and for storing bags of beef jerky or Skittles. Above the bin is a wireless charging pad, which, when combined with the USB cable that's required for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, lets you keep two smartphones charged up with ease. There are a pair of decently sized cupholders behind the shift knob, just fore of an armrest and storage bin that's perfect for holding a vast quantity of facemasks which you'll need to do just about anything these days.

2021 Kia Seltos Despite its size, the Seltos has a good amount of storage in the rear.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

The Seltos is not a particularly large subcompact crossover, which is both good and bad, though it makes excellent use of the space it does have. This is certainly a car meant for a two-person road trip, but there is ample room in the back for kids if you're bringing those along. My traveling partner and I preferred to put a cooler on the backseat instead, which was easily reached by either driver or passenger.

The trunk is surprisingly roomy for such a small crossover, easily swallowing up my full size suitcase plus several weekender duffel bags, a couple of collapsable lawn chairs, and a case of water — all without obscuring visibility through the rear window.

The SX Turbo comes with a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, but it produces an easy 175 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque that is more than enough to keep things moving along. It was no problem to pass slow-moving trucks on the highway or to merge into traffic, and we easily exceeded the 25/30/27 fuel economy ratings. We averaged 30.7 mpg across more than 1,700 mostly-highway miles, which is particularly important in California, which has some of the highest gas prices in the country. And, though it has a turbocharged engine, the Seltos is happy with regular gasoline.

2021 Kia Seltos The 2021 Kia Seltos delivers enough space for kids in the second row.Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

I wish the digital speed indicator on the instrument cluster was a bit bigger, and a sunroof would have been nice — that last feature isn't available if you get the black or white roof option. And dual-zone climate control might have been nice, though I wouldn't really expect it on a sub-$30,000 car. And to be honest, I can't come up with any other complaints.

The Seltos SX, with its small, turbocharged engine and eminently reasonable price, was our perfect vehicular road-trip companion. Quiet, practical, comfortable, and completely overshadowed by the grandeur of America's National Parks. Just as it should be.

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Blacksford keeps their RVs near airports for easy in/out access

Photo courtesy of Blacksford

Want to overland but lack the necessary overlanding automobile? Have no fear, Blacksford is here!

Blacksford is a new recreational vehicle rental business that offers everything from a full-stocked Mercedes-Benz Sprinter to Winnebagos. The company charges customers per night with an all-inclusive pricing model that includes unlimited miles; no generator fees; bedding, bath, and kitchen supplies; Wi-Fi; an annual pass to national parks; and 24-hour roadside assistance.

Blacksford Mercedes-Benz Sprinter The models come stocks and the company is able to curate an adventure experience for you.Photo courtesy of Blacksford

The company was founded by tech entrepreneur Jonathan Distad, the founder of Zinovo, a company that offers support for Salesforce Managed Services. Blacksford also offers support, with the ability for travelers to get assistance curating road trip experiences. The RV rental company can connect them with vetted campsites, guides, and other hand-picked attractions.

Currently, the company offers vehicles from airports in Las Vegas, Nevada; Bozeman, Montana; and Denver, Colorado. The company has plans to expand to an additional dozen or more airports in the next two years. Blacksford is the only RV rental business based exclusively out of airports.

Rentals are available for daily or weekly rates. Additionally, multi-month mini leases are also available.

Prices start at just $199 per day. Renters are able to choose their own adventure or opt for a more curated itinerary. The company is able to provision your vehicle prior to your arrival.

Blacksford Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Renters have the ability to choose the vehicle that is right for them.Photo courtesy of Blacksford

"From the seamless online experience to our fully-stocked vehicles and all-inclusive prices, this is what the RV rental process should be like," said Distad. "We greet you at your airport gate, load your bags, onboard you virtually so you don't have to spend hours getting to know your RV, and offer 24-hour roadside assistance. Our RV rental process is easy, and there is no nickel-and-diming like so many of our competitors."

For more information visit Blacksford.com.

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