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.

The 2020 Nissan Armada is already passed its prime.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

The 2020 Nissan Armada has a reputation for being a strong and capable vehicle but in an increasingly competitive field, it's not the stunner it could be. As 2019 comes to a close and 2020 begins, the three-row full-size SUV will be competing against completely redesigned Chevrolet Suburban, Chevrolet Tahoe, and GMC Yukon models for buyer dollars.

Both the Armada and the 2020 Infiniti QX80 offer a similar driving and handling experience. They're powered by the same 5.6-liter V8 engine that is paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission. The engine is thirsty and competent but both SUVs suffer from lane wandering habits that make a driver's arms tired and patience wear out in a jiffy.

2020 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve rearview camera mirror The SUV does have a nifty rearview camera mirror. It's distracting in the daytime but helps mitigate headlight blindness at night.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Both can tow up to 8,500 pounds and have enough off-road prowess to more than satisfy the average owner.

Seating is especially comfortable in both of the vehicles' front rows. Second row seating is decently comfy with enough leg- and headroom for adults to be comfortable. The third row is best only for short trips as adults feel easily squished.

Nissan introduced the Platinum Reserve trim level for its Armada for the 2018 model year. Designed to be the top-tier offering, the Armada Platinum Reserve features all the bells and whistles including Dark Chrome exterior trim, Dark Grey skid plate and tow hatch cover, two-tone leather-appointed seats, interior trim with unique stitching, and 22-inch wheels and tires. It also gets a standard rearview camera mirror.

interior Nissan Armada 2020 screen shifter The center stack immediately dates the Armada.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

But, and this is a big but, it still includes Nissan's outdated infotainment system and driver information screen. There are large buttons galore on the center stack in a time where most SUVs at the Armada Platinum Reserve's price point have gone to either one large infotainment screen and a minimalist button setup or a dual-screen setup with buttons only where absolutely necessary.

The driver information screen is a relic of another generation of vehicles. Despite technically only being in the second year of its second generation, the screen looks much older.

Nissan Armada instrument cluster driver information screen The driver information screen in the Armada looks a decade old.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

With a $68,030 starting price for the 2020 Armada Platinum Reserve 4x4, it's easy to see potential buyers looking elsewhere for more updated equipment.

If you're set on getting a Nissan but want a more modern SUV, take a stroll over to the other side of the lot to the Infiniti dealership where a fresher 2020 Infiniti QX80 sits.

Ram has revitalized its trucks lineup and the heavy-duty models are benefitting from innovations that started with the redesign of the Ram 1500.

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler N.V.

They're strong and sturdy, but don't count out their creature comforts. Heavy-duty trucks have come a long way in the last decade and the latest offering from Ram, Ford, and GM prove that buyers no longer have to sacrifice modern technology when they shop for capability. While Ford's Super Duty has the towing capacity title, Ram's HDs follow closely behind and sports more high-tech features.

This slideshow features the 2020 Ram HD trucks in various trim levels, pointing out their features and equipment.

2020 Ram Power Wagon

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The Power Wagon is a mid grade 2020 Ram 2500 and 3500 trim level designed specifically for off-roading and job-conquering capability.

Ram Heavy Duty Interior: Limited

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Each truck trim level has a different design theme, not just different seat cover materials.

2020 Ram 2500 Heavy Duty Big Horn Mega Cab

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

This model is powered by a standard 6.4-liter HEMI V8 engine that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Two different 6.7-liter inline six-cylinder diesel powertrain options are available.

2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab Dually

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The Limited is Ram's top-tier trim level.

2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Longhorn Mega Cab Dually

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

The Laramie Longhorn trim is Ram's mid-grade model.

2020 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Big Horn Sport Regular Cab

Photo courtesy of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V.

Buyers can get the Ram 3500 in a very basic setup allowing for impressive capability which minding tight budgets.

The 2020 Ram 2500 and 3500 are expected to go on sale at dealerships near the beginning of the year.