We test drive the 2020 Jeep Wrangler Diesel to evaluate this variant’s performance in terms of fuel consumption
Last November, Jeep invited us to the launch of the diesel version of its Wrangler model. Some have been clamouring for such a variant for quite a while, and there’s no doubt this powertrain for the Wrangler offers undeniable advantages. But beware, it won't suit everyone’s needs. First of all, many buyers simply don't need the specific qualities it delivers, and secondly, the pricing places it beyond the reach of some would-be buyers. And that's without counting on the additional costs of maintaining it.
In short, there are caveats. While the engine is certainly solid and its efficiency impressive, its grafting onto the Wrangler is not that revolutionary. It will certainly meet a demand, but it will not be a miracle solution.
Caveats aside, there are two obvious advantages to this diesel-powered Wrangler are on the horizon when you look at the spec sheet of this powertrain. First, the eye-catching stat is the 442 lb-ft of torque, available very early in the RPM range. For towing purposes, it's a dream. Off-road, just release the throttle and you'll feel all the motor’s will to move forward. When accelerating, you fly out of the blocks like a sprinter. Quite frankly, it's impressive.
The other obvious advantage of the diesel engine is fuel economy. The diesel format’s advantage in this respect has been reduced in recent years as gains made with combustion engines have greatly contributed to reducing the gap. However, in the case of the Wrangler, the difference is still significant, because given the aerodynamics of the model that are somewhere on a par with those of a fridge, the gas engine can’t work miracles with it.
At launch, Jeep said that fuel consumption at the pump would be about 30-35% better than the 3.6-litre V6 engine. We set out on our four-day test in the warm Florida sunshine to prove the manufacturer right… or wrong.
The version we picked up in the Ford Lauderdale area bore the Rubicon signature. It's important to note this, because with tires designed more for off-road driving than for fuel economy on pavement, we knew right off that our performance in terms of fuel economy could suffer a bit.
We drove our Wrangler Diesel on both highways and side roads, but also in slightly heavier traffic in urban areas. This allowed us to obtain an average rating that was relatively realistic, as well as to produce average totals for both highway and city driving.
We start with our overall rating, obtained after we'd travelled some 250 kilometres. It worked out to 27.6 mpg, or exactly 8.5L/100 km. As a point of comparison, the official Jeep figures are 25 mpg or 9.4L/100 km.
On the highway, the manufacturer puts the optimum figure at 8.1L/100 km, or 29 mpg. Here too, we managed to do better with an average of 32.6 mpg, the equivalent of 7.2L/100 km.
For city driving, the manufacturer reports 22 mpg, or 10.7L/100 km. Our average this time was similar at 22.6 mpg, or 10.4L/100 km. It’s worth noting that the American ratings do not include decimals, which means the conversions into litres create slightly approximate figures.
Still, there was no question that in the terms of highway-only driving and combined driving, we put up superior numbers than what the manufacturer forecast - which bodes well for buyers.
What about the Canadian ratings for this powertrain? Not published yet, believe it or not.
Conclusion: yes or no?
While the diesel engine is truly impressive in the service of the Wrangler, before paying the additional $7,395 that this version costs, it’s worth some serious reflection. While fuel economy is significant compared to the 3.6L V6 engine, the difference is less with the 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine. Really, if the latter is sufficient to meet your needs, you might as well forget about the costlier diesel-powered variant.
When it comes to towing or extreme off-road driving, the diesel engine has big advantages. Otherwise, it's hard to see a compelling case that would make us lean towards this powertrain, despite its substantial virtues.
Either way, just remember this: Don't think you can save money with it. Choose it for its capabilities and because you simply need them. Unless you have deep pockets and just want to take advantage of it. But that's another story.