Test drive: The 2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel is ready to get dirty

This long-haul rock crawler's been a long time coming.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

The 2020 model is the first Jeep Wrangler available in the U.S. with a diesel engine, which a hardcore segment of the brand’s fan base has been asking the company to build since the CJ days.

Why? How about V8-style grunt combined with fuel economy that’s better than a four-cylinder’s? Not a bad combination for a vehicle meant to be driven off the beaten path.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine

2020 Jeep® Wrangler 3.0-liter V-6 EcoDiesel engine

The Wrangler features the latest version of Fiat Chrysler’s ubiquitous EcoDiesel turbocharged 3.0-liter V6, which has been seen in the Ram 1500 and Jeep Grand Cherokee. The engine puts out 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque and has been reconfigured to fit inside the Wrangler’s engine bay without trading off any ground clearance or water wading capabilities.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

Jeep is offering the engine across the Wrangler trims, starting at $37,795 for a Sport, but only in four-door Unlimiteds with 8-speed automatic transmissions and part-time four-wheel-drive -- so the Sahara’s street-focused full-time system is off the table for now.

2020 Jeep Wrangler Sahara EcoDiesel

2020 Jeep Wrangler Sahara EcoDiesel

The price premium over the turbocharged four-cylinder and V6 gasoline powertrain options ranges from $4,500 to $2,750, depending on the model. With the four-cylinder motors checking in at 270 hp and 295 lb-ft and the V6s at 285 hp and 260 lb-ft, the EcoDiesel’s torque bonus is substantial.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

Hand in hand with that comes an EPA efficiency rating of 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined, which compares to 22/21 mpg for the four-cylinder engines and 22/20 mpg for the V6s, despite the diesel's weight penalty of about 400 pounds. Those are huge improvements that unfortunately won’t save you any money at the pump due to the higher price of diesel. On the bright side, it won’t cost you any more, but you do have fill it with diesel exhaust fluid every 10,000 miles or so.

Due to packaging constraints, the main fuel tank can only hold 18.3 gallons, compared to 21.5 for the gas trucks, so the overall range isn’t as epic as it could be. Nevertheless, the Wrangler EcoDiesel can go up to 530 miles between stops, which will get you from Salt Lake City to Moab and back with some go juice left over to play on the rocks with.

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

2020 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon EcoDiesel

I saw over 30 mpg in my Sahara tester, and the motor seemed a little smoother than the last one I tried in a Ram 1500, if not quieter. With their convertible tops, removable doors and overall utilitarian bent, Wranglers aren’t exactly known for being soundproof and that’s definitely the case with the diesel under the hood.

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The Wrangler’s maximum tow rating remains 3,500 pounds with the diesel, but you should have a much easier time hauling that much weight than with any of the gas trucks. The engine pulls like mule team and is so strong down low that you can practically idle up steep, rocky ridgeline trails.

Jeep figures the EcoDiesel will make up about 10 percent of sales, which is about where it is in the Ram 1500. It may not be for everyone, but it’s exactly what fans have been hoping it would be all these years.

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2020 Jeep Wrangler EcoDiesel

Type: 4-door, 5-passenger, 4-wheel-drive SUV

Base price: $37,795

As tested: $44,645

Engine: 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6

Power: 260 hp, 442 lb-ft

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

MPG: 22 city/29 hwy