We break down the pluses and minuses of the Wrangler's three new powertrain combinations.

CarAndDriver, By Mike Sutton

©  CarAndDriver | Do the 2020 Jeep Wrangler's New Engines Improve the Icon?

Today's Jeep Wrangler has evolved into a four-wheeled Swiss Army knife, with a range of body styles, powertrains, and capabilities that can be tailored for nearly any need. The Wrangler can be had with either two or four removable doors, and there are five engines, two transmissions, three four-wheel-drive systems, and three different removable top configurations. Prices range from less than $30,000 to beyond $65,000. And we haven't even brought up the Jeep Gladiator, which adds pickup truck to the Wrangler's lengthy résumé.

The latest JL-spec Wrangler can play a lot of parts and a sixth, a plug-in-hybrid option called 4xe, is on the way. This is our take on three new optional setups: the non-hybridized turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 with eTorque electrical assistance, and the turbocharged 3.0-liter diesel V-6.

A Fancier V-6

The eTorque-assisted V-6 arrived under the hood of an Unlimited Sahara (Unlimited models have four doors) priced at $43,390 to start or $56,985 with a heavy selection of options. With an automatic transmission, all-season tires, and a full-time all-wheel-drive system, the Unlimited Sahara is about as street-friendly as a Wrangler gets. The engine is identical to the one in the Ram 1500 pickup, featuring a belt-driven motor-generator setup that is good for 90 extra lb-ft of torque over the engine's standard 260 lb-ft. Combined EPA fuel economy, at 20 mpg, remains the same with or without the hybrid setup, but the electric-motor assist does bump the Wrangler's city estimate from 18 to 19 mpg.

Compared to a similar Wrangler Unlimited Sahara we previously tested with the non-electrified V-6, the 4547-pound eTorque version weighed an additional 78 pounds. Surprisingly, the hybrid version needed 7.3 seconds to get to 60 mph, which is 0.6 seconds slower than the regular V-6. The performance disadvantage continued through the quarter-mile; the eTorque's 15.5-second quarter-mile run at 89 mph was 0.4 second and 1 mph slower. In our hands, the Wrangler averaged 16 mpg versus 17 mpg in the conventional V-6–powered Sahara, but the hybrid did manage to eke out a 1 mpg advantage on our 75-mph highway test, posting 21 mpg to the nonhybrid V-6's 20 mpg.

Behind the wheel, acceleration feels very similar. The most noticeable difference between the two powertrains is that the eTorque hybrid system smooths and quickens the V-6's stop-start system. The Wrangler's $6000 EcoDiesel option costs significantly more than the $3250 it costs to upgrade the V-6 to a hybrid, but the diesel's 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of low-end twist feel at home in the Wrangler. It's also both quicker and more efficient. The diesel recorded a 6.7-second zero-to-60-mph time and a 25-mpg average in our testing.

A Simpler Four-Cylinder

Previously, the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine came paired with an electric motor to boost low-rpm power. If you're willing to give up 71 lb-ft of torque, you can now get the turbo-four without that electric motor. The boosted 2.0-liter develops 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque with or without the belt-driven motor-generator. Jeep sent us a nonhybrid 2.0-liter turbo in a two-door Rubicon (the most off-road-capable trim level) with an eight-speed automatic. Its $41,620 base price climbed to $52,185 with options. If that seems like a lot for a two-door Jeep with a four-cylinder engine, you're not the only one having those thoughts. At 4386 pounds, the turbo 2.0-liter Rubicon weighed 414 pounds more than a two-door Sport model with the base V-6 and manual transmission that we previously tested, and its 6.5-second dash to 60 mph and 15.1-second quarter-mile pass at 88 mph were 0.5 and 0.3 seconds (and 2 mph) slower. It might be a little slower, but it's more than enough acceleration for a Wrangler.

It's difficult to detect any difference between the 2.0-liter with an electrical assist or without. There's a zingy wheeze when this engine revs up, but there's good power when it's prodded. As in the V-6, the automatic is programmed to help mask any hint of turbo lag as the engine revs to its 3000-rpm torque peak. We averaged 17 mpg and only 18 mpg on our 75-mph highway test. There's only so much you can do with World War II aerodynamics and the Rubicon's knobby all-terrain tires. On those tires, the two-door Wrangler wanders between the lines in the lightest crosswind.

Despite its less than soulful sound, the turbo four's off-idle responsiveness and overall grunt make it an attractive alternative to the standard V-6. Technically, the 2.0-liter is a no-cost option, but it requires purchasing the automatic transmission, so it works out to at least $2000 more than the base V-6, depending on the model.

Among the 2020 Jeep Wrangler's five currently available powertrains, the standard V-6 is a solid foundation, and we see little benefit to upgrading to the hybrid version. However, we likely would splurge on one of the two available 2.0-liter setups, even if it meant living without a manual transmission. We love rowing our own gears, and we want to Save the Manuals, but the Wrangler's chunky shifter and long-travel clutch pedal aren't sporty or satisfying, and the Jeep's eight-speed automatic is excellent. The elephant in the Jeep showroom is the EcoDiesel option. While expensive, it provides a significant fuel-economy benefit, has plenty of low-end grunts, is fairly subdued and refined, and moves the iconic Jeep without much effort. We'd likely spend the $6000 for it. Go big or go home. Jeep folks will understand.

This article was originally published in CarAndDriver.
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