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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Test Drive Review

By Derek Shiekhi | April 11, 2020

American off-roading enthusiasts had been asking Jeep the same question for the past several years: When are you going to offer the Wrangler with a diesel engine?Last September, Jeep answered that question at the State Fair of Texas Auto Show by unveiling the all-new EcoDiesel engine option for the 2020 Wrangler Unlimited. But that only raised more questions, particularly this one: What kind of fuel economy will it get?I had the same question - and the perfect opportunity to answer it myself. My girlfriend Eli hadn't been able to see our friends Roxann and Dan and her brother Emilio in El Paso, Texas in a long time, but all of their schedules finally lined up on Super Bowl Weekend. Fortunately, the 2020 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara EcoDiesel was available at the same time.

Before Eli and I headed out west, I put almost 200 city and highway miles on my EcoDiesel Wrangler test vehicle running errands and visiting friends. The roundtrip from our place in the Austin area to El Paso and back home added more than 1,000 miles (most of them at 85 mph). And Eli and I racked up even more miles while we were there visiting. By the time my week with the Wrangler was over, I had put more than 1,400 miles on its odometer. Was its long-awaited diesel as efficient as the EPA said it would be? Keep reading to find out.


Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Exterior

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara exterior

I would’ve been happy with a base Wrangler Sport as long as it had the EcoDiesel under its hood. But Jeep sent me its more upscale Unlimited Sahara model with a couple of options that made it more distinctive and luxurious. It swapped out the regular lighting for the LED Lighting Package’s LED headlights, daytime running lights, fog lamps and taillights. And it gave me the easiest, most convenient way to let in the sunshine. Instead of removing a pair of Freedom panels over the front seats and storing them in the cargo compartment, all I had to do was press a button to fully retract the Sky One-Touch Power Top.

Eli and I were only going to be in El Paso for a couple of days, but we had plenty of luggage to take. Like her, I packed a suitcase. I also made sure to bring a spare jacket and my hard-sided camera and gimbal case. To my surprise, all of that fit in the 31.7-cubic-foot cargo area behind the rear seats.

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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Interior

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior

Jeep upgraded the passenger compartment by adding black leather seats with contrast stitching. It made an even more significant change to the infotainment system. The Sahara comes standard with Uconnect 4 running through a 7-inch display; my press loaner had the optional setup with navigation and an 8.4-inch touchscreen. Not only was it easy to use and fast to respond, but it also told me, with the push of a button, which small town Eli and I were in at a given moment – something I wondered about several times along the way to El Paso.

Ride quality was pleasant considering we were in a rugged, body-on-frame 4X4 SUV. The steering was more composed and direct than I remember it being in the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon I drove to Dallas a few weeks before. Thankfully, Jeep configured my test vehicle with the Advanced Safety Group. It’s true its name and comes with a variety of electronic safety nets and driver aids. One of those, Adaptive Cruise Control with Stop, also qualifies as a major convenience during a road trip in my book. That managed my cruise control speed and following distance and allowed me to worry about more important things, such as all the high crosswinds and loaded 18-wheelers on the highway out to “The Sun City.”

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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Powertrain

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara engine bay

The Wrangler’s first-ever diesel engine (in America, at least) is the new third-generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. FCA engineers incorporated a variety of changes and enhancements to make it both more powerful and more efficient than its predecessor. Those include a new variable-geometry turbo and EGR system and redesigned fuel injector nozzles, intake ports, combustion chamber and pistons. Output is up to 260 horsepower and 442 lb-ft of torque, which the Sahara routes through an eight-speed automatic, standard Command-Trac part-time four-wheel drive and a limited-slip differential with 3.73 gearing.

Jeep connects the EcoDiesel to an 18.3-gallon fuel tank and 5.1-gallon diesel exhaust fluid tank. After my local press fleet delivery service filled the Wrangler Unlimited Sahara up with diesel and delivered it to my house, it had a projected range of 506 miles. According to the EPA, my test vehicle was capable of getting 22 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined.* So what was my final fuel economy after I added more than 1,400 miles to the EcoDiesel’s odometer reading? Even though I spent most of my time flying down the interstate at 85 mph, I still managed to average 23.2 mpg.

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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Safety

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara infotainment screen

In addition to Adaptive Cruise Control, the Advanced Safety Group I mentioned earlier also contained Advanced Brake Assist and Full Speed Forward Collision Warning Plus. A more basic bundle, the Safety Group, upped the level of protection with a rear parking assistance system and blind-spot and cross-path detection.

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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Overall

2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara rear shot

It’s taken more than 20 years of waiting, but it’s now – FINALLY! – possible to get the Jeep Wrangler with diesel power. The new EcoDiesel turned the well-equipped $56,750 Wrangler Unlimited I evaluated into a road warrior with a long range and satisfying fuel economy. You can take a 2020 Wrangler Unlimited Sahara (base price: $38,645**) for a test drive at your local AutoNation Jeep dealership. Just try to keep it under 1,400 miles.

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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, 4x4 SUV

Engine/Transmission

3.0L V-6 diesel 

260 hp / 442 lb-ft  

8-speed automatic

Mileage

22/29 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

Not available


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.