Is The Diesel Juice Worth The Wallet Squeeze: We Drive The New Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited EcoDiesel

We’re no stranger to the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited here at BangShift having driven and reviewed various models of the rig over the years. The latest edition of the machine is one that had us pretty excited, though. The addition of the 3.0L EcoDiesel that has been available in vehicles like the Grand Cherokee and the Ram pickup truck seemed like a perfect fit for the Wrangler, especially the more hardcore off-road Rubicon version. The torque, the eight speed transmission, all of it seemed to point in the direction of making a sprightly, grunty, and efficient way to have fun behind the wheel during the week and bashing the trails on the weekend.

Turns out, our gut instinct was right and this thing is a blast to drive. Amazingly the diesel drivetrain makes this the fastest and highest performing Jeep you can buy beating out the boosted four cylinder engine and V6 pretty handily. One of the most interesting things about buying a new Jeep at this point is the myriad of engine options from turbocharged four cylinders to an electrically boosted V6, and all the way up the charts to the diesel. None of those options deliver the 260hp and 442 lb-ft of grunt that this engine does and in many respects, it is not even close to the same driving experience.

Like all things diesel related, there is a cost involved and that’s truly the basis of the question here for any buyer. This engine and transmission upgrade comes with about a $6,000 premium attached. If you are buying the diesel for efficiency purposes you are going to need many miles and many years to have it pay back more than a gasoline engine. If you are buying it because you want the torque, the experience, and the fun that comes with this engine, you won’t be let down.

Hooked to the TorqueFlite transmission, there’s a pretty surprising amount of power in whatever gear you are in and whatever speed you are traveling at. We spent virtually the entire time with our Jeep sans doos and roof which sheds more weight and makes the Rubicon even that much more a willing participant in roaring up to speed. With the traction control off, you can absolutely pour smoke off the rear tires by standing on the gas from a complete stop. The engine does have that rather industrial drone to it rather that the diesel noises we are used to but we grew to love it by the time we had to give the keys back. While we have never felt like a differently powered Wangler was toothless, this diesel variant made operations like merging into speedy traffic and other moves far less of a strategic decision making process than they were. Need speed? Lean into the pedal and there it is.

We liked the fact that there’s basically only one call-out on the entire rig tot tell you what engine is in it. More badging isn’t necessary and while it is impossible and kind of funny to call anything on a bright orange Jeep subtle, this single decal kind of was. Obviously anyone with functioning ears can hear the difference between the gasoline engines and this more gravely voiced diesel, but this little sticker doesn’t hurt things, either.

This Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon stands as about the top of the pricing charts for any Jeep. This tester had an MSRP of over $60,000 and that’s a very large pill to swallow for anyone no matter how much you love the Jeep lifestyle and experience. With the Rubicon package, some interior upgrades, and the diesel drivetrain there were virtually no boxes left unchecked in this rig. It makes for an awesome driving experience and it truly makes for a vehicle that is a commuter, a grocery runner, and a family truckster for road trips. We took this for a few hundred mile overnight trip and had the room, the economy, and the amenities to enjoy every mile.

On the plus side for the Wrangler Unlimited is the fact tat the resale value of these machines is basically unmatched in the automotive world. People crave Jeeps, especially used ones. So if that is a consideration in your buying habits understand that this one is not going to shed value as fast as a sports sedan or other category vehicle.

It would be fantastic to have a stick option with the diesel but we don’t ever foresee that coming. The take rate would be so low that it wouldn’t make any sense. The twin center sticks are good enough for us and work perfectly. Being a Rubicon there are front and rear selectable lockers, the electronically disconnect able sway-bars, and the increased ride height, better gearing, and larger tires to truly make this the most capable turn-key Wrangler you can buy.  Having this package in the longer wheelbase and more comfy Unlimited is a bonus and th company can still hardly make them fast enough. The Jeep touch screen still stands as about the best in the industry and the includes the interface with the driver/operator as well.

The Rubicon’s seats were very comfortable both on the highway and bouncing around some light trails. We were supported and contained at the same time while not being restricted and feeling quashed in. The layout of the driver’s area seems busy but it really isn’t. There are plenty of buttons and knobs but they all land where they need to and are very easy to use and operate. We weren’t crazy about the bright red dash. We’re not sure how that becomes the defacto color of a dash for a Jeep with a bright orange exterior but it apparently does. That was a bit quizzical for sure.

The two major places that a Wrangler Unlimited shines (Rubicon or not) are in the back seat and in the cargo area. Huge amounts of room in both places. My 6’4″ son was in the back seat with loads of room to be comfortable for hours on end and had nothing bad to say about it. The fact that we piled a family’s worth of luggage into the storage area with no trouble means that your trips to the store and even the local home center will not be impaired for room in a any way. As lamely practical as it sounds, we’re not sure why anyone would still buy a two door Wrangler (yes we know less wheelbase off road but in terms of actual usage?!). Being that the four doors are leading sales by a better than 2:1 ratio, it seems that our question is being answered.

And so there we have it. The final verdict is that if you want the fastest and most fun to drive Jeep you can own the Wrangler Unlimited EcoDiesel Rubicon is it. If you want the cheapest Jeep you can own, it absolutely is not. If you are buying the diesel because you are going to own it for 20 years and drive it a lot, you’ll come out ahead money in the end. If you are going to drive this sparingly and not run a load of fuel through it, the diesel’s price differential will take you a long time to overcome on fuel savings alone. The other elements that the engine and transmission bring will be the decider for most people. If you are shopping Jeeps, we highly recommend you drive one with the EcoDiesel before writing off the price tag.

We loved this rig. The engine is powerful, quiet, and makes the already fun Jeep a real barrel of laughs. If the budget allows, we’d not hesitate to tell anyone that THIS is the way to order a Jeep. Fun, efficient, powerful, and capable, it may lean into your bank account but you only come this way once, right?

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