2020 Jeep Wrangler

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2019
The Car Connection
2019
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
August 31, 2019

Buying tip

The Wrangler Sport S trim represents the best value in the lineup unless your commute involves heavy rock climbing and river fording.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is an American SUV icon and off-road wonder, but not without compromise.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is an all-American icon of an SUV that’s more livable than ever. But that doesn’t mean its capability off road is not without compromise in other areas—on pavement, for a big one. 

We give it 5.4 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2020, the Wrangler gets thorough powertrain updates thanks to mild-hybrid and stop/start technology. Still to come is a version of the 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 available in other Jeeps and Rams. Willys and Freedom Editions return with throwback and military-themed styling cues, and LED headlights are now available on the base Sport model.

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The 2020 Wrangler is one of the most recognizable vehicles on the road, and though it’s been recently redesigned, there’s no mistaking it for anything else. Base models look decidedly cheaper than the fancy Sahara or macho Rubicon, but when you can take the roof, doors, and windshield off, who cares what the rest looks like? The interior has seen the biggest design evolution, and that’s a welcome change over the bargain basement cabin from the previous model. Fit and finish is improved, sound deadening increased, and the dash is lowered for a more pleasant experience all around.

A 3.6-liter V-6 comes standard, as does a 6-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive. Off-road enthusiasts will likely choose this tried-and-true combination, but an 8-speed automatic is available for those who don’t want to (or can’t) row their own. A 2.0-liter turbo-4 is also available for those looking for improved efficiency, and the new (to the Wrangler, at least) 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 will improve torque and likely, fuel economy as well. All engines get an automatic stop/start system, while Sahara models add a mild-hybrid powertrain on the two gas engines; the “eTorque” system uses batteries to help with low-speed acceleration and smoother stop/start operation.

From bare-bones toy to fully-fledged family SUV, the Jeep Wrangler is available in a variety of trim levels with many options, though the base Sport is as spartan as SUVs come. Two-door models are still available in Sport, Sport S, and Rubicon form, but most buyers choose the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. The Rubicon is the most capable Wrangler model yet again with beefier suspension components, bigger tires, locking differentials and disconnecting sway bars, a part-time transfer case, and taller fender flares for even larger tires.

Despite its undeniable charm and capability, the Wrangler manages only average fuel economy even with the help of hybrid tech, and though it’s been out for two years now, the NHTSA and IIHS have yet to fully crash-test it. Some active safety features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking are available on most models, and Jeep offers higher-end audio, a choice of fold-away tops, and other luxury touches to the Wrangler.

8

2020 Jeep Wrangler

Styling

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is sharper and more cohesive to look at than ever, both inside and out.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler occupies a special place in American lore, and a lot of that has to do with its styling homage to wartime Jeeps. We give it 8 out of 10 with special consideration of its improved interior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

One could call the Wrangler neo-retro, but only because the general design hasn’t changed much in decades, and it now features available LED headlights and taillights. That’s a good thing in our eyes, as the Wrangler is sharper and more cohesive than ever from the outside, though base models still look cheap with steel wheels and a fabric top.

Inside, the Wrangler has improved dramatically from a style and quality standpoint over the previous generation, featuring a lower dash with a handsome center console design, and neat trim touches on higher-spec models. A 5.0-inch screen is standard and way too small, so opt for the 7.0- or 8.4-inch instead for better tech and looks.

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5

2020 Jeep Wrangler

Performance

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler remains a seriously capable off-roader and is now at least tolerable on the road.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is as capable off-road as ever. That was never in doubt, but its on-road manners have improved significantly, and with the addition of a long-awaited diesel engine this year, we give it 5 out of 10 for performance. The powertrains and off-road ability garner extra points—and while improved, its handling takes those extra points away. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Wranglers will roll off the line with the tried-and-true 3.6-liter V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission as well as standard four-wheel drive, though a 6-speed manual is the standard transmission option and the default for many off-road enthusiasts. This powertrain offers 285 horsepower, which is enough to putter around town easily, but lacks some low-end torque that’s preferable off-road. An optional 2.0-liter turbo-4 is available and improves low-end power but loses 15 horsepower compared to the V-6 and comes exclusively with the automatic transmission. 

This year, a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6 will also be available, and it’ll be a welcome addition for those who take their Wranglers off the beaten path regularly. Also for 2020, the mild-hybrid eTorque system that improves the standard stop/start functionality and power delivery at low speeds is available as an option for the V-6 and turbo-4 on Sahara models only.

Base models are plenty capable off-road with solid axles and a ladder frame, but the Rubicon model offers the most capability with its 33-inch tires, beefed-up suspension, locking differentials, and disconnecting sway bars. The Rubicon also comes in 2-door form, giving it a shorter wheelbase that makes it superior off-road to the 4-door.

Crucially, the new Wrangler is more comfortable on pavement than the outgoing model, with improvements to the suspension, sound deadening, and steering that take it from downright unpleasant at high speeds to tolerable, at least. It’s still inferior to just about any passenger car we can name, but it’s no longer cursed on long highway drives.

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5

2020 Jeep Wrangler

Comfort & Quality

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is compromised in its comfort and quality, but better than in years past.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is improved in terms of comfort and quality but is still no Grand Cherokee. Not even close, really, as we give it 5 out of 10 here, adding a point for cargo space, but docking one for the dreary interior trim on what’s become an expensive SUV. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Despite its utilitarian character, the Wrangler is lacking in interior storage space, and though the four-door model is more accessible for rear passengers, it isn’t a place we’d want to spend longer than a short journey in the two-door version. We suspect that’s why the four-door model has easily eclipsed its shorter counterpart in terms of sales.

The front seats are supportive enough and include standard adjustable lumbar support. Finished in cloth or optional leather, they’re not as cushy as other Jeep seats, but they do the trick.

Cargo room is decent at 32 cubic feet behind the rear seats in either model, with infinite vertical storage capability if you pop off the roof. With the second row down, that number jumps to 72.4 cubic feet on the four-door Unlimited model. Those somehow needing more would be wise to consider the new Gladiator, a Wrangler with a pickup truck bed.

The dash is low, wide, and straight for better outward visibility, and both material quality and sound deadening are improved on the new generation, but base Sport and Sport S models feature plenty of hard plastics that are less rugged and charming than they are off-putting, especially for an SUV that starts above $30,000.

At the top of the range, the Wrangler costs more than $50,000, which is more palatable if you really need or want all the off-road capability you can buy. For a daily driver, there are countless better deals available.

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2020 Jeep Wrangler

Safety

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler lacks full crash test scores.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler has yet to be fully crash-tested. We can’t give it a score here yet, but will update this space soon. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The scores that do exist give pause. The NHTSA gives the four-door model just four stars for frontal crash tests and three stars for rollover protection. The IIHS is in the process of testing the latest Wrangler.

The Wrangler does offer active safety technologies on nearly every trim, however, including optional automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors.

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5

2020 Jeep Wrangler

Features

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler comes in a variety of flavors and capability, all of which are more expensive than they should be.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler is ripe with features that are both kitschy and useful, but its best feature is its ruggedness. We give it 5 out of 10 though, as its value negates the number of goodies available. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Within the Wrangler lineup, three distinctly different SUVs exist: base Sport and Sport S models represent a bare-bones, throwback SUV experience; posh Sahara models are as close to a luxury off-roader you can find for the price; and the Rubicon is for hardcore rock crawlers and adventure seekers only.

The Sport model is truly as basic as a new vehicle gets, with hand crank windows, no air conditioning, and cheap cloth seats, but USB charging ports and keyless ignition are standard. At over $30,000, we’d expect at least power windows and A/C.

Stepping up to the Sport S adds what equipment the Sport should have included, like alloy wheels and power windows, but its 5.0-inch infotainment display is too small for modern needs, so spend a bit extra to get the 7.0-inch unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Sahara models are the luxury-oriented option and available in four-door only, featuring nicer cloth seats and interior trim, the mid-tier infotainment system, a 115-volt power outlet in the center console, two rear USB ports, and more. An 8.4-inch infotainment screen is available which is faster and smoother, but the 7.0-inch unit is plenty for most users.

Rubicon models are for off-road enthusiasts only, and feature plenty of standard features to go along with the upgraded suspension and powertrain components such as locking differentials, a power winch, and disconnecting sway bars. At over $40,000 and well into the $50,000 range with options, it’s worth considering if you really need all that extra capability.

For 2020, the Willys and Freedom Edition models return with special graphics and options packages that celebrate American troops, both those from today and 1944.

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2020 Jeep Wrangler

Fuel Economy

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler manages only mediocre fuel economy.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler gets the benefit of a new diesel engine, but still manages only average-to-poor fuel economy otherwise. We give it 4 out of 10 as such. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Though it hasn’t been tested by the EPA yet, we expect the new turbodiesel Wrangler to provide the best fuel economy of the bunch. For now, we only have the numbers for the standard gas V-6, which are mediocre at best.

Two-door models with a manual transmission get 17 mpg city, 25 highway, 20 combined, while the four-door model with the same powertrain drops to 17/23/19 mpg.

Choosing the automatic transmission actually comes with a penalty, dropping two-door fuel economy to 18/23/20 mpg while the four-door gets 18/22/20 mpg.

Turbo-4 Wranglers improve overall mileage slightly to 22/24/23 mpg for two-door models and 21/22/21 mpg for four-door models. Both come only with the automatic transmission.

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5.4
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 8
Performance 5
Comfort & Quality 5
Safety N/A
Features 5
Fuel Economy 4
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