While the sport utility vehicle segment has changed a great deal over the past 30 years, the Jeep Wrangler has remained relatively unchanged. Sure, we have seen the Wrangler grow quite a bit compared to the old school Willy’s military Jeep, including the addition of the 4-door Unlimited models, but the basic design of the Willy’s Jeep in the 1940s has continued through to the models that continue to be so popular today.
However, even with the fact that the Jeep Wrangler has done a fine job of evolving with the industry without departing from the design that has made it one of the most popular and most capable vehicles sold in America, devout fans still have some complaints. Most notably, those critics of the near-unstoppable SUV want more power and more fuel economy – both of which could be achieved by introducing a diesel engine to the lineup. Europeans have been able to order the Wrangler overseas with a 2.8L inline-4 diesel for some time now, but American buyers have been left calling for an oil-burner of their own.
Well, according to the folks at Autoblog, those calls will be answered with the next generation of the Jeep Wrangler, as is seems that the popular 3.0L EcoDiesel from the Ram 1500 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee will finally be coming to the Wrangler option list and with it comes the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission that is used in a great many of the current Chrysler Group vehicles.
The EcoDiesel Wrangler
As the American consumer market slowly opens its heart to the world of the light duty diesel engine, models like the Ram 1500 and the Jeep Grand Cherokee – both of which come with the 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 – have played a major role in the growth in these small, efficient oil-burners. With 240 horsepower and 420lb-ft of torque, this little diesel packs a big punch in the range-topping Jeep and the very hot-selling Ram 1500, and when you consider the impressive mix of capabilities and fuel economy – it is easy to see why the EcoDiesel has proven to be so popular.
While I don’t expect that the lightweight Jeep Wrangler to be able to tow as much as the Grand Cherokee or Ram 1500 with the same engine, those power levels should make a significant difference when compared to the 3.6L Pentastar V6, which is the only engine currently offered in the Wrangler. The Pentastar is very good, with 285 horsepower and 260lb-ft of torque, but shy of the decrease in horsepower, the EcoDiesel Wrangler should be better in every category – from torque to towing to fuel economy.
The 8-Speed Transmission
Regardless of when the EcoDiesel reaches the Wrangler lineup, the introduction of the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission should have a profound impact on the original Jeep. Right now, the Wrangler is offered with a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic, and those transmissions play a big part in the somewhat unsavory fuel economy numbers. Just adding the 8-speed automatic transmission to the 3.6L Pentastar V6 should have a big positive impact on fuel economy numbers while also improving performance both on the road and off. However, bolting that 8-speed gearbox up to the EcoDiesel should allow the future Wrangler to be one of the most capable SUVs sold in America (if not THE most capable) while also yielding fuel economy numbers that will make this rugged rig even more desirable for those who plan to drive it every day.
Unfortunately, it is unclear exactly when the 3.0L EcoDiesel and the 8-speed automatic transmission will reach the Jeep Wrangler lineup, but when it does, a great many Jeep fans will finally get their wish for a more efficient Wrangler that doesn’t depart from its off-roading routes.