2020 Jeep Wrangler Review
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler continues to offer everything that was ever wanted in a Wrangler, but in the most refined package ever. It's still a capable, truck-like vehicle with solid axles and a body-on-frame design, and the various removable tops stick around for those who prefer their off-roading with or without sun. You can even keep taking off the doors and folding down the windshield. But the latest Wrangler, known as the JL, rides and handles better than any version before it. It definitely offers the best-looking and most functional interior yet applied to the go-anywhere Jeep.
While there are some notable updates for 2020, which are described below, the JL continues to be a truly one-of-a-kind vehicle with a unique appeal not matched by any other SUV. We certainly wouldn't recommend it as a commuter car, and you'd be happier on a road trip in something like a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner, but the 2020 Wrangler is so easy to fall in love with (and now so much easier to live with) that it's impossible not to recommend.
What's new for 2020?
This year brings a number of powertrain updates. The major one is the addition of the turbocharged 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6. Final specs for it haven't been revealed, but in the Ram 1500, it makes 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. It will only be available on the four-door Wrangler Unlimited with an eight-speed automatic transmission. On Sport and Rubicon trims, all engines now get standard start/stop functionality, and the gas V6 joins the turbo-four engine in getting the eTorque mild-hybrid system on automatic-equipped Sahara models.
There are also some minor trim and option updates for 2020. The Sport trim can now be had with LED lighting, and the Advanced Safety Group option package now includes the 8.4-inch infotainment screen with navigation and automatic high beams. Three new special edition models have been added, which are all shown in the photos above. The Willys Edition features a rear limited-slip differential, rock rails and 32-inch mud-terrain tires. The Freedom Edition adds military-themed accents. The Black & Tan Edition adds black badging and a tan top, and includes the interior you see below.
What's the interior and in-car technology like?
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler has a butch interior to match the exterior looks. There's no mistaking it for any other vehicle when you're inside. The exterior paint bleeds through onto the pillars and other parts of the interior. A tall, upright seating position provides a commanding view over the relatively short, narrow hood. You sit close to the windows and windshield that now has a steeper rake to it with the redesign. All the controls are easily within reach.
One can opt for as much or as little technology as they want in Wranglers now. The base Wrangler comes with a basic 5-inch touchscreen for barebones audio/car controls. A 7- or 8.4-inch touchscreen can be optioned with FCA's user-friendly Uconnect system for those who want that tech. There's a similar disparity in materials depending on how you option it. A Sahara with all the leather boxes checked can start to feel half luxurious inside, while a base Sport is a plastic and rubber paradise. Regardless of trim, though, the Wrangler's interior is a very different place to be than most cars for sale today (and a great improvement over its predecessors).
A smattering of roof designs are available, but all allow the Wrangler to be a convertible, albeit with varying degrees of difficulty. There's the "Freedom Top" hardtop with removable panels above the driver and front passenger that makes highway cruising a (relatively) quieter affair. Then there are two different grades of soft tops available, which obviously make for a substantially quicker convertible transformation. There's still a steep learning curve with either top, but their operation has been greatly improved for the latest generation. Their new design allows also you to remove the rear side panels without removing the roof and rear window part as well. This provides a convertible's air flow without the sun burn.
Finally, Jeep offers a Sky One-Touch roof optional, which is a bit of a hybrid. It looks like a hardtop except for the flat portion directly over your head that folds backwards at the press of a button. This lets you get close to the openness of a soft top with its roof removed, but forgoes the complex procedure of physically removing the soft top.
Jeep lets you do some things other manufacturers don't with the Wrangler. The big one is that the doors (two or four) can be taken off. Then, if you particularly enjoy the taste of bugs, the windshield can be laid flat on the hood. Remove the roof and you're basically left with a Jeep skeleton. Features like these are just the beginning of why the Wrangler is so well loved by its fanbase.
How big is it?
Interior space for the 2020 Wrangler is respectable, especially if you opt for the 4-door. Rear legroom is compromised in the two-door at just 35.7 inches, but it's only slightly worse than the 38.3 inches offered in the four-door. The big annoyance is getting in and out of the 2-door's rear seats — lifting the suspension (as owners often do) makes it even worse. Once you're back there, things are comfortable enough for short trips. However, the upright seating could become problematic for longer ones.
Cargo space for the two-door is a meager 12.9 cu-ft with the seats up and 46.9 cu-ft with them folded down. The larger four-door has 31.7 cu-ft of space with the seats up and 72.4 cu-ft when folded down, which is comparable to many two-row mid-size crossovers. We should also note that its boxy design enhances the versatility of the Wrangler's cargo area. Ease of loading depends on your choice of roof (soft top or hardtop). The hardtop opens up the swing door and glass area easily, while the soft top makes loading some items a pain because you'll have to remove part of the soft top to access the whole loading area. It's also possible for fine dust and sand to make their way through the soft top's seals.
What's the performance and fuel economy?
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler comes standard with a 3.6-liter V6 producing 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. It can be paired to either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic transmission. The V6 comes standard with automatic stop/start functionality on Sport and Rubicon models, as well as manual-transmission Sahara models. With an automatic, the V6 Sahara now gets eTorque mild-hybrid assistance. This adds a starter/generator motor that allows the engine to shut off just before coming to a complete stop, as well as providing a bit of power when accelerating from a stop. This system was already standard on the Wrangler's turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The diesel engine makes do simply with automatic stop/start.
Fuel economy for the manual two-door is rated at 17 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined while the four-door gets lower highway and combined fuel economy at 23 mpg and 19 mpg respectively. The automatic two-door is rated 18/23/19 mpg and the automatic 4-door is rated at 19/22/20 mpg with eTorque and 18/22/20 mpg just with start/stop.
Optional is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with eTorque included. It produces 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, and is only paired with the eight-speed auto. Fuel mileage gains are primarily in town with the two-door model returning 22/24/23 mpg and the four-door with 21/22/21 mpg in either start/stop or eTorque configurations. You'll need to run premium fuel to realize those gains, though.
A 3.0-liter diesel V6 has been added, though its specifications, including power and fuel economy, have yet to be announced. The engine produces 260 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque in the Ram 1500.
What's it like to drive?
On-road, the Wrangler remains a bit of a bear to handle. The steering is slow and wandering. Crosswinds cause it to blow about and stray from its lane on the highway. Bumps and road imperfections are felt throughout your body, and the wind noise is quite tragic at higher speeds with the soft top. The hardtop isn't exactly serene, either, and in general you'll find a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Toyota 4Runner to be more comfortable and refined. On the other hand, the JL Wrangler is improved in all those areas compared to its predecessors, so one could say the on-road manners are more agreeable than before. This Jeep is definitely better than previous Wranglers for daily driving duty, but we still wouldn't recommend that someone purchase one for that sole purpose.
Acceleration is perfectly adequate from the base V6 engines, and there's very little hunting and pecking as the automatic gearbox picks the proper ratio. The six-speed manual is fine, with a reasonable clutch pedal that's not too hard or long to make using it a pain. Far from it. There's just enough power to spin the rear tires from a standing start with the V6, but know that the much heavier four-door model will be considerably slower than the two-door Wrangler. As for the turbocharged four-cylinder, it may enjoy a fuel economy advantage, but it actually feels quicker than the V6 as well. The thrust still won't blow you away, but the turbo does represent a performance upgrade. We have yet to sample a Wrangler with the new diesel engine.
Off-road is where the Wrangler truly comes alive. The fully boxed ladder frame and five-link coil suspension setup with Dana solid axles that collectively cause so many problems on pavement show their worth when you venture off it. The Wrangler also benefits from standard skid plates, an approach angle of 44 degrees, breakover angle of 27.8 degrees, departure angle of 37 degrees, and ground clearance of 10.9 inches that make it a veritable mountain goat.
Of course, four-wheel drive is standard, and the Wrangler offers a choice of three different transfer case options. The Rubicon has the most intense gear with the Rock-Trac system. This gets you a 4:1 low gear ratio and allows for a 84.2:1 crawl ratio with the manual, or a 77.2:1 with the automatic. The Sport and Sahara get the old Command-Trac system, netting a 2.72:1 low range that allows for a rock-crawling low gear of 48.18:1 with the manual transmission, or 44.2:1 with the automatic.
All this becomes extra fun when you remove the roof, doors and set down the windshield when off-roading. No other off-roader (besides the Wrangler's Gladiator truck brother) will allow you to get that close to the elements, which is a serious plus when driving the Wrangler.