One of the most crucial choices in any vehicle purchase is determining how much engine you need, and that’s especially true with a versatile vehicle like the 2018 and 2019 JL Wrangler.
Defying traditional engine wisdom, like “there’s no replacement for displacement,” the three engine options that are available for JL Wranglers instead have a variety of applied technological features that makes them different engines for different applications. While all three of these engines are exceptional, Jeep doesn’t make it as easy as “the one with the most horsepower.”
The 3.6L Pentastar V6
Tried and true, the Pentastar V6 is practically an institution at this point. Once again it is the standard engine for the Wrangler’s many trim levels. Though there’s nothing wrong with this engine, and it’s certainly time-tested and proven, it is starting to show its age.
Out of all the engines, the V6 is the one with the largest displacement and the most horsepower, but it isn’t necessarily the most powerful.
Many reviewers noted that in the four-door Jeep models the V6 felt a little underpowered, which is not a word many Jeep fans want to hear. It is also the only engine option that is available with a manual transmission. For many, making it so that only the base engine was available with a stick was a major strike against the JL.
Overall, the Pentastar is a perfectly reliable and good engine, more than adequate for most Jeep drivers and their goals. And if you enjoy driving a stick shift, then this is obviously your engine choice.
2.0L Direct Injection Turbo Engine with ETorque
This Chrysler Hurricane engine was an eyebrow-raiser on announcement. Many still struggle with paying $1,000 more for two fewer cylinders. It’s only been the past few years when a four-cylinder counted as an upgrade from a V6, but that’s the beauty of turbocharging an engine. Despite having less displacement, the “hurricane” manages to make an impressive amount of power.
Though it doesn’t quite catch up to the V6 in terms of horsepower, it comes out way ahead in torque thanks to the ETorque, a form of mild engine hybridization that graces the Jeep with everyone’s favorite aspect of hybrid engines.
Etorque is why a Prius can easily pass a V8 in stop and go traffic. You get better torque at low RPM because the engine can use the electric motor. It also makes auto start-stop possible and creates a smoother launch feel. It’s a mild hybrid because the electric motor isn’t equipped to actually operate the Jeep, just designed to help assist until the engine reaches full power.
Because of this engine’s efficiency, it gets somewhat better gas mileage. Car and Driver’s real-world driving test put it a solid five miles per a gallon ahead of the V6. Though that only amounts to about $350 annual savings given average miles traveled per year, the engine still handily pays for itself in three years.
3.0L EcoDiesel V6
The real star of Jeep’s engine lineup though is yet to be released and very anticipated. The EcoDiesel will absolutely be available in 2020 and should be available in late 2019 as well. It’s always good to get an engine that’s been tested, and EcoDiesel has, though this will be a new iteration. The first EcoDiesels have gotten rave reviews, and horsepower and torque are both set to increase substantially.
Though we don’t have the exact EPA estimates on this engine, the estimates are around 27 mpg on the highway. Earlier in 2019, Jeep ran into legal issues when a previous generation of EcoDiesel engine didn’t adhere to the emissions standards that Jeep claimed it did. This resulted in a fairly significant lawsuit, though unlike Volkswagen Jeep’s transgression wasn’t severe enough to result in a buyback.
There are a host of differences between diesel and gasoline engines that should be considered by anyone who is new to diesel. Though the MPG will be better on the diesel engine, you won’t see a lot of savings in terms of yearly ownership maintenance cost.
EcoDiesel engines require synthetic oil, and they have a diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) tank that needs to be filled every oil change. If the engine is deprived of DEF, it will stop operating. So, the amount that you save on gas will likely be going back out the door on oil changes and DEF refills. But having the performance of diesel without a substantial price increase is an exciting possibility for Jeep enthusiasts who do enjoy taking their Wranglers off-road.
In terms of low-end torque, the kind that makes rock crawling a breeze, nothing beats a diesel.
Perhaps most perplexing though, the EcoDiesel is not available with a manual transmission. For some, the idea of an automatic transmission with a diesel engine is a strange concept, while others just can’t wait to get a Jeep with a diesel.
The EcoDiesel was spotted testing in May 2019, and the 2020 Ram 1500 has recently been unveiled with the EcoDiesel engine. Until the EcoDiesel is released, there’s only so much we know about it, but it looks like the wait is about to be over.
All three of these engines are fantastic for different types of Jeep enthusiasts. The improvements in low-end torque make the turbocharged four-cylinder and diesel excellent choices for those looking to do major climbs. On the other hand, the naturally aspirated and time-tested V6 has more horsepower and the major advantage of coming with a manual transmission.
If none of these options feel quite right for you, then you may want to research engine swaps. There are a lot of potential JL engine swaps, and we made a video series on what it would take to get a Hemi in a JL, in case you’re in need a Jeep with V8 power.
Here’s how the specifications for the stock engines look side by side.
2018 and 2019 JL Wrangler Engine Options
|Specification||3.6L Pentastar||2.0L Turbo||3.0L EcoDiesel
||285hp @ 6,400 RPM
||270hp @ 5,250 RPM
||260hp @ 3,600 RPM
||260 lb-ft @ 4,800 RPM
||295 lb-ft @ 3,000 RPM
||442 lb-ft @ 1,600 RPM
||17 city/ 25 highway
||23 city/25 highway
Source: Car and Driver, Motor1, Allpar | Image Credit: Jeep, Allpar, Car and Driver