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Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel Is Four Wheeler’s 2020 SUV of the Year!

It’s official!

It's official! Four Wheeler, the world's leading 4x4 authority since 1962, has selected the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel as the winner of its 47th annual SUV of the Year award.

Four Wheeler's SUV of the Year award event is an invitation-only competition that is only open to all-new or significantly revised SUVs for the upcoming model year. For 2020, the field of vehicles included three entries: Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 3.6L eTorque, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel, and Land Rover Range Rover Sport MHEV 3.0L.

"Jeep proves once again that it is listening to its customers, this time delivering the much anticipated diesel-powered Wrangler," says MotorTrend Group Content Director Sean P. Holman. "With no trade-offs in the capability or the experience demanded by enthusiasts and adventurers alike, the impressively efficient Wrangler EcoDiesel makes sense for your daily commute now too."

The road to winning Four Wheeler's 2020 SUV of the Year award was actually more of a rutted, rocky, snow-clogged two-track. Since Four Wheeler is the leading 4x4 authority, the majority of testing was done off-road in a variety of challenging terrains. Four Wheeler combined this extreme testing with track and on-road testing. The weeklong test covered approximately 1,000 miles.

The competition began in the Los Angeles area with ramp travel index (RTI) testing to gauge each vehicle's suspension articulation. Following RTI testing, the SUVs were driven to the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, for track testing. Sophisticated electronic equipment was used to record each vehicle's 0-60 and quarter-mile acceleration times, as well as 60-0 braking distance. Following track testing, the vehicles were driven to the Southern California desert on paved roads. As was standard throughout the test, experienced judges rotated between vehicles on a regular basis, which provided equal testing time. Judges included staff from various truck and 4x4 brands within the MotorTrend Group, including Diesel Power, Four Wheeler, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, Truck Trend, and Jp. The multi-hour drive to the desert allowed judges to gather important information on each vehicle's on-road manners in stop-and-go and open-highway driving. It also provided fuel efficiency data for this type of driving.

The next three days were spent primarily off-road. Each vehicle was driven by each judge in a variety of off-road conditions, including sand, rocky trails, loose-surface trails, and snow. The test also included a loose-dirt hillclimb and water crossings. This testing provided the judges with a wealth of information including each vehicle's off-road visibility from the driver seat, four-wheel-drive system selection and performance, tire performance and durability, engine power and cooling, transmission function and cooling, suspension tuning and performance, traction control system function, and much more. Night driving was also integrated into the competition to gauge each vehicle's lighting equipment.

The final day of testing included a long highway test section returning to the Los Angeles area, during which additional important highway data was gathered, including fuel economy, interior comfort, and on-road handling.

"The Wrangler is a truly exceptional machine both on- and off-road, and the new-for-2020 EcoDiesel engine option compliments the outstanding JL platform," says Four Wheeler Editor Ken Brubaker. "The EcoDiesel's power and efficiency raise the bar for the already incomparable 4x4 making it even more extraordinary."

In the dirt, SUV of the Year judges appreciated the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon's impressive approach and departure angles (43.9 and 37 degrees, respectively); rugged 17-inch BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires; Tru-Lok front and rear axles; front disconnecting stabilizer bar; performance suspension; and transmission, transfer case, and fuel tank skidplates. The Rubicon's Rock-Trac transfer case low-range ratio of 4:1 and the axle ratio of 3.73:1 combined with the eight-speed automatic transmission's First gear ratio of 4.71:1 to create a crawl ratio of 70.3:1. This impressive crawl ratio, combined with the torque of the EcoDiesel engine, made slow-speed crawling in difficult terrain a controlled, easy, no-drama experience.

Inside, judges gave high marks to the optional leather-trimmed bucket seats, which added a luxurious feel and were easy to clean after a day in the dirt with the Sky One-Touch Power Top retracted. The optional Premium Audio Group included an 8.4-inch color display, GPS navigation, and an Alpine audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio. Judges also like the optional Cargo Group with Trail Rail System, which is an adjustable rail-based tie-down utility system that mounts on the cargo floor and swing gate.

The new-for-2020 EcoDiesel option, which mates the 260 hp, 442 lb-ft of torque 3.0L V-6 turbodiesel engine to the 8HP75 eight-speed automatic transmission, impressed the judges with its power. On rocky, slow speed trails judges noted the EcoDiesel engine's smooth torque, which peaks at only 1,400-2,800 rpm. Fuel economy was also a strength of the EcoDiesel and the engine returned a best tank mpg of 26.5. On- and off-road the engine delivered power smoothly and seamlessly, adding to the JL's outstanding drivability. The EcoDiesel also helped generate some impressive track numbers including a 0-60 time of 8 seconds and a respectable quarter-mile time of 16.3 seconds.

Prior to SUV of the Year testing, each judge was issued an official judging book, which included areas for the judges to grade vehicle criteria and log comments. With testing completed, the vehicle criteria data provided by the judges was combined with performance and other data to create a score for each vehicle. The scoring was weighted, prioritizing off-road performance. The five weighted categories included 30 percent Trail Performance, 20 percent Empirical (RTI, acceleration, braking, price, and so on), 20 percent On Pavement (handling, ride quality, steering feel, and so on), 15 percent Interior (instrumentation, ingress and egress, seat comfort, storage, and so on), and 10 percent Exterior (appearance, stance, body protection, and so on). When the calculations were complete, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon EcoDiesel had accrued enough points to give it a decisive win and the title of 2020 SUV of the Year.

Look for complete coverage of the 2020 SUV of the Year competition soon here at fourwheeler.com!

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