The Jeep Wrangler, as known as the JL, is an off-road superstar that can take on just about any terrain. Year after year, it’s at the top of the list of the best off-road-ready SUVs, besting its sibling the Jeep Cherokee, the Toyota 4Runner, and the Land Rover Defender.
But how does the 2020 Jeep Wrangler perform on the highway? Recently, Consumer Reports put the Jeep through its paces, and the results are underwhelming. Let’s see why CR testers thought the Wrangler tanked so badly.
An unimpressive road test score despite many improvements
The 2020 Jeep Wrangler comes in two lengths, several trims, and even more options. Prices for it start at just under $30,000 for a base model and top out at around $50,000 for a fully-loaded top-of-the-line model.
Consumer Reports’ overall score for the Jeep Wrangler is a disappointing 28 out of 100. It ranked a lowly 21 out of 24 of the midsized SUVs that CR tested. These numbers are heavily influenced by the Jeep’s road-test score of 36 out of 100.
Before we dig into the CR testers’ criticisms of the Wrangler, we’ll look at what they did like about it. One plus was the Wrangler’s improved standard powertrain, which is a robust 3.6-liter V6 that makes 285 hp and 260 ft-lb.
Acceleration for this engine was a sprightly 7.3 seconds. Buyers can also opt for a turbocharged 270-hp four-cylinder engine that has better fuel economy. Jeep also promises a mild hybrid and a 3.0-liter diesel engine in the near future. The standard transmission is a six-speed manual. The CR testers tried the optional eight-speed automatic and liked its smooth shifting.
They also appreciated the Wrangler’s full-time, low-range four-wheel drive. It’s a first for this Jeep and is offered only on the Sahara trim. Drivers don’t have to decide when to shift into 4WD, unlike vehicles with part-time transfer cases.
Great off the pavement but terrible on it
The sturdy Jeep Wrangler can do things that a number of SUVs can’t: it handles rocks, snow, sand, or mud without much effort. Consumer Reports testers appreciated its off-road capabilities. It has body-on-frame construction, a rigid axle, and almost 11 inches of ground clearance. A removable top, removable doors, exposed roll cage, and a fold-down windshield are extra goodies that add to its off-roadworthiness.
Testers also noted that the Jeep’s handling and steering were improved and it had less body roll. But they had serious reservations about how the Wrangler handled on the highway. Its suspension was too stiff, and it tended toward shuddering even on smooth pavement. Its boxy shape and lack of a headliner in the removable top created excessive wind noise. CR testers also thought that its handling just wasn’t as limber and responsive as other SUVs in its class.
A clamber into the Jeep Wrangler’s mediocre cabin
The new Jeep Wrangler, according to the testers, is challenging to get in and out of. Its narrow running boards hinder access instead of aiding it. Exacerbating its uncomfortable access and ride are the unwelcoming seats both front and back. Even at the priciest trim, the front seats have to be adjusted manually. And the rear bench seat is hard, despite adequate legroom in the back.
Jeep has incorporated updates in function and appearance such as a Jeep silhouette on the gear shifter and outdoorsy graphics on the displays into this year’s Wrangler. But it also has inserted awkward touches such as window switches on the dash under the radio.
Testers approved of the extra cargo space in the four-door Unlimited version. But they disliked the two-step access of opening the hinged side gate and then the glass hatch to reach this space.
Optional advanced safety features are blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic warning, and the newly available forward-collision warning.
Overall, Consumer Reports testers felt that the off-road talents of the 2020 Jeep Wrangler surpass those of many other SUVs in its segment, but it lacked the agility, comfort, and user-friendliness that most modern SUV owners have come to expect in their vehicles. As a result, it scored poorly in the CR road test.