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  • Daily Driving A 2021 Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel Rubicon

Daily Driving A 2021 Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel Rubicon

Is The Diesel Engine Worth $6,000?

Oct 15, 2020
Since the first introduction of the new Jeep Gladiator, we've been waiting patiently for the promised EcoDiesel engine option. Well, that time has finally arrived, and for 2021 Jeep's fabulous 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 has joined the 3.6L gasoline V-6 on the Gladiator's options list. While we recently had the opportunity to jump behind the wheel for a quick introduction to the new diesel-equipped Gladiator, we naturally wanted a bit more seat time. So, when Jeep asked if we'd like to try one for a week we hurriedly said yes.
Now, one quick note before we get started: We've focused quite heavily on testing Gladiator models over the past year and have put a pretty good cross section of the lineup through the paces. We've tested the Sport S, Overland, Rubicon, and Mojave. For this report, we're going to focus primarily on the EcoDiesel engine.
The Gladiator tester we got came wrapped in was a 2021 Rubicon model that was equipped with a soft top. The soft top part will matter shortly when we talk about overall engine noise. Although we would have loved to try the EcoDiesel off-road, and we know how immensely capable the Rubicon model is to begin with, our home state of California is still being plagued with massive wildfires that have ushered in the closure of our national forests. Thankfully, we got some off-road seat time during the first drive program on private property. So, for our week with the Gladiator EcoDiesel we did what most Jeep owners do during the week—we commuted with it.
Photo 2/19   |   003 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Ecodiesel
In the past, we've talked about how much we love the driving characteristics of the EcoDiesel V-6 engine when installed in Ram 1500 pickups and Jeep Grand Cherokees, and most recently in the Wrangler. It should come as no surprise then that we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the new Gladiator EcoDiesel. At 260 hp, the 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6 comes in a touch under the 285 hp of the standard 3.6L gasoline V-6.
Torque is a whole different story, with the EcoDiesel churning out a massive 440 lb-ft compared to the gasoline engine's 260 lb-ft. In theory, this should mean that the EcoDiesel Gladiator is quicker from a start. However, the EcoDiesel V-6 has a fair bit of perceived turbo-lag off idle, which gives the gasoline engine the advantage when leaving a stop light. The gasoline engine also feels more confident when it comes to high-rpm accelerating and passing. Where we found the diesel to stand out was at near constant rpm cruising and during times of normal acceleration.
Photo 3/19   |   012 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Ecodiesel
Transmission function was superb from the Gladiator's 8HP75 eight-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to the EcoDiesel engine's immense torque, the transmission was able to very quickly shift through the gears and get into the highest ratio possible for the driving scenario. We never felt like it was hunting or caught in the wrong gear.
One of the big things most people ask is how loud is it, being a diesel and all. Aside from a light clatter outside the truck, it's almost impossible to tell it's a diesel. Because our test vehicle was equipped with the soft top, road noise was quite high when driving at freeway speeds, so the engine was very easily drowned out. We're confident, however, that even with a hard top, it will be almost impossible to distinguish between the two drivetrains based on sound alone. We also noticed that the truck has an audible buzzing when the engine is shut off, as a pump of some sort continues to run for a time. This noise caught a few bystanders by surprise.
Fuel tank size is decreased on EcoDiesel-equipped Gladiators to just 18.3 gallons. This is done to make room for the 5.1-gallon diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) storage tank. The smaller size shouldn't pose an issue, however, as the Gladiator Rubicon we were driving was rated at 21 mpg city, 27 highway, and 24 combined. With those figures, owners should easily eclipse 400 miles of range. During our short time with the truck, we logged 250 miles and averaged 18.82 mpg combined. Why so low? We're not sure. The Rubicon model is rated at 1 mpg less than an Overland or Sport model (according to the EPA anyway) but that still doesn't explain us coming up 5 mpg short. All we can figure is we either have a heavy right foot, or the vehicle wasn't quite broken in yet. While we're on the subject of mysteries, we also noted with fewer than 1,200 miles on the odometer the Gladiator was halfway out of DEF. A 2,400-mile range on 5 gallons doesn't make sense, so we're going to let that one slide as well.
Photo 4/19   |   014 2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon Ecodiesel
Overall, we found the 2021 Jeep Gladiator EcoDiesel to be a great truck. It's got plenty of power and is fun to drive. However, as a final point of contention, you need to really enjoy the diesel driving experience to make owning an EcoDiesel Gladiator worth it. The EcoDiesel engine option costs $4,000 more than the 3.6L V-6, and you're forced to option the automatic transmission, which is another $2,000. At a $6,000 option cost, it'll never pay for itself in fuel savings, especially in states like California where diesel is just as expensive as regular unleaded.

2021 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon

Base price: $48,875
Price as tested: $64,200
Engine: 3.0L EcoDiesel V-6
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
Horsepower: 260 @ 3,600 RPM
Torque: 442 lb-ft @ 1,400 RPM
Towing capacity: 6,000 pounds
EPA fuel economy rating: 21 city / 27 hwy / 24 comb
Actual calculated economy, 249.7-mile trip: 18.82 mpg

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