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Ranking the Best and Worst Jeep Models for 2020

Reviewing the 2020 Jeep Lineup

2020 Jeep Gladiator towing the SJ Grand Wagoneer

The Jeep division’s U.S. sales have been on a constant rise since the global economic crisis hit in 2008, first reaching their highest point in 2016 when the off-road specializing division marketed 929,446 vehicles on this side of the Atlantic. The party was abruptly cut short the following year when total sales stopped at 828,522 units which roughly represents an 11 percent downturn compared to the previous year. The Jeep is rolling yet again, however, after a 17 percent increase in sales for the year 2018 during which the now best-selling FCA brand has managed to push a record-breaking 973,227 models. This trend is expected to carry over into 2019 and 2020 as well, and this time we’ll focus on the forthcoming 2020 Jeep models and what to pay attention to when it comes to them.

Not only has the Jeep brand become the FCA’s best-selling division in recent years, it’s practically keeping the entire enterprise above water alongside Ram trucks. The total FCA sales for 2018 within the U.S. (including fleet sales) amount to 2,235,204 units which is a 9 percent increase compared to 2017 when they sold 2,059,376 vehicles across the range. Retail sales, on the other hand, amounted to 1,760,488 units. However you spin it, the Jeep division’s sales accounted for almost half of the entire FCA Group’s sales and that’s telling us a great deal about their importance to the smallest of the “Big Three” American car manufacturers.

The picture is similar across the globe as well as FCA has managed to amass as much as 4.75 million sold vehicles in 2017, around 1.4 million of which belonged to Jeep. Much like it is the case in the U.S., the FCA’s global 2018 sales have also surpassed those from 2016 as they’ve delivered 4.86 million vehicles overall – 1.6 million of which were Jeeps alone.

Looking at separate models, the brand has mostly Compass, Cherokee, and Wrangler to thank for the extremely successful year 2018 whose sales have improved by 105 percent, 41 percent, and 26 percent respectively compared to 2017. The Grand Cherokee and Renegade have, on the other hand, lost 6.5 percent and 6.1 percent respectively. Finally, the now-defunct and nigh forgotten Jeep Patriot has found only 621 new homes in the U.S., losing 98.5 percent in sales compared to 2017 which also wasn’t very kind toward the boxy compact.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at what the Jeep vehicles will have to offer come model year 2020. Since we’re already “in the mood,” here’s also our take on the top 10 best 4×4 SUVs in history.

What’s Hot in the New 2020 Jeep Lineup

05. 2020 Gladiator

After years of speculation, the first Jeep pickup truck since the XJ Cherokee-based Comanche (discontinued in 1992) is upon us. Enter the 2020 Jeep Gladiator based on the Jeep Wrangler SUV.

The new player on the mid-size truck market instantly throws down the gauntlet by providing the best-in-class towing capacity of 7,650 pounds and a strong payload capability of 1,600 pounds. Although based on Wrangler architecture and sharing its Dana 44 solid axles, the Gladiator sports a unique frame that’s 31 inches longer than that of its SUV sibling. It’s also got a unique five-link coil rear suspension but gets the same set of removable soft and hard tops, doors, and folding windshield.

The Gladiator uses a 5-foot steel bed with aluminum tailgate which provides both sturdiness and weight savings in a way. It’s currently available for $35,000 at the very least, while its range-topping models warrant as much as $45,000 prior to extras.

Powertrain-wise, the Gladiator offers something for everyone. A 3.6L V6 will serve as a base engine together with either a standard six-speed manual or an optional eight-speed automatic. It’s good enough for 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of rotational force, and you need it if you want the aforementioned maximum towing and payload capacities (before the diesel option arrives).

The Wrangler’s 2.0L turbo four isn’t available at launch but it will be somewhere down the line. The four-banger should be available with a mild-hybrid system that’s also a part of the Wrangler lineup. Arriving in early 2020, an optional 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 with 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of torque should also join the lineup. Needless to say, the oil burner should further improve the Gladiator’s already impressive towing ratings.

Regardless of the chosen engine, all Gladiator trucks are (or rather will be) paired with a mandatory all-wheel-drive system. The difference is that entry-level models use the Command-Trac system with a 2-speed transfer case while the most expensive Rubicon grade gets the more advanced Rock-Trac 4×4 system with heavy-duty axles and locking differentials.

2020 Jeep Gladiator towing the SJ Grand Wagoneer

 

04. 2020 Wrangler Plug-in Hybrid

The new JL Wrangler already sports a mild-hybrid assist available with the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine option but that apparently isn’t enough for Jeep. Instead, they’re developing a true hybrid model to serve as a cornerstone unit for the future – at least when fuel efficiency is concerned.

The future hybrid Wrangler’s power electronic module will be produced in the old Toledo Machining Plant before being shipped to the Toledo assembly where the SUV will be built. Considering there are no additional details about the forthcoming Wrangler PHEV, we have to assume the final product won’t be significantly different than conventional models. Aside from the aforementioned power electronics module which is supposed to be mounted under the floor pan between the drive shaft and exhaust, the two vehicles will be practically identical.

FCA still hasn’t disclosed which of their gasoline engines will be used in the Wrangler plug-in, nor did they reveal any other specifics. At the moment, the company’s only plug-in hybrid is the Pacifica minivan which uses a 3.6L V6 on the lean Atkinson Cycle, a 16-kwh battery pack, and a duo of electric motors. The total system output amounts to 260 horsepower which should be plentiful for a vehicle of Wrangler’s size and weight.

Of course, the FCA might still opt for a smaller 2.0L turbo four, but we can only speculate at this point anyway. Regardless of what they end up doing, the 2020 Jeep Wrangler plug-in hybrid is sure to become the most efficient model in the lineup. We’ll have to wait for more details, including the exact date of arrival and pricing to be disclosed. Whatever happens, we’re positive that Wrangler’s off-road capability won’t suffer a slightest bit.

Jeep Wrangler front 3/4 view

 

03. 2020 Wrangler

If the plug-in hybrid Wrangler isn’t your cup of tea, one of the good old-fashioned internal combustion engine-powered models should do the trick. The JL Wrangler arrived as a 2018-year model and it’s here to stay for a foreseeable time.

The spartan off-road specialist still clings to the old ways when it comes to advanced safety gear. In fact, it’s just recently received a one-star rating under the European NCAP crash test governing body, but most Jeep enthusiasts won’t be bothered by that. Especially on this side of the Atlantic.

Although it might not give you the most contemporary of cabins, the Jeep Wrangler excels when it comes to traversing rugged terrains. After all, that’s what it was built for. Furthermore, the upper tiers actually offer quite modern infotainment systems with an available 8.4-inch touchscreen display. They could be more affordable though, as even the base models cost close to $30,000. Not to mention their not-overly-refined road manners.

One of the next-gen Wrangler’s biggest advantages is its colorful powertrain palette which should feature something for everyone. Apart from the aforementioned forthcoming Wrangler PHEV, the current lineup offers no less than three distinctive internal combustion powerplants.

Most Wranglers will leave the Ohio assembly with the proven 3.6L Pentastar V6 capable of delivering 285 horsepower. Furthermore, the venerable engine now comes with a mild-hybrid e Torque assist in the Sahara trim.

An optional mild-hybrid-assisted 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine generates 270 ponies and improves the off-roader’s fuel economy by returning up to 24 miles to the gallon combined. It’s exclusively offered with an 8-speed gearbox, however, whereas the Pentastar can be had with a proper stick as well. Again, only of numerous trim levels providing the mild-hybrid upgrade is the Sahara.

Finally, the late-arriving (mid-year 2020) 3.0L turbo-diesel V6 is poised to deliver both the towing and efficiency upgrades while providing 260 hp and 442 lb-ft of twist in the process. Needless to say, every single Wrangler is a true 4×4 vehicle regardless of the number of doors it sports.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited front 3/4 view

 

02. 2020 Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer

The Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are some of the most iconic nameplates in many ways. Apart from having a cult following to this day, they were actually produced by four different manufacturers over a period of almost 30 years. In a way, the’re the ultimate Jeeps having gone through the Willys-Overland, Kaiser Jeep, AMC, and Chrysler eras.

Now they’re slated to return after being discontinued in now-distant 1991 (not counting the ZJ Grand Cherokee’s special Grand Wagoneer edition from 1993). The future full-size body-on-frame SUVs that are set to compete with higher-end American options like the Cadillac Escalade or Lincoln Navigator are still to be spotted in person, though.

It would seem they’ve been delayed once again as FCA wants to prolong the DS Ram’s life due to still-unwavering demand for it. This makes sense considering the last-generation Ram’s tooling has been paid off a while ago, hence their prices can be cut down considerably. This gives the customers a good deal on a capable pickup while simultaneously maximizing company’s profits. Even more importantly, this gives the FCA an opportunity to replace GM as the second-best selling pickup truck manufacturer in the U.S.

The revived Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer will, thus likely arrive for MY 2021 (or even in 2021 as 2022-year models), but there’s still a chance we’ll see them in 2020 – at least as test mules and/or prototypes.

They’ll be based on the new DT Ram architecture and will likely borrow the full-size pickup’s engines as well. This puts the stalwart 3.6L Pentastar V6 and a duo of HEMI V8s into the mix at this point. The new Ram will also feature hybridized powertrains, so that shouldn’t be overlooked either.

It’s still too early to speculate on their exact arrival date and prices, but considering they’ll compete with the most expensive body-on-frame SUVs on the market, expect them to accordingly take the flagship spot within the Jeep lineup.

Jeep Yuntu concept previews the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer
Jeep Yuntu concept pictured

01. 2020 Grand Cherokee

FCA is evidently ready to sever all ties with Daimler and one of them is the Grand Cherokee’s premium platform. The next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee is just around the corner, and it’ll apparently receive the Alfa Romeo Stelvio’s underpinnings.

The next-generation models will not stray too far away from the well-trodden path their predecessors have established, however. The Premium SUV will remain a refined, spacious, tech-savvy, and highly capable performer both on and off the road. However, they won’t arrive in time for MY 2020 hence the 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee carries over relatively unchanged compared to previous iterations. The Dodge Durango is also in for a substantial makeover, and Dodge’s SUV will apparently arrive at an even later date. Considering they’re related, it wouldn’t surprise us if they arrived together.

The Grand Cherokee for 2020 is still a spacious, refined, and capable SUV with plenty of high-end convenience and tech features. It starts from $33,500 and works its way to the $53,500 mark in the range-topping Summit grade. Of course, opting for a special performance-oriented fully loaded Trackhawk models requires around $100,000 which is downright ridiculous.

The Grand Cherokee’s lineup for 2020 mostly carries over, but it does so without the diesel option which has been axed. The base 3.6L V6 still makes 295 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and pairs with an 8-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is, naturally, available, but only standard with V8 options. Speaking of which a 5.7L HEMI V8 still makes 360 ponies. Finally, the SRT Hellcat-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk’s 717-horsepower help it retain the title of one of  the fastest SUVs on the market today and rightfully so – courtesy of a supercharged 6.2L SRT Hellcat V8 mill.

Jeep Grand Cherokee front 3/4 view

What’s Not in the New 2020 Jeep Lineup

03. 2020 Compass

FCA might have doubled the Compass’ sales in 2018 compared to the year before, but the compact SUV is still not in the clear. It’s got a number of issues to iron out before becoming a legitimate threat to its numerous competitors.

The Jeep Compass boasts a more upscale cabin than most of its rivals and it’s relatively affordable considering it’s a Jeep. Moreover, it’s filled to the brim with the latest technology options, but unlike the standard 7-inch touchscreen display, most of them cost extra. One of its main issues is its poor crash test scores. The IIHS gave it only a “Good” overall mark but at least optional active safety systems are finally available to order on the base Sport trim. Of course, they’re only optional, but it’s still better than not having them altogether like before.

Not-exactly-enthusiastic handling is another one of the $21,000 entry-level model’s weak points and things don’t improve in the $30,000 Compass Limited with all-wheel drive either. The rugged Trailhawk models are worthy members of the lineup, though.

The Jeep Compass carries over without any significant changes for MY 2020. This means that a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine remains a sole proprietor of motivation for the compact SUV. The engine’s good enough for 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of twist which are figures that won’t raise any eyebrows.

A choice of three transmission options and either front or all-wheel drive is welcome, though. Most models will make do with a 6-speed auto although a 6-speed stick is officially the base gearbox. A modern 9-speed automatic serves as an upscale option, but it’s better to avoid it in this state. The nine-speed is like an old workhorse you have to beat every time you need something from it. It’s highly sluggish when you need it the most – during highway passing, and that’s something Jeep will have to work on.

Jeep Compass front 3/4 view

 

02. 2020 Renegade

The subcompact Renegade is slowly but steadily losing the charm it had upon arrival a few years ago. Most people see it for what it really is now – an impractical, underpowered (yet fuel consuming), and rather spartan (in its base form) crossover SUV.

It’s hard to be tough on the Renegade considering it starts from around $22,000, but you get next to nothing in the base Sport trim. Much as is the case with the aforementioned Compass, all active safety features are higher-tier options which can raise the subcompact’s prices considerably.

However, Jeep’s smallest SUV sports an upscale cabin compared to its numerous competitors, and it doesn’t let its namesake down when it comes to off-road capabilities. It’s actually one of the best-in-class off-roaders – especially in the dedicated 4×4 Trailhawk trim which requires around $28,000 at the very least.

Unlike the slightly larger Compass, the Renegade does offer a choice of engines. The base unit is the same 2.4L normally aspirated four from the Compass. Rated at 180 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque, it suffers from similar woes thanks to its 9-speed automatic partner.

An optional 1.4L turbo four and a 6-speed manual transmission have been axed for MY 2019 and 2020-year models also remain deprived of their services. Instead, the FCA has offered an even smaller 1.3L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine which also relies on the troublesome ZF automatic.

Both front and all-wheel drive are available across most of the range except in Upland and Trailhawk grades where the latter is mandatory. The Jeep Renegade doesn’t exactly excel when it comes to performance, but it has its advantages. Few, true, but they’re there for all potential buyers willing to jump in on them.

Jeep Renegade front 3/4 view

 

01. 2020 Cherokee

The Jeep Cherokee’s sales are on the rise, as mentioned in the intro, but that won’t last for long if FCA doesn’t do something about its shortcomings. The KL Cherokee isn’t that old, having debuted for MY 2014 and already undergone a mid-cycle refresh, but there are precious few years left in its life cycle now. Especially looking from the 2020-year model’s perspective.

What’s more, the compact SUV doesn’t boast particularly good value for money having been hampered by poor fuel economy, sub-par cargo volume, not-great crash test scores, etc. Unlike its smaller Renegade and Compass siblings, however, the Cherokee does offer a number of advanced safety features from the get-go and even more of them as options. It also sports a standard 7-inch infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration alongside a generally more upscale cabin feel.

Like any Jeep, the Cherokee too, boasts superlative off-road credibility, but it’ll never be a true off-roader. The base versions start from around $26,000, whereas the range-topping Overland and Trailhawk Elite models warrant close to $37,500.

The compact SUV offers three distinctive engines to choose from which is always a plus – especially in its class. The base engine is the anemic 180-horsepower 2.4L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder which motivates the aforementioned Renegade and Compass too.

Those in need of more power will gladly opt for a 3.2L V6 capable of putting up 271 hp and 239 lb-ft of torque, while those in need of power and so-so efficiency will be glad to know that a new 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder is also in the mix as of 2019. The last engine cranks up 270 ponies and 295 lb-ft of rotational force, but it can’t be had with the entry-level Latitude grade.

Sadly, they’re all paired with a problematic 9-speed ZF automatic transmission which isn’t exactly a champion when it comes to smooth transitions. The Jeep Cherokee definitely has more upsides than downsides, but it’s still probably better to skip on one this late in its life cycle.

 

Jeep Cherokee front 3/4 view







Nikola Potrebić
About Nikola Potrebić

Despite driving a piece of junk, Nikola still manages to survive the harrowing experience called "A road trip in a Yugo," day in, day out. On the other hand, precious few things move him as muscle cars do. Especially those from the bygone golden era, which makes him wonder why wasn't he born a few decades earlier? Well, at least he's been given the opportunity to enjoy the likes of the Pontiak Aztek, Chrysler PT Cruiser, Fiat Multipla, and other lovely millennials, right? Come to think of it, I'll stick with my Yugo. Thank you very much!