Jeep has announced that the third-generation 3.0-liter EcoDiesel will be available in the 2021 Gladiator, giving the all-encompassing 4×4 increased fuel economy and a healthy dose of low-end torque. Until now, the 5000-pound mid-size truck has been powered exclusively by the venerable 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6, whose 260 lb-ft of torque has all the urgency of a gentle push; the 442 lb-ft provided by the new EcoDiesel will be a welcome addition for Gladiator owners who stretch the capabilities of their JTs.
Diehard off-roaders will have to accept that the ZF-built 8HP75 eight-speed is the only transmission choice with the EcoDiesel, meaning that dreams of gear-jammin’ your coal-rollin’ Gladiator won’t be fulfilled at the dealership. However, if we’re being honest, the automatic ZF unit is ideal for the diesel’s low-rpm torque and has been recalibrated for the Gladiator’s off-road usage.
The third generation of VM Motori’s 60-degree V-6 diesel engine packs a new variable-geometry turbo along with improved cylinder head porting to produce more torque earlier and help improve fuel economy. Compression has also been dropped half a point to 16:1 thanks to redesigned pistons that utilize thinner rings and a coating on the skirt to reduce friction in the bore. In addition, the wrist pin locations were moved .3-mm off-center to reduce NVH. Of course, a diesel means diesel exhaust fluid, so a 5.1-gallon DEF tank is cuddled up against the fuel tank and topped off at the original filler neck.
Sales of the EcoDiesel Gladiator are expected to start in the third quarter of 2020. Jeep hasn’t announced pricing yet, but, judging from the Wrangler lineup, we expect the EcoDiesel to carry a $5000–$6000 premium over the Gladiator’s base price ($35,040 with destination), putting the compression-ignition wonder around $40K.