The Jeep Wrangler Has Found a Whole New Way to be a Leader in the Off-Road Vehicle Segment
Welcome to the start of the 41st season of Motorweek. We’re glad to have you with us. When it comes to old-school vehicles that have changed little over time, the first classic that probably comes to mind is the Jeep Wrangler. So, it’s perhaps the last one you would expect to have an electric charge port. But, we all know things are changing more rapidly these days, and Jeep is fully on board with what battery power can bring to the table, and yes even to the trail!
If there’s one model we thought might never make the transition to battery power it was the Jeep Wrangler. Well, the joke’s on all of us, as Jeep is wasting no time embracing the electrified future with this 2021 Wrangler 4xe, the first of three plug-ins planned for this year.
The main thing to know about this plugin hybrid is that it still drives just like a Wrangler. The biggest difference is it can run almost silently on battery power, not something we’re used to in a rugged utility like this. Now, it’s not as powerful feeling as most full EVs or even some other PHEVs, as the gas engine seems to kick in to help out whenever you go full throttle.
The 4xe is rated for 22-miles of EV only driving and you can select when to use it. We saw as many as 26-miles available on the gauge and got fairly close to achieving that. Once you’ve exhausted those EV miles, hybrid mode transitions from electric to gas are mostly seamless, only really hearing the engine under hard acceleration.
The one noticeable downside to the whole experience is that you can really hear the HVAC system buzzing when driving on strictly battery power.
The 4xe’s 17-kWh battery is located inside the vehicle, packaged beneath the rear seat, leaving cargo space intact, as well as keeping it out of the elements. It feeds energy to a pair of electric motors; one replacing the alternator on the front of the engine, and one integrated into the 8-speed automatic transmission. No manual available with this plug-in powertrain.
The gas engine is Jeep’s 2.0-liter I4 turbo; which when combined with the electric motors, sees the total output jump to a healthy 375-horsepower, with a stout 470 lb-ft. of torque.
So, it was off to Mason Dixon Dragway to see what the 4xe is capable of.
Even though the 2.0-turbo felt a bit laggy off the line, with battery boost, the 4xe is capable of 60 is 6.0-seconds. Indeed, that’s about a second faster than a Wrangler with a gas V6.
The turbo-4 comes into its own at the higher end of the tach, automatic shifts are quick and smooth, and like all Wranglers it tends to wander a bit at high speeds. the ¼-mile; 15.0-seconds at 93 miles-per-hour.
Now, no vehicle designed with off pavement use as a priority, is going to tear up a slalom course; and the copious amounts of body roll and numb steering felt here, had us feeling like we were one bad move away from trouble.
But, having driven plenty of Wranglers over the years, we knew to back off way before approaching that danger zone, and also know there are plenty of safety measures in place these days to keep that from happening as well.
In the transition to PHEV status, there have been no compromises of the Wrangler’s Trail Rated capabilities; 4-wheel-drive with 2-speed transfer case is still standard. Now, Jeep claims the integration of electric power only enhances the Wrangler’s off-road performance.
To find out for ourselves, we made use of the eSave mode while on the pavement, to hit the trail under strictly battery power; allowing us to tread more lightly than ever.
When it comes to OUR muddy Mid-Atlantic, local trail hounds will tell you you’re only as good as your tires; and our Sahara-trimmed tester struggled to find grip at times, but was mostly unstoppable thanks to its Selec-Trac 4-wheel-drive system. So, on we went!
In addition to a charge port at the base of the A-pillar, 4xe Wranglers get special Electric Blue trim; but not much else to set it apart from every other modern Wrangler.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 20–Combined; 49–Combined for the MPGe. Starting off with a full charge, we averaged 31.0 miles-per-gallon on Regular; which beats what we got in the Wrangler EcoDiesel by 2½ miles-per-gallon.
And delivers a much better than average Energy Impact Score of 8.7-barrels of yearly oil use with 3.8-tons of CO2 emissions.
4xes are available exclusively as Unlimited 4-doors in 3 trims; Sahara, High Altitude, and even Rubicon, starting at $51,300 before any government tax incentives.
It only seems fitting for a brand that relies on a vehicle that was designed in the mid- 20th century, would use that vehicle to fully push the brand into the 21st. Is it a full EV? No! Is it a huge step in that direction? Yes. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is the most technically advanced Jeep yet, and a whole new way to be a pioneering off-road leader.
Engine: 2.0L I4 turbo
Torque: 470 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
1/4 Mile: 15.0 seconds @ 93 mph
EV Range: 22 Miles
EPA: 20 Combined (MPG) | 49 Combined (MPGe)