What 4xe means to the Jeep Wrangler.
The electric vehicle revolution continues apace, with scores of new models available or planned. Most of the upcoming vehicles are based on new electric-dedicated platforms. But some are not, with the manufacturers choosing to electrify what they have.
A case in point is the Jeep Wrangler, the venerable four-wheel-drive model that builds on an 80-year history of off-road prowess. Beginning in 2021, the first plug-in hybrid electric Jeep Wrangler enters the fray. This model retains all the off-road moxie of the traditional model while adding an element of electrification not seen before.
Since we have covered the most recent Jeep extensively here and here, this review will drill down on the PHEV model. In any case, Jeep offers the 2021 Wrangler in two- and four-door body styles, the latter adding 20 inches between the wheels. Further, the four-door is sometimes referenced as the Wrangler Unlimited.
The two-door Wrangler is priced from $29,070, while the Wrangler Unlimited starts at $32,570. Add $1,495 for the freight cost. As for the electrified 4xe, this one comes with four doors and is available in three trims. The 4xe starts at $51,025 and reaches $56,845.There is a near-$12,000 price premium over the standard model. However, on the top two trims, the difference is significantly less. Moreover, a $7,500 federal tax credit eases some of the burdens of shouldering the extra cost.
Highlights of the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe
Jeep made a big move by adding a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle model to the Wrangler line, specifically to the four-door Wrangler Unlimited. This is the first battery-powered Jeep model. That it went to its off-road kingpin demonstrates Jeep’s seriousness about environmental responsibility.
Quite easily, Jeep could have chosen the Renegade or Compass to begin its mission, but instead, they chose the burliest model of all. Further, Jeep is supporting its quest by building electric charging stations at key trailheads across the United States (in cooperation with Electrify America who is supplying Level 2 connections). Thus, savvy trail stompers can extend their all-electric time by simply recharging when taking a break.
Here is what you need to know about the 4xe:
Few PHEVs deliver a stellar range. That’s not their mission. Instead, the current crop of models typically delivers anywhere from 17 to 50 miles of electric power, depending on the size of the battery. For the Wrangler Unlimited 4xe, the range is 25 miles. This means drivers can choose all-electric power until the battery runs out or let it switch naturally between the gas engine and the battery or both. Jeep even makes it possible to conserve the battery’s use until later. It is all on the driver to decide when best to utilize the electricity.
Dedicated PHEV System
This Wrangler is the second PHEV from Fiat Chrysler, which is now part of Stellantis. Jeep could have gone with the system motivating the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, but they did not. Instead, under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 270 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Two electric motors are added with one replacing the starter/alternator and the other into the 8-speed automatic transmission. Thus, the second motor replaces the torque converter for improved low-end grunt.
With the full system engaged, the 4xe makes a whopping 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. That’s a significant amount of power at the driver’s disposal. In addition, this Jeep features various transmission models as well as full-time 4Hi, part-time 4Hi, and 4-lo.
Making a Connection
Related to the performance quotient is how the Wrangler Unlimited 4xe replenishes power.
First, the EV system generates power from regenerative braking as well as from the gas motor. That’s not enough to replenish completely, but it is one of the ways the 4xe draws electricity.
Second, a plug-in port located on the front driver’s side of the vehicle above the wheel well and near the mirror connects either to your home power outlet or to a 220-volt outlet. The first one takes 12 hours to top off, while the second one gets it done in about 2.5 hours.
Unfortunately, the 4xe cannot connect to some of the new charging stations appearing across the country. Instead, an upgraded home connection or a Level 2 public charging port at your local library or parking garage may suffice. We tried our local Electrify America stations and quickly learned we needed to connect elsewhere. And why is that? Because these advanced networks are engineered for full battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) only.
Power and Versatility Preserved
The Wrangler Unlimited 4xe keeps the power going while remaining highly versatile. This vehicle can pull up to 3,500 pounds. It can also navigate streams up to 30 inches deep.
Importantly, the 4xe has an approach angle of 44 degrees, a breakover angle of 22.5 degrees, and a departure angle of 35.6 degrees. These are robust numbers and the reason why all three 4xe trims wear a Trail-Rated badge.
Rugged Looking as Ever
Some hear the word “electric” and immediately begin thinking about the Toyota Prius or some other nondescript model. Admittedly, the initial crop of EVs was nothing to brag about style-wise.
We are fortunate that Jeep stuck with the boxy Wrangler theme and retained all the features we like, including the removable parts. The roof, doors, and windshield come off or dropdown. The trademark over fenders remains. The instantly recognizable seven-slat grille dominates the front fascia. The squared-off rear includes a door that’s hardly large enough to squeeze items inside. Nevertheless, the 4xe loses nothing in the translation to electric. So, shelve those fears and explore the EV side of the Wrangler.
Inside, the utilitarian theme of the Wrangler is on display in all its glory. The Wrangler hearkens to another era where rugged good looks, wipeable plastic surfaces, and washout floors remain common. However, with far more electronic equipment included, minding a loose hose is required. Cloth seats are standard, but leather is available.
The Wrangler Unlimited comes with a three-place rear seat. It is a sharp improvement over the two seats in the standard Wrangler which are about as comfortable as jump seats in some other models. With the 4xe, the lithium-ion battery pack is under the rear seat. That means no passenger or storage space is sacrificed to accommodate it.
Tech and Safety Features
Jeep equips the 4xe with a full range of tech features. An Alpine Premium Audio System is standard and comes with HD Radio and satellite radio. An 8.4-inch touchscreen display, Wi-Fi hotspot, USB ports, navigation, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are included.
On the safety front, Jeep includes such features as electronic roll mitigation and electronic stability control. Hill-start assist, traction control, and trailer sway damping is standard. On the top High Altitude trim, Jeep includes blind-spot and cross-path detection. Also, a rear parking assist system.
Road and Trail
No Wrangler supplies a comfortable ride or decent steering. Our Rubicon test model made things worse, by contributing to wobbly steering, which is already a Jeep matter. Nevertheless, the Sahara model comes with 20-inch tires and would by reason make a better on-road performer.
But the Wrangler is not made for the road. Sure, you can scoot down the highway with the best of them and find this SUV is fast and strong. But it is when you take the Jeep off-road where it begins to show its power.
You can leave the Wrangler in 2WD for long stretches of off-roading. Only when the terrain becomes bumpy or otherwise uncertain, is a switch to 4Hi warranted. Even then, going part-time may be enough. Only switch to full-time once you are ready to do some serious climbing.
There is not another SUV that imbues the level of confidence of a Jeep Wrangler. We have taken it to some very challenging places, including Uwharrie National Forest and its multi-grade off-road trails. Closer to home, there are enough off-road trails and gravel paths to play with. What we noticed with the 4xe is that it matches the gas models in all things versatility.
The difference between the 4xe and the gas models is apparent the moment you step on the accelerator. Immediately, a generous amount of power kicks in. Further, when operated solely in electric mode, there is no lack of power to move up, over, and down hills. Not only did Jeep ensure the 4xe is capable, but it has more power on tap than the gas models.
You can expect at least three hours of driving time with the battery pack supplying full power when off-roading. In the process, you will save about a gallon of gasoline and that adds up for the serious off-road enthusiast.
The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 4xe does not come cheaply. That said, eligible buyers will find a $7,500 tax credit to help defray some of its cost. In some states, such as California, local incentives are also available.
With a $5,000 spread between models, the decision on which 4xe to choose. You might also consider a few options, such as a hardtop roof ($2,495) and adaptive cruise control ($795). You will also pay $295 for any exterior color that is not white. Optional leather seats, a steel bumper group, and body-color fender flares drove our test model’s final price to a jaw-dropping $62,660.
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