Jeep Wrangler 4xe — Electrifying performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(September 19, 2021) It's not hard to see that automotive electrification is moving at full speed ahead when even the iconic king of the off-road Jeep Wrangler can now be purchased with an electric motor. Holy Cow! But it's true and it wears the name Jeep Wrangler 4xe. We drove the plug-in hybrid in Rubicon trim for a week and discovered it has substantial on-road performance — and can operate on full electric power for more than 20 miles.


Is this the next big thing for Wrangler fans, or just a nod to the electrification trend that has automakers around the world plowing billions of dollars into all-things electric? We think hard-core Wrangler enthusiasts could have lived quite well without a hybrid choice, but the new 4xe does offer a modicum of frugality and gives the brand an entry point into using a wall-mounted garage plug as the new way of life.

To show that Jeep is serious about electrification, the brand has partnered with Electrify America to create the Jeep 4xe Charging Network that will be built at such trailheads as Moab, Utah; the Rubicon Trail in Pollock Pines, Calif., and Big Bear, Calif. The charging stations will be either directly connected to the power grid or use solar power to generate electricity. Jeep says "Wrangler enthusiasts can explore nature's beauty with zero-emission propulsion that provides instant, trail-conquering torque."

The 4xe has a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine making 270 horsepower plus the hybrid components — including two electric motor/generators and a 17-kWh  lithium-ion battery — that provide a total of 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque, and about 21 miles of all-electric range. The 4xe retains the Wrangler's eight-speed automatic transmission and is available in the top-line Rubicon trim. We didn't go off hard pavement, but it's well documented that the current-generation Wrangler is as off-road capable as anything in the world, and the addition of an electric motor takes nothing away from its primary go-anywhere mission.

If you have a full charge when you leave home it's possible to get 49 MPGe according to the EPA. Note that driving in electric mode comes with depleted power and is probably best left to speeds under 50 mph to get the most benefit. Driving on all electric you're moving a 5,318-pound bulk with just 134 horsepower. That's enough to keep up with traffic, but treating the 4xe as an EV doesn't have the same fun, torque-rich punch associated with electric driving.

During our one attempt at discha
rging the battery we managed 22.3 miles, a bit better than the all-electric rating of 21 miles. The best bet is to use a fully charged Wrangler in hybrid mode and we think after you've experimented with the electric setting a few times, you will get tired of it. But note that if you don't plug-in to keep the battery charged, mileage will drop to around 20 mpg according to the EPA. That's 2 mpg less than a standard turbocharged 4-cylinder, but the blame for that comes from the extra 800 pounds that the 4xe carries.

Your best bet is to get into the habit of plugging in when home — it will take as little as two hours to charge on 240V and about 12 hours on a 110-volt wall outlet. This will give you the best combination of performance and mileage.

When in full hybrid with all 375 horses pulling, the 4xe will reward the driver with the kind of quickness not normally associated with a Wrangler — 0-to-60 in 5.5 seconds with a quarter mile time of 14.1 seconds at 96 mph when set in 4WD Auto. On the practical side, the 4xe carries a 3,500-pound tow rating.

Aside from the hybrid powertrain, the 4xe rolls with the same Trail-rated suspension, steering, brakes, drive axles, wheels, tires, and tough ladder frame as conventionally powered Wranglers. Gas-only 4-cylinder turbo and V6 variants of the Wrangler remain in production, and there’s a soon-to-be introduced 392 V8 performance model.

Inside, a 7-inch touchscreen (an 8.4-inch screen is available) houses the fourth-generation Uconnect system, which now sits atop the center stack and includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Large, functional climate control and audio volume control knobs with media connectivity ports are directly below the touchscreen. There are five USB ports located throughout the cabin.

The Rubicon has low-back bucket seats with premium cloth upholstery, a manually adjustable driver's seat with 6 positions and 12-way lumbar support. There's a 60/40 folding seat in the rear.

The 4xe comes in Sahara and Rubicon trims starting at a rather steep $49,490 for the Sahara and $53,190 for a Rubicon. The 4xe is eligible for the government's $7,500 EV tax credit which will help mitigate the high price of entry. Our Unlimited Rubicon 4xe came with several options including some worthwhile safety equipment bringing the bottom line to $62,660 including a $1,495 destination charge,

The 4xe carries 10-year/100,000-mile hybrid system and battery warranties.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe


Base price: $49,490; as driven, $62,660
Engine: turbocharged 2.0 liter 4-cylinder, 2 electric motors
Horsepower: 375 total
Torque: 470 pound-feet
Transmission: 8-sped automatic
Drive: 4-wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 118.4 inches
Length: 188.4 inches
Curb weight: 5,318 pounds
Turning circle: NA
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
Luggage capacity: 13 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 49 MPGe gas/electric; 20 mpg gas engine
0-60: 5.5 seconds (Car and Driver)

The Good
• Prodigious off-road capability
• Easy soft top operation
• Excellent infotainment system

The Bad
• Sluggish in electric mode

The Ugly
• Poor fuel economy when battery depleted