2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: First Drive Review

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content Experience2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe
Already the most recognized vehicle in the Jeep lineup, Wrangler now becomes one of the most technologically advanced models with the addition of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid. Losing none of Wrangler’s legendary off-road capability, the 4xe conquers the toughest terrain in full-electric mode. And the Jeep Wrangler 4xe can still trace its lineage back to the World War II U.S. military vehicle that originated the Jeep name.

© Stellantis North AmericaModel Lineup
The current-generation Wrangler debuted as a 2018 model — the first redesign in 10 years — and is offered in five main trim levels with a number of additional packages. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe arrives in three trim choices: the well-equipped Sahara, the most off-road-capable Rubicon and the top-tier trim added last year, High Altitude. On sale now, the Wrangler 4xe Sahara has a starting MSRP of $47,995, the Rubicon starts at $51,695 and the High Altitude at $53,570. Prices do not include a destination charge of $1,495 or available federal or state tax credits.

© Stellantis North AmericaUnder the Hood
The heart of the Wrangler 4xe is a high-tech hybrid powertrain that combines two electric motors with a turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline engine for total system output of 375 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. Power output for the 2.0-liter engine alone is 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. All that power gets delivered through an 8-speed automatic transmission and standard full-time 4-wheel drive. According to Jeep, the Wrangler 4xe will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. The Wrangler 4xe receives an EPA rating of 49 MPGe when operating in electric mode, and has a full-electric range of 21 miles.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceTwo Electric Motors
A high-voltage eTorque generator / motor at the front of the Wrangler engine produces 44 horsepower and 39 lb-ft of torque, replacing a conventional alternator and starter motor. This motor connects to the driveshaft and spins the engine quickly and seamlessly for smooth start/stop operation while also generating electricity for the battery pack. A second motor / generator integrates with the automatic transmission and produces 134 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Depending on the needs of the powertrain, the gas engine can be completely disengaged so only the electric motor is sending power to the wheels. Alternatively, the engine can re-engage to allow power from both the gas engine and electric motor to flow through the transmission.

© Stellantis North AmericaBattery Pack
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe features a 400-volt 17-kWh 96-cell lithium-ion battery pack that uses nickel manganese cobalt graphite chemistry. The pack and system controls are mounted underneath the second-row seat, which has been redesigned so the bottom cushion flips forward to allow battery access. The battery pack has an aluminum housing with dedicated heating and cooling to keep the battery at prime temperatures for optimum performance.

© Stellantis North AmericaCharging System
The Wrangler 4xe charging system includes an Integrated Dual Charging Module that combines a battery charger and a DC-DC converter in a compact unit, along with a next-generation Power Inverter Module — both get mounted below the battery pack in a protective steel structure. The high-voltage electronics — including the wiring from the battery pack to the electric motors — are sealed and waterproof so the Wrangler 4xe is capable of traversing up to 30 inches of water. The electric charge port is located on the left-front fender, and an LED battery-level monitor on top of the dash is visible from outside the vehicle to provide charge status.

© Stellantis North AmericaWrangler 4xe E Select Modes
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe offers three E Select modes: Hybrid, Electric and eSave. The default Hybrid mode combines power from the 2.0-liter engine and the electric motor and uses battery power first, then adds the 2.0-liter engine after the battery charge has been depleted, or when extra power is needed. In Electric mode, the 4xe will operate with electric power only until the battery is depleted, but will still engage the 2.0-liter engine when the driver requests more power by pushing on the accelerator. In eSave the 4xe will use power from the 2.0-liter engine to save battery charge for later use. The driver can use the Hybrid Electric Pages in the Uconnect infotainment system to choose between Battery Save or Battery Charge in eSave mode.

© Stellantis North AmericaRegenerative Braking
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe features regenerative braking that captures electricity to charge the battery. The driver can also select Max Regen for more aggressive regenerative braking, which generates more electricity that engages during diminished accelerator input from the driver.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceFull-Time 4-Wheel Drive
The Jeep Trail Rated Wrangler 4xe features solid front and rear axles, full-time 4-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case, fully articulating suspension and the ability to traverse 30 inches of water. The standard transfer case for Wrangler 4xe Sahara and High Altitude is the Selec-Trac, which includes 2WD High, 4WD Auto, 4WD High and 4WD Low with a 2.72:1 low-range gear ratio. A Trac-Lok limited-slip rear differential is optional. Wrangler Rubicon adds a Rock-Trac transfer case with a 4.0:1 low-range gear ratio.

© Stellantis North AmericaWrangler 4xe Rubicon
In addition to the Rock-Trac transfer case, Wrangler 4xe Rubicon adds additional equipment to create this most off-road-capable variant, including front and rear next-generation Dana 44 axles, Tru-Lok electric locking front and rear differentials. Rubicon also features a front-axle electronic-sway-bar disconnect for improved articulation and suspension travel in extreme off-road conditions, higher two-piece fender flares and standard 17-inch wheels with BFGoodrich K02 33-inch off-road tires.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceWrangler 4xe Electric Blue
All Wrangler 4xe models will be built in 4-door Wrangler Unlimited configuration, distinguished by Electric Blue tow hooks, exterior accents and badges, as well as Electric Blue stitching on the seats and trim. Standard equipment for Wrangler 4xe Sahara includes leather seats, 20-inch wheels and an 8.4-inch Uconnect infotainment system.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceWrangler 4xe High Altitude
Wrangler 4xe is also offered in the luxurious High Altitude trim with exterior body-color elements including the hardtop, fenders, door handles and bumpers; matte black running boards with integrated steps; and 20-inch gloss black aluminum wheels and a matte black Trail Rated badge. Full LED lighting includes headlights, running lights, fog lights, accent lights and taillights. Inside, the High Altitude Wrangler gets full leather trim on the dashboard, center console and door panels, as well as quilted Nappa leather seats.

© Stellantis North AmericaOpen-Top Options
As with all Wrangler variants, open-top options are offered for the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe as well. A Sunrider soft-top is standard equipment for Sahara and Rubicon, as well as an optional 3-piece hardtop. A body-color 3-piece hardtop is standard for High Altitude and also available for Sahara and Rubicon. The final option for all three is a Sky One-Touch power top with a power-retractable full-length canvas top and removable rear quarter windows.

© Stellantis North AmericaJeep 4xe Charging Network
In March Jeep announced it will establish the Jeep 4xe Charging Network by installing EV Level 2 charging stations at Jeep Badge of Honor off-road trailheads around the United States. Moab, Utah, Rubicon Trail and Big Bear will be the first locations to receive Jeep 4xe Charging Network stations, scheduled to open this spring. The Jeep 4xe Charging Network is operated by Electrify America and Jeep 4xe owners will receive free charging through a custom mobile app. Jeep 4xe charging stations will either be connected to the grid or use solar power to generate electricity.

© Stellantis North AmericaOn the Road
We have driven the Jeep Wrangler many times, including at the launch of the redesigned 2018 model. Climbing into the Wrangler 4xe is familiar and comfortable, although after pushing the Start button and selecting Drive the experience changes completely as the 4xe smoothly accelerates away in near silence with a hint of pedestrian warning noise. Granted, most electric vehicles have plenty of torque at launch, although we were surprised by how aggressively we could accelerate yet keep the 4xe in electric-only mode. With other hybrids it takes more effort to stay in electric mode under hard acceleration.

© Stellantis North AmericaElectric Range
Despite testing the 4xe’s launch prowess with numerous brisk starts and aggressive acceleration under various conditions, this electric Wrangler still achieved 18.5 miles of electric range during our drive. With a bit of intentional conservation, drivers could likely get more than 20 miles of electric-only use, which for many would translate to enough range to cover their daily commutes.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceOn the Road
Although the latest-gen Wrangler is certainly the most refined model yet, once the 4xe gets up to highway speeds there’s no denying that some on-road comfort gets sacrificed for the sake of off-road prowess. For example, the 4xe Rubicon with its 33-inch BFGoodrich KO2 tires and tall sidewalls simply cannot provide the steering response and cornering ability that drivers enjoy in most of today’s carlike crossovers and SUVs. Yet considering its exceptional off-road capabilities, the Wrangler 4xe Rubicon retains decent handling on the road — it’s simply a matter of priorities.

© Stellantis North AmericaWrangler 4xe High Altitude
A recent press trip for the Wrangler 4xe was our first opportunity to experience the new level of luxury offered by the High Altitude trim, including the quilted leather seats; leather trimmed dash, center console and door panels; and the Sky One-Touch power top. The interior possesses a luxurious feeling unexpected in a Wrangler, and with the hardtop, 20-inch wheels and lower profile all-season tires the ride is quieter and smoother than Rubicon. The wheel and tire package also improves steering feedback and responsiveness on the highway.

© Stellantis North AmericaElectric Off-Roading
The Wrangler 4xe is a lot of fun on the street thanks to its smooth, powerful acceleration, although it’s no surprise that it really shines after leaving the pavement. We left Austin, Texas, and drove through Hill Country before going off-pavement to reach our final destination at Inks Ranch in Llano. Featuring some of the most challenging terrain in Texas, the off-road portion of our drive included dirt trails, several deep water crossings and some seriously technical rock crawling — with coaching from expert spotters.

© Stellantis North AmericaElectric Off-Roading
Using the best tools for the job, we put the Wrangler 4xe Rubicon in Low range with the sway bar disconnected and both front and rear differentials locked, and the 4xe literally crawled up rocks — completely under electric power. Since the 4xe is almost silent, it’s much easier to hear the BFGoodrich KO2 tires scratching and clawing up rock faces thanks to the Jeep’s amazing torque. Our trip included some of the most technical rock crawling we have ever done, and the Wrangler 4xe proved to be equally as capable as its gasoline- or diesel-powered siblings.

© Mike Meredith, Automotive Content ExperienceRight for You?
The 2021 4xe expands the Wrangler lineup with a more fuel-efficient option that also possesses the ability to operate in all-electric mode — both on- and off-road. Add in three great trim levels — high-level Sahara, off-road-capable Rubicon and swanky High Altitude — and another chapter of unique Wrangler history begins. For adventurers seeking Wrangler capability with electric efficiency, the plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe is a one-of-a-kind option.

© Stellantis North AmericaRating: 8.5
Pros: Fun vehicle; smooth power; reasonable electric range; off-road capable.
Cons: Price of entry fairly high; no base trim level; lack of rear wiper with soft-top.
Bottom Line: Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid variant has electric-only range yet retains legendary off-road capability.

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