The Jeep brand built a strong reputation on the off-road capabilities of its SUVs, especially the legendary Wrangler. Today the company takes Wrangler to new heights: heading off-road in complete silence with the first plug-in hybrid Wrangler 4xe. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe will not only offer electric-only operation, it boasts the most potent powertrain in the Wrangler lineup. Most importantly, the 4xe has the same off-road capability as its non-electric siblings.
The Wrangler 4xe’s high-tech powertrain features a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gas engine and two electric motors for a combined output of 375 horsepower and an impressive 470 lb-ft of torque. Not only is this powertrain the most efficient in the Wrangler lineup, it also offers considerably more power than Wrangler’s standard V6 engine. Although EPA fuel-economy ratings have not been released, Jeep estimates the Wrangler 4xe will deliver 50 MPGe when operating in electric mode, with an electric-only range of about 25 miles.
Two Electric Motors
A high-voltage motor at the front of the engine replaces 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 replaces a traditional torque converter in the automatic transmission. 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.
At the heart of this electrified Jeep is a 400-volt 17-kWh nickel manganese cobalt battery pack consisting of 96 lithium-ion cells. To protect the batteries without impinging on the Jeep’s off-roading prowess, the pack gets mounted beneath the rear seat to protect it from the elements. Engineers redesigned the seat to create space for the batteries, and the seat bottom flips up for access.
Warm and Dry
The Li-NMC battery pack is mounted in an aluminum housing fitted with a dedicated heating and cooling system to keep the batteries at optimum operating temperature. All high-voltage electronics that connect the battery to the powertrain are sealed and waterproof, ensuring that Wrangler can still ford up to 30 inches of water without danger any of a short circuit.
Plug It In
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe features an electric charge port in the left-front cowl for easy access to a charge source. Charging at a standard 110-volt home outlet will take 10 to 12 hours for a full charge, while a Level 2 charger will complete the task in a few hours. LED lights on the port indicate charge status, and a battery-level monitor on the dashboard makes it easy to check levels.
As with most hybrid powertrains, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe uses energy recovered during braking to recharge the batteries. When 4WD is engaged, all four wheels provide torque to the regen system. The driver can also select a Max Regen option that enables one-pedal operation – lifting off the throttle applies the regenerative brakes automatically, slowing the vehicle without the driver having to apply the brake pedal.
Off-Roading in Silence
The electric motor integrated within the Wrangler’s 4WD powertrain makes it possible to take advantage of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe’s off-road capability in full electric mode. Heading down (or up) a trail with the Jeep’s roof and doors off and no engine noise will be a weird, new off-roading experience. An additional benefit is the instant torque that comes from an electric motor, allowing for better control when climbing or crawling.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe has three drive modes depending on need. The default Hybrid Mode uses the electric motor first and adds in the internal combustion engine as needed. Electric Mode keeps the Jeep running on the electric motor alone until the battery drops to its minimum charge level. The engine will start automatically in Electric Mode if the Jeep requires more torque. In eSave Mode the Wrangler 4xe’s 2.0-liter engine operates on its own in case the driver wants to conserve battery power for later use.
Overall the Wrangler 4xe carries the same styling as its non-electrified sibling; however, there are a few cues that call out this new fuel-efficient model. Jeep designers employed an Electric Blue trim throughout the exterior, with this eye-catching color found on the Trail Rated badge, Jeep badges, tow hooks and other trim highlights.
Jeep always likes to include “Easter eggs” throughout the vehicle, and the 4xe will include some unique placements, such as a small blue Jeep on the Rubicon wheel.
Inside, the Wrangler 4xe doesn’t change much from the traditional model. The LED charge indicator on top of the dashboard is one telltale sign that it is the hybrid, and in some trim levels blue stitching adds a nice touch. With the batteries tucked under the rear seat interior space remains virtually unchanged.
Arriving Next Spring
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe will arrive this spring and be available in three trim levels: 4xe, Sahara 4xe and Rubicon 4xe. The Wrangler 4xe and Sahara 4xe come with a full-time 4WD system with Select-Trac 2-speed transfer case and front and rear next-generation Dana 44 axles. The Rubicon 4xe upgrades with Jeep’s Rock-Track 4WD system, a 4:1 low-range gear ratio as well as Tru-Lok electric front- and rear-axle lockers. All remain Trail Rated with the off-road capability expected of a Wrangler. The Wrangler 4xe, built in the Toledo Assembly Complex in Toledo, Ohio, will be sold in Europe, China and the U.S. starting next spring.
More to Come
Jeep has plans to offer an electrified version of every model in its lineup within the next few years, all wearing the new 4xe badge. The Jeep Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe are slated to go on sale in Europe this summer. “Our Jeep 4xe vehicles will be the most efficient, responsible and capable that the brand has ever created,” said Christian Meunier, global president of the Jeep brand for FCA. “We are committed to make Jeep the greenest SUV brand. The electrification of the Jeep lineup will allow commuters to travel solely on electric power, delivering an efficient and fun on-road experience and offering an ability to enjoy even more Jeep capability off-road in nearly complete silence,” said Meunier.