Several years ago, who would have ever anticipated the venerable Jeep Wrangler would go electric?
Yet that’s now one option if shopping for a Jeep – one can be purchased as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV).
Introduced back in World War II, the rugged four-wheel drive Jeep could go seemingly anywhere and do anything. Fast forward eight decades later and the Jeep has suddenly become complex.
Easily the most complex of all is the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe (pronounced four-by-e). It would certainly baffle the soldiers who drove the original models perilously during the second world war.
The Wrangler 4xe can travel 22 miles in electric mode and provide the gasoline engine some help when operating in the hybrid setting.
Based in Turin, Italy, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles owns the Jeep brand that has its North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The company decided it was time for Jeep to test the electrified waters, hence making this its first-ever electric vehicle (EV).
This Wrangler 4xe has versatility, creating weekend off-road adventures and during the week serving as an ideal work vehicle for folks with a short commute. It’s a successful first attempt for this signature off-road vehicle that is adapting to an auto industry that’s gradually going green.
Electrification hasn’t dulled the Jeep Wrangler’s off-road capability or performance. Some may claim it’s better than ever. The full-time four-wheel-drive Jeep travels steadfastly over sizable rock outcroppings, can ford water that’s 30 inches deep, and navigates adroitly through sand dunes.
The Wrangler 4xe has a cool exterior look. And like previous Jeeps, it can be stripped down to barebones. The doors and hardtop roof come off by unscrewing several bolts and undoing some harnesses, while the windshield merely folds down.
The 17-kWh lithium-ion battery is a located under the rear seat. Using a 240-volt Level 2 charger will power up the battery in roughly two-plus hours, while a regular 110-volt home outlet takes approximately 12 hours.
It wasn’t that long ago when a Wrangler came with only one engine choice, a V6. Now there are models that have a turbodiesel engine, a four-cylinder and a V8.
The Wrangler 4xe is no slouch in the performance department – it’s fast and quick. The major knock against it is lack of fuel efficiency for a PHEV. Fuel economy is 49 mpge in EV mode and 20 mpg any other time. The gas tank holds 17.2 gallons.
The standard Wrangler has a turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine that is paired with two electric motors (44 horsepower in front; 134 horsepower in back) that combines to generate 375 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque.
The 4xe goes 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and is paired with an eight-speed transmission.
AT A GLANCE – 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe
- Performance: two electric motors, turbocharged 2.0-liter, four-cylinder, 375 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 49 mpge; 20 mpg
- Price estimate: $51,100 to $56,900
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; Drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; Roadside assistance: 5 years/60,000; Corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
A unique quality of the Wrangler 4xe is drivers have control over how the electrification and the gas engine interact. There are buttons to the left of the steering wheel – Hybrid, Electric, and E-Save – that leave the driver with the ultimate driving decision.
Speaking of driving, this version of the Jeep provides a much better ride than past models that were especially unsettling at higher speeds. The Wrangler 4xe is more than suitable for stable every-day driving. It has a transfer case that provides rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and high or low range four-wheel drive.
Overall, the Wrangler 4xe interior stays true to form, meaning there’s no luxury element or refinement. However, there are more soft-touch materials than normal, including leather on the seats and padded upper door panels.
It has one USB port, Bluetooth, and a 5-inch touchscreen that is easy to master. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available only as an option. The battery resides under the rear bench, helping enlarge the cargo space (27.7 cubic feet) in the back. Note that the second row doesn’t come out as far as the Wrangler Unlimited.
The new 2021 Wrangler 4xe is perfectly suited for weekend warriors who have a short commute to work and can best utilize the 22-mile EV range. It’s a good choice for Jeep lovers who are environmentally responsible.
Weidel on Wheels is featured regularly on www.tahoeskiworld.com. Auto writer Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.