The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe is finally starting to hit dealer lots, and we finally got behind the wheel of one, after the media first drive event being rescheduled three times due to the pandemic. The event was held in and around Austin, TX, with the surrounding hill country offering up some impressive off-road terrain to properly test the 4Xe’s capabilities. We’ll start by saying that this first Jeep to ever be able to be propelled by all-electric power has earned its Trail Rated Badge and offers up impressive performance.
Besides some electric-blue accents, 4Xe badging, a charge port, and some revised gauges you’d never know this Wrangler was the hybrid 4Xe at first glance. This is more than a standard Wrangler in almost all ways, so let’s dive into what we learned from our first outing in the hybrid Jeep Wrangler 4Xe.
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe Review
There are two things that make the Wrangler 4Xe super interesting. One is the more power. Two is the electrified driving experience without the range anxiety.
Under the hood of the 4Xe, you’ll find the same 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo gas engine found in the base model Wrangler, backed by pretty much the same 8-speed automatic transmission (internals have been revised to accommodate the electric drivetrain). In the Wrangler 4Xe you also get 2-electric motors, one on the side of the engine and one in the transmission bell housing, and a 400W 17KwH battery under the rear seats.
This drivetrain puts down an impressive 375 hp and even more impressive 470 lb.-ft. of torque. That is about 100 hp less than the new Hemi V8 and 100 hp more than the Pentastar V6. It is even more torque (28 lb.-ft. more) than the diesel option offers.
This hybrid powertrain provides a 10-percent-plus better power to weight ratio in the Wrangler, even with 500 to 700-pounds more weight on board. What that equates to is 0-60 mph in just 6-seconds. Maybe more importantly, it pulls hard on the highway when passing, to well north of 80 mph. Off-road you instantly feel the extra torque, which helps pull the Wrangler up over and through any obstacle you might encounter.
Hybrid Drive: No Range Anxiety
The 2021 Wrangler 4Xe has an advertised 21-mile all-electric range – and we got a few better than that when driving around the city streets of Austin. The Jeep engineers said that you can expect to rock crawl for “3 to 4 hours on electric.” That is plenty of time to have a good time and travel technical off-road terrain in near silence. A unique experience to be sure, and one that should allow you to spot a bit more wildlife than normal.
Over the 207.4 miles that I drove the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe Rubicon I saw 17.6 MPG. That was with lots of highway driving with a headwind, some off-road action, and my extremely heavy right foot. The Wrangler 4Xe is EPA rated for 49 MPGe.
It takes 12.5-hours on a level 1 charger and 2.5-hours on a level 2 charger to top off the 4Xe’s battery pack. The key with this electrified Jeep though is that you can just pull up to a pump and refuel with dino juice. More importantly for backcountry travel, you can bring spare fuel with you and not worry about running out of electrons when exploring way off the grid.
Jeep Electric Driving Experience
The Jeep Wrangler 4Xe offers 3 drive modes; Hybrid, Electric, and eSave. Hybrid is the default and prioritizes optimal efficiency for the least expensive driving experience. The Electric mode prioritizes all-electric drive, but does call on the gas motor when you demand hard acceleration. In eSave mode the Wrangler 4Xe prioritizes the use of the gas engine, saving the electrons for later. This allows you to show up to your favorite trailhead and switch to Electric mode when off-road, for a near-silent and near one-foot driving experience.
At under about 20 mph the 4Xe does produce a unique electric sound that it amplifies, specifically to alert pedestrians around you that the Jeep is moving.
Very few plug-in-hybrid vehicles (PHEV) offer a one-pedal driving experience, something common on EVs, but the 4Xe does. Jeep doesn’t call it “one-pedal-driving” because the Wrangler still requires you to put your foot on the brake to come to a complete stop, but in all other ways, it is a one-pedal driving experience. This is a really cool feature for off-road travel. There is a blue “Max Regen” button on the center stack that must be pressed to get this one-pedal experience, and it also maximizes regenerative braking to extend your EV range and power.
Do note that when you have Max Regen selected, or are just in Electric mode, the accelerator pedal will have a lot of resistance. I found this to be a bit fatiguing actually, as you have to keep the pedal depressed to keep the vehicle moving, only getting a break at stops. I found the resistance noticeably more than other EVs that I’ve driven. One cool feature of this when in Electric drive mode is that there is a point in the pedal where you feel a lot more resistance. If you push past that point the gas engine kicks on to provide you with the power you’re requesting.
You can feel the extra weight (500-800 pounds) of the electric drivetrain when braking, but rarely in other scenarios. Luckily the 4Xe has upgraded brakes, with the rears coming from the Gladiator, so it stops well.
It’s Still A Jeep Wrangler
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4Xe comes in three flavors; Sahara, Rubicon, and High Altitude. Sahara is the base model, Rubicon is the off-road-focused model, and High Altitude is the luxury on-road-focused model, just like in the standard Wrangler.
Possibly the best part of the 4Xe is how much of the Wrangler DNA remains the same. You still get a 30-inch water fording depth, about 1,110-pound payload limit, and a 3,500-pound towing capacity.
The interior cargo volume of the Wrangler has also mostly been retained. The battery pack is located under the rear seats. This makes the seats fold a bit differently and not provide a complete lay-flat cargo floor all the way to the front seats like the standard Wrangler. In most applications this won’t be an issue, but for some overland accessories and sleeping systems this might be problematic.
As you’d expect, all this new electric tech adds quite a lot to the sticker price. Expect to pay $50-$60,000 for a Jeep Wrangler 4Xe. The Sahara 4Xe starts at $47,995, the Rubicon 4Xe at $51,695, and the High Altitude 4Xe at $53,570 (plus $1,495 destination charge). Those numbers do not reflect any tax rebate that you might be eligible for in your state. All in all, you can expect to pay $4-$8,000 more for a 4Xe than a comparable equipped Wrangler, but you have to note that the 4Xe comes standard with optional equipment like the larger infotainment screen, HD axels, LED headlamps, etc…
Jeep Wrangler 4Xe Conclusions
After over 3.2-million-validation-miles the 4Xe is finally ready for the masses. Jeep made sure that this latest Wrangler, and first electrified Jeep, lived up to the Trail Rated badge that it wears proudly. A 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty on the Wrangler 4Xe tells you how confident Jeep is in this vehicle.
Every Jeep in the lineup, not just the Wrangler, will soon be electrified. Expect more hybrid 4Xe varients soon, with all-electric models sure to follow in the not-so-distant future (much like the Magneto EJS concept).
To support these EV efforts Jeep has partnered with Electrify America to create Jeep branded on- and-off-grid charging stations that will be placed at over 60 Jeep Badge of Honor trailheads. First up this spring will be level 2 chargers in Moab, Big Bear, and on the Rubicon Trail.
As a final note, and something I’ve said many times; please Jeep, pretty please, include a dead-pedal in the Wrangler! The 4Xe, along with all other Wrangler JL before them, have no comfortable place to rest your left foot when driving. I find this to be super annoying, but something that can be rectified with an aftermarket part from a variety of companies.