“An electric Jeep”. That may have been the butt of a bad joke a decade ago but not anymore. The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a stepping stone to a fully electric off-road experience. So is it a step in the right direction?
Engine – The Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a plug-in hybrid that has a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a couple of electric motors (one between the engine & transmission and one connected by the accessory belt). The total system output is 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque (280 kW & 637 Nm). A very healthy amount that can take the 2,412 kg (5,317 lbs) Jeep to 100 km/h in around 6 seconds. Pretty quick for an off-road focused SUV. Just like many other hybrids, power is instant from the electric motors. When the engine does have to kick in, it’s a smooth transition with plenty of power on tap. It actually has the same torque figure as the V8 powered Wrangler.
The whole point of a hybrid is fuel economy and this Wrangler continues with this trend. It is rated for 4.8 Le/100km (49 MPGe) with the aid of the electric motors. With just the engine, it is rated for 11.6 L/100km (20.3 MPG) in a city and 11.9 L/100km (19.8 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the Jeep 4xe, I averaged 7.5 L/100km (31.4 MPG) on a city/highway combined cycle. Of course this number will vary and depend greatly on how often you can plug it in.
Battery & Charging – Underneath the rear seats is a 17 kWh lithium-Ion battery that has enough juice for a claimed all-electric range of 35 km (22 miles). Not a whole lot but that’s an average distance for current plug-in hybrids. During my time with the Wrangler, I managed to squeeze 36 km out of the battery before the engine had to turn on. This was with A/C running and the drive did involve a few hills which used up more electrical juice than it could recapture when going back down the hill.
The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe has 3 different electric modes; Hybrid, Electric, & E-Save. Hybrid is the default and it’ll run primarily on electricity as often as possible with the engine providing extra oomph under heavier acceleration loads. Electric mode uses only the battery’s power until it runs out. E-Save mode holds the battery’s charge to be used later. In this mode the engine powers the vehicle. You can switch between the battery just holding the charge or the engine also recharging the battery while you drive. Of course that will use up more fuel.
Recharging the Wrangler 4xe from a home wall outlet will take around 13 hours from 0% to 100%. The same charging state can be done in around 3 hours from a level 2 charger.
Transmission – The Jeep 4xe uses an 8-speed automatic transmission to control the power. It doesn’t have a torque converter but is rather mated directly to the electric motor and instead uses clutches to engage and disengage from the engine. The transmission shifts are very smooth whether the engine is running or just driving around on electricity.
Braking – The Wrangler 4xe primarily uses regenerative braking to slow down. By default, the normal regen braking mode feels the same as taking your foot off the throttle pedal in a normal gasoline powered car. But it also has a strong regen braking mode which provides enough braking power to pretty much stop the Wrangler. It’s not quite 100% one-pedal driving because you have to still use the brake pedal for the last little bit to stop. But when the regen braking mode is on its default setting, the combination of regen braking and the physical brakes is good. There’s no discernible difference between the two and it feels like you’re stopping in a normal Jeep.
Handling – On streets & highways, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe feels like a Jeep Wrangler. As in, it requires a lot of sawing away at the steering wheel just to stay in a straight line. This effect gets magnified on highways especially if there’s a light crosswind. There’s nothing wrong with the Jeep, it’s just a characteristic of these unique vehicles. But overall it does drive better than previous generations of the Jeep Wrangler on city streets.
Off the paved roads, the Wrangler 4xe is exactly the same as non-hybrid variants. The only difference being is that if you are going to do some rock crawling, the instant and linear torque from the electric motor can provide you with better control than what a gasoline or diesel engine can provide. This Jeep still has front and rear locking differentials, a disconnecting sway bar, optional steel bumpers, and 33-inch tires to get you through the tough stuff.
Ride Comfort – Overall, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler is much better over bumps and on city streets than it has ever been in the past. But it’s still a ways away from other SUVs. The ride is rough over potholes & manhole covers. As a daily commuter vehicle, it will punish you.
Off the beaten path, the sturdy suspension can take the punishment of the rough roads… or lack of roads. It feels as though you can plow through anything at almost any speed.
Interior Space – The battery for the hybrid system is positioned underneath the rear seats. You can actually see it if you lift up the rear bench portion every time you want to fold the rear seats. As a result of the battery placement, the Wrangler 4xe still has good ground clearance but it looses the under seat storage compartment. It can be a bit of a challenge for shorter individuals to get in or out though.
Front occupants have quite a lot of space. Legroom and headroom is good for tall adults like myself at 6’4”. The rear seats are a bit tighter but my knees don’t feel squashed against the back of the front seats behind my driving position. Head room is good but just be aware of the roof bars if you’re in the back when going off-roading.
IN the trunk, you’ll find 784 L (27.7 cu-ft) of cargo space with the rear seats up. There’s also a little bit of storage underneath the floor for the charging cable and other small items. With the rear seats folded, the Wrangler has 1,908 L (67.4 cu-ft) of cargo capacity.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – With the hybrid powertrain, there isn’t any noise coming from the engine when driving on electricity. But this does make other noises much more evident. Wind and tire noise is abundant inside the Wrangler. When you take the SUV off road, you can hear squeaks coming from the roof as the chassis flexes over rocks and uneven surfaces.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe starts at $54,995 CAD ($51,025 USD) for the base Sahara trim. This is a strategic price (here in Canada) because only vehicles costing less than $55,000 CAD MSRP are eligible for government rebates. This Rubicon trim at $59,995 ($54,725 USD) starting, is not eligible for EV rebates. In the United States, it’s a different story. The Wrangler 4xe is eligible for Government rebates, regardless of trim, and the rebates are bigger. Check your local Jeep dealer for details.
This particular Wrangler 4xe Rubicon had quite a few options on it which raised the price to $74,340 CAD ($69,680 USD). For that amount of money, the Wrangler 4xe comes equipped with leather upholstery, the Sky One-Touch power top which makes the Wrangler feel like a convertible, heated seats & steering wheel, Uconnect 4 infotainment with 8.4-inch touchscreen and navigation, front & rear steel bumpers, forward facing camera, keyless entry with push button & remote start, adaptive cruise control, blind spot sensors, forward collision alert with emergency braking, AUX switches, and LED headlights & taillights to name a few.
Interior Design – The Wrangler 4xe’s interior is almost identical to all other non-hybrid variants of the Wrangler. The only minor differences are the Max Regen braking button next to the Mute radio button, the three buttons for the hybrid powertrain drive modes, and a charge/power gauge instead of a speedometer. Everything else is the same as all other Jeep Wranglers. The design is utilitarian with simple to understand and use controls. Everything is either a button or a knob, no touch sensitive controls. The one-Touch power top lets a lot of light into an otherwise dark cabin and makes the Wrangler feel like a convertible because the top opens all the way to the 2nd row. You can take the roof and doors off and fold down the windshield for the full open air Jeep experience.
Exterior Design – Apart from the 4xe badges, blue tow hooks and emblem highlights, and charge port, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon looks like any other Jeep. It is instantly recognizable.
Warranty – The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km basic and 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. The battery warranty is 10 years or 160,000 km, whichever comes first. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here.
So should you consider the Wrangler 4xe? Well if you’re the type that likes to go on long journeys, the extra cost of the 4xe might not be worth it for the fuel savings. You’ll be driving on the gasoline engine most of the time anyways. However, if you plan to use your Jeep Wrangler as a daily commuter vehicle in the city, then yes it makes much more sense. The 35 – 40 km range is just enough to drive around the city and the 2.5 hours to recharge isn’t that long. Plus if you fancy an off-road adventure, the 4xe is just as capable as any other Jeep Wrangler. At the very least if you’re not sold on the idea of a hybrid Jeep, look at it this way; It’s a Jeep Wrangler with 375 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. That’s got to count for something.
Thank you to Jeep Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Jeep.ca