With 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque and 22 miles of all-electric range, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid makes quite a first impression, and seems poised to capture the hearts of both hybrid fans and the hardcore, torque-loving Jeep crowd. But is this as impressive from behind the wheel as it is on paper, especially since it’s the first effort from a company that has been hesitant to get on the electrification bandwagon?
To be embraced by the Jeep fanbase, a new model needs to do Wrangler things well, but “Wrangler things” means something different to its various core constituencies. To some, it means cruising with the top down on a sunny day. To others, it’s looking the part of a burly, go-anywhere off-roader. To the hardcore, it’s backing up those looks with unmatched capability and practicality. However, there’s one piece of the Venn diagram where all three of these fanbases overlap: tradition.
The 2021 Wrangler 4xe’s powertrain is anything but traditional, but Jeep found ways to make the experience simultaneously unique and entirely seamless to the existing Wrangler buyer. Unlike the V8-powered Rubicon 392, which is a halo model with halo pricing, the 4xe is available on multiple trims — Sahara, Rubicon and High Altitude. This means that Jeep hopes to sell these in volume, which means the 4xe needs to be as accessible as it is impressive.
At this, Jeep has succeeded. From the outside, only the blue trim elements and charging port on the driver-side fender give away the 4xe’s electrified running gear. The same is true inside, where our Rubicon tester looks virtually indistinguishable from its gasoline- and diesel-powered siblings. Apart from a few strategically placed buttons and a new page in the Uconnect infotainment center, you’d never know the difference.
Everything you need to exploit the 4xe’s plug-in hybrid heart lies at your fingertips. Each of its drive modes — Hybrid (the default), Electric and E-Save — gets a dash button you can reach out and press. One pedal driving? Just one click away. Sure, you set the 4xe’s charging schedule and its E-Save mode has options for maintaining or recharging the 17-kWh battery pack, but even those require virtually no menu-digging. In fact, everything was so intuitively executed that your author never once had to look up how anything worked.
I’ll have an in-depth review of the 2021 Wrangler 4xe in the days to come but for now, come along as I talk you through the basics of 4xe operation.