Think of it as the ultimate in plug ‘n play, a climb-any-mountain Jeep Wrangler that’s an electric plug-in hybrid. Watts not to love?
Here is arguably one of the coolest – or oddest, depending on your viewpoint – niche models on the market today, a Jeep Wrangler with a four-cylinder gas engine, a battery, two electric motors, and a plug. Say hello to the Wrangler Unlimited 4xe.
In Jeep-speak, you pronounce it “four-by-e” just like “four-by-four”, and it’s Jeep showing that it too can do its bit for the environment.
With the 17kWh battery pack under the rear seat fully charged, the 4xe is good for around 21 miles of zero emission, electric-only driving. Perfect for zipping around town or hauling your kayak to the creek.
And when the juice runs out, that 2-liter turbo 4-cylinder under the hood will kick-in and take you, well, anywhere. Range anxiety? Not happenin’ here.
Of course the combo of gas and electric does add an extra quota of fun. Accelerate away from a stoplight and it feels like someone added a can of Red Bull to the tank.
Add the electric horseys to the 270-hp from the gas motor and the combined 375-hp and honking 470 lb-ft of torque makes for swift freeway merging and safe, rapid passing.
And the combo works together so seamlessly, so smoothly you quickly forget you’re driving a hybrid.
But don’t expect the Wrangler 4xe to deliver Prius-levels of miserliness. It won’t. Running on gas only, the EPA rates the Jeep’s combined economy at just 20mpg. Add gas power with electric and and it’s rated at 49 mpge with a range of around 370 miles on a tank.
In a week of real-world driving, my Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4xe tester returned just over 25 to the gallon. That’s about the same as a less pricey V6 turbo-diesel-powered Wrangler.
But the good news is that using a 240-volt 32-amp level 2 charger, the Jeep’s battery pack will go from empty to full in just a couple of hours.
While I never got to venture too far off road, high-torque, right now electric power coupled with a lower center of gravity from the floor-mounted battery pack, makes for excellent mud-plugging or rock climbing.
And with all the regular Wrangler’s Trail-rated 4×4 technology unchanged, this 4xe is still king of the hill. It can still ford up to 30 inches of water, scramble over boulders and crawl up the side of Everest.
Right now, the hybrid tech is only available on the 4-door Wrangler Unlimited with a choice of hardtop or soft top. But to make sure fellow drivers know you’re piloting a hybrid Wrangler, it comes with plenty of electric-blue touches.
Like the blue tow hooks on the front and rear bumpers, blue stripes on the hood, blue Trail Rated badges on the fenders and blue contrast-stitching on the seats.
For me, while it was fun driving an electric-assist Wrangler, enjoying that instant torque and feeling just a little smug piloting a hybrid off-roader, it did feel at times like I was driving a science project.
There’s so much going on here, with the gas motor, the heavy battery pack, the two electric motors, all that 4×4 componentry. And remember, the 4xe weighs up to 700 pounds more than a regular Wrangler equivalent. And it feels it.
Then there’s the non-trivial issue of price. The nicely-loaded Rubicon 4xe I’ve been driving stickered at a whopping $61,690, which is roughly an $11,700 premium over a similarly-equipped V6 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. Of course there are less pricey versions – the 4xe line-up kicks off with the $52,520 4xe Sahara.
Yes, the hybrid Wrangler still qualifies for Uncle Sam’s $7,500 federal EV tax credit, which does offset a chunk of the difference. But it still doesn’t make 4xe ownership the smartest financial sense.
All that said, this quirky Wrangler 4xe does seem to wooing buyers. Right now it’s the best-selling plug-in hybrid in the US.
That’s something to write ohm about.