In the automotive world, some vehicles enjoy popularity that extends beyond simple brand preference. There are festivals and rallies dedicated to them, and even, in the case of Jeep Wrangler, a special wave to acknowledge fellow owners.
Manufacturers who have stewardship of these vehicles have the unenviable task of walking a fine line, evolving them to stay on the cutting edge of technological development and automotive trends, while simultaneously honoring the heritage that has enabled a subculture to emerge. With the Wrangler 4xe (pronounced “four-by-e”), which beat the Toyota Prius Prime for second quarter 2021 U.S. sales, Jeep applies plug-in hybrid technology to its iconic off-roader.
This new iteration of the Wrangler comes in three trims—Sahara, Rubicon and High Altitude—that combine the capabilities Jeep enthusiasts expect when the pavement ends with efficiency and performance that rival that of any Wrangler in the brand’s nearly 80-year history. Traveling up to 25 miles on electricity alone from a single charge, the Wrangler 4xe achieves an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 45 MPGe. With 375-horsepower, it is the second-most powerful Wrangler in the lineup, and has the added advantage of the linear, right-now response of the electric motor, both on road and off.
Visually, the 4xe is instantly recognizable as a Wrangler. Electric Blue coloring on front and rear tow hooks, exterior badging, and interior stitching not only looks sharp, but distinguishes the 4xe from its nonelectrified counterparts. It is available in 10 exterior colors and maintains Wrangler’s renowned ease of customization with a portfolio of more than 300 aftermarket and exclusive parts offerings.
So how does the electrification work, and how does it benefit drivers? Wrangler 4xe has three modes of operation: hybrid, electric and eSave. Hybrid is the default mode, and blends use of the gas and electric engines for maximum efficiency. Electric mode is as it sounds, using only the electric motor for up to 25 miles, while eSave mode will prioritize the gasoline engine, saving the battery for all-electric off-road driving or other later use. If it all seems complicated to manage, Jeep’s Eco Coaching feature lets owners view their history of electric and gasoline usage, see the impact of regenerative braking, and even schedule charging times to take advantage of lower electric rates.
The battery pack and the associated electric apparatus are mounted under the back seat, which not only preserves interior room but also creates a more balanced ride that keeps the Wrangler firmly planted on the road at higher speeds and in varied conditions. Rain, puddles and minor flooding are no match for the Jeep: Like all Wranglers, this one is good in up to 30 inches of water.
The electrification of the Wrangler has not only increased its efficiency, but has also enhanced capability where it matters most: off road. Engage eSave mode while driving to the trailhead, then switch to electric for instantaneous response when scrambling over rocks, conquering boulders or fording creeks. In electric mode, the Wrangler 4xe treads lightly and silently, conserving fuel and allowing occupants to focus solely on the sights and sounds of nature.
The hybrid setup of the 4xe eliminates the range anxiety that might deter people from choosing an electric vehicle. Enjoy a few hours of electric off-roading, then use the gas engine for the commute back to civilization. Additionally, Jeep is partnering with Electrify America to install charging stations (some solar powered) at or near trailheads across the U.S. Over the next few years, Jeep plans to offer electrification options on each of its nameplates; Jeep Renegade 4xe and Compass 4xe began arriving in Europe this summer.
“Our Jeep 4xe vehicles will be the most efficient, responsible and capable that the brand has ever created,” says Christian Meunier, global president of Jeep Brand FCA. “We are committed to make Jeep the greenest SUV brand. The electrification of the Jeep lineup will allow commuters to travel solely on electric power, delivering an efficient and fun on-road experience and offering an ability to enjoy even more Jeep capability off-road in nearly complete silence.”