Without diminishing the Jeep Wrangler’s off-road chops and keeping up with the automotive industry’s trend towards electrification, the 2021 4XE is the brand’s first ever plug-in hybrid with full-time, four-wheel drive powered by a turbo four-cylinder engine and a 17.3KWH battery pack.
For the environmentalist, it boasts 49 MPGe (miles per gallon gasoline equivalent) and for the off-roader enthusiast 470 ft-lbs. of instant torque via the electric and gas motors plus 375- horsepower muscle.
Like its four-door gas-only sibling, the 4XE is built to wrestle off-road rough terrain and challenge a driver’s skills in negotiating rocks, sand, hills, gravel and snowy trails. Like the gas-motor sibling, the 4XE can shed its doors and roof for a more personal open-air adventure. Ground clearance is 10.8-inches with running boards.
Plug-in hybrid trims are Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4XE (our test drive), Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon 4XE and Wrangler Unlimited Sahara High Altitude 4XE.
Outside, the Wrangler is pure Jeep but a stealth hybrid with minor clues a blue E after MX on the rear door logo, a blue Trail rated badge on the passenger door and a plug-in port in front of the driver’s side mirror, high enough to be protected during rough outdoor ventures.
We had eight options totaling $6,890 but even those didn’t cover essential on road driver safety aids like rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection and lane keeping warning/and or assist.
Crash safety tests haven’t been performed as of October 1st.
The paved ride is firm with minor road imperfections felt while handling is best described as spongy – better for combating off-road perils. We rode on 20-inch wheels graced with all-season tires.
The Jeep Wrangler 4XE averages 23.2 miles combined. A 240-volt charge takes about 2.5 miles and electric only range is Rated a combined 20 mpg – we got 23 mpg – a 240-volt charging station will take about 2.5 hours and electric only range is 22 miles.
There are three drive modes – hybrid, electric only and eSave, which can recharge and preserve a battery charge but must be re-engaged every vehicle restart.
Wrangler excels off-road with tech assists such as two-speed transfer case, Selec-Speed Control for slow speed crawls, locking differentials and powerful responsive torque.
The interior cabin is richly outfitted with leather trim, comfortable rear seats fold for ample cargo space.
Easy to use UConnect occupies an enlarged 8.4-inch pinch-and-zoom touchscreen with navigation, good voice recognition and nine icons to refine deep dive searches. Android Auto and CarPlay and dash USB ports are standard.
At a Glance
LIKES: Rugged looks, mileage, off-road capability, interior comfort, no range anxiety
DISLIKES: Needs safety options, noisy on highway, firm ride
BOTTOM LINE: Keeps up industry trend but remembers its roots
Fact File: 2021 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited SAHARA 4XE
2.0-liter I4, DOHC, turbo, hybrid
470 ft-lbs@5,200 rpm
8-speed automatic, manual shiftable
20 mpg average
0-60 in just under 6 seconds
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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.