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2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Review: A New Way to Go Off-Road

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Auto123 reviews 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe hybrid SUV.

Decidedly, it’s getting hard to identify segments within the automotive industry NOT now being transformed by the switch to electricity that’s happening right before our eyes.  Once you’re seeing exotic car companies like Ferrari and Lamborghini go green, there’s little doubt which way the wind’s blowing, and no cause to be surprised by anything any longer. Now off-road enthusiasts can also get more in tune with nature.

The first Jeep plug-in hybrid
This Wrangler 4xe becomes the first Jeep with any kind of 100% electric range. The base engine is a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder, familiar to current Wrangler owners. This engine delivers 270 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. To it, Jeep added the battery pack seen in the Pacifica Hybrid, and it adds the equivalent of 134 hp and 181 lb-ft of torque. What you get from all that is a powertrain good for 350 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, and about 35 km of range.

It's worth noting that the format qualifies the model for the $8,000 provincial subsidy in Quebec because the base price is under $60,000; in British Columbia, it's possible to get $1,500 in rebates. On the other hand, you won't get anything from the federal government, which stops giving rebates after $45,000.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, front
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, front

Unique in the genre
Generally speaking, off-roaders aren't the intended customers of hybrid technologies, so it's still uncharted territory for many potential buyers of the 4xe. Our Rubicon tester came equipped like the regular Rubicon. While some will appreciate the truck's green credentials, others may find the 2,200-kg weight to be a handicap that could undermine the model's off-road agility. This may be true in extreme conditions, but our short time behind the wheel was positive and the off-road capabilities are not diminished in any way.

That said, we can’t help but wonder who this vehicle is for. Maybe an electric-vehicle convert who doesn't want to go all electric, but will appreciate the electric range for local trips…

About 12 hours of charging
As a test, we put the Jeep, battery empty, on a single 110-volt charge; the operation took just over 12 hours for 37 km of range. That's a lot of time for not much range, but anyways. More interestingly, Jeep claims an average fuel consumption of 4.7L/100 km. But if you want to get close to that figure, you'll have to plug your Jeep in assiduously and figure that 80 percent of your trips will be on batteries. Our fuel consumption quickly climbed to 11.4L/100 km without the help of batteries.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, charging port
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, charging port

Different driving experience
The massive initial torque provided by the battery pack gives you plenty of low-end oomph, and this Jeep accelerates to 100 km/h in just six seconds. That's a liveliness that's foreign to other Wranglers. The weight of the batteries also adds a sense of poise that is unusual for the model. As a result, this is the most stable Wrangler we've driven on the highway, and that was a nice surprise.

Also, the usually vague steering is precise and the tires that usually tend to roll left and right are firmly planted on the ground. It must be said that the battery also lowers the centre of gravity, which partly explains this better handling, not to mention the front/rear weight distribution, which is practically 50/50.

A la carte driving
However, we have to admit that driving the Wrangler does pose some challenges. You have several drive modes and you also have the option of driving with one pedal to regenerate maximum energy in the batteries. If you choose the hybrid drive mode, the computer determines how to combine the power sources for maximum efficiency. The goal here is fuel economy.

You also have an all-electric mode where only the electric motor is in operation. E-Save mode makes the 4xe work like a hybrid while maintaining the battery's charge. You can also charge the battery in E-Save mode with the gas engine. No matter which mode you use, the battery never runs down.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, profile
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, profile

A genuine off-roader
Those who fear that the model may have lost some of its gumption in the transformation to hybridity can rest assured. This Jeep 4xe Rubicon offers the same features as the gasoline-fed model. The abundant torque provided by the battery even becomes an asset for overcoming obstacles. The Jeep in electric mode is very easy to modulate. We recommend that if you're going to go off-roading, you save your electric power for the trails.

Conclusion
This Jeep is not for everyone. You need to be motivated and curious enough to learn and master all the drive modes available to you on and off the road. Our brief two-day test drive wasn't enough to try everything. You also need to be assiduous about always recharging your vehicle to take advantage of the real fuel economy, because it goes south if you don't plug the Jeep in every day.

Finally, you need a healthy budget. Our test model retailed for $59,995 as an entry price and over $74,000 with on-board options.

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, three-quarters rear
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, three-quarters rear

We like

Still competent off-road
Surprisingly stable on the road
Lots of low-end torque
 
We like less

Complex operation of all driving modes
High price
High consumption if not plugged in

2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, rear
Photo: B.Charette
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe, rear
Photos:B.Charette
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe pictures