Jeep continues to expand its Wrangler SUV’s powertrain lineup with the arrival of a plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid option for 2021. Dubbed the 4xe (that’s pronounced “four-by-E”), the Wrangler’s latest powerplant joins the model’s 285-hp 3.6-liter V-6, 270-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder, and 260-hp turbo-diesel 3.0-liter V-6. As with the latter engine, Jeep limits the 4xe kit strictly to four-door Wrangler models.
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: Plug It in Before Going Out
Thanks to the combined effects of its turbocharged 2.0-liter engine and two electric motors, (one 44-hp starter-generator in the engine bay—dubbed eTorque by Jeep—and a second 134-hp unit integrated within the eight-speed automatic transmission), the 4xe produces a peak 375 hp, or 90 more than the Wrangler’s next most powerful engine option. Torque, meanwhile, peaks at a plentiful 470 lb-ft. That’s an additional 28 lb-ft of twist relative to the available diesel engine—impressive indeed.
The 4xe’s extra grunt comes with a weight penalty, though. Tipping the scales at an estimated 5,000 pounds, the lightest Wrangler 4xe carries an additional 830-plus pounds than does the lightest Wrangler four-door, the Sport V-6 with an eight-speed automatic. Blame the extra electrified bits, including the 17-kWh lithium-ion battery pack Jeep stuffs under the 4xe’s rear seats, a space the brand claims better protects it from the elements—Jeep notes the Wrangler 4xe matches its siblings’ ability to ford through up to 30 inches of water. Redesigned rear-seat bottoms now flip forward in order to ease access to the hefty battery.
With a full charge, Jeep expects the Wrangler 4xe to offer up to 25 miles of all-electric driving range. Similarly, the brand anticipates the SUV to manage 50 MPGe once its gas-engine comes into play. Plan on setting aside approximately 12 hours to fully charge the 4xe’s depleted battery pack using the standard 110-volt charging cable, per Jeep. That time drops to around two hours when plugged into a 240-volt Level 2 charger.
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: Drive à la Modes
Save for its cowl-mounted charge port, model-specific badging, and the occasional bits of Electric Blue trim, the Wrangler 4xe looks all but identical to its strictly gas- and diesel-drinking kin. Step inside the SUV, though, and the Wrangler 4xe reveals its true colors. Accompanying its Electric Blue stitching, the PHEV off-roader gets a dashboard-mounted charging indicator, model-specific gauge cluster, and distinct infotainment system menus. Additionally, the Wrangler plug-in packs various 4xe-specific drive settings that aim to make the most of the SUV’s gasoline-electric powertrain.
Christened E Selec, the setup offers three drive modes: Hybrid, which serves as the SUV’s default setup and uses both gasoline and electric power as needed); Electric, which avoids using the gas engine until the battery depletes its charge; and eSave, which affords the driver the option to maintain the battery’s current charge or use the gas engine to increase the charge of the battery. There’s also a Max Regen function, which increases the amount of regenerative braking from the electric motors.
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: Trail Rated
In spite of its efficiency-minded powertrain, the Wrangler 4xe promises to offer the same general capability of other four-door Wranglers. In fact, the entry-level 4xe and higher-spec 4xe Sahara models’ 10.1 inches of ground clearance betters the 9.7- and 10.0-inch figures of other Wrangler Sports and Saharas. For its part, the even more off-road-oriented 4xe Rubicon’s 10.8 inches of ground clearance matches that of its less powerful Wrangler Rubicon stablemates.
Like other Wranglers, the 4xe boasts standard four-wheel-drive and Dana-sourced solid axles at both ends. Jeep’s Selec-Trac full-time four-wheel-drive system comes standard on the 4xe and 4xe Sahara trims, with the brand fitting its tougher Rock-Trac system to the 4xe Rubicon. Both setups boast a two-speed transfer case, with the former featuring a 2.7:1 low-range ratio and the latter a shorter 4.0:1 ratio.
Beefy front and rear tow hooks and a handful of skidplates ensure all Wrangler 4xe models remain worthy of Jeep’s “Trail Rated” badge Jeep affixes to the model, even if the SUV’s standard 20-inch wheels seem less than ideal for off-tarmac travel. Those in search of better off-road performance ought to spring for the 4xe Rubicon and its standard 17-inch wheels wrapped in knobby 33-inch tires.
2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe: On-Sale Date and Price
What effects the 4xe’s extra pounds have on the Wrangler—both on- and off-road—remains a mystery until we have the chance to get behind the wheel. Nevertheless, Jeep is confident the hybrid powertrain’s extra grunt, as well as the near-instant thrust of the electric motors, will make the 4xe a terrific tool for both puttering about town and tackling tough trails.
As for the price tag, expect the 4xe to cost a pretty penny. While Jeep has yet to release an MSRP for the model, we anticipate it will start at well north of $40,000 when it goes on sale at the end of the year. That’s a good deal more than the four-door 2020 Jeep Wrangler Sport’s $33,290 starting sum.