We finally got a chance to get behind the wheel of the first-ever Jeep with electric propulsion, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe. While it comes in three flavors (Sahara, Rubicon, and High Altitude), we got to experience the off-road-focused Rubicon model.
First, we’ll cut right to the chase: This hybrid is still very much a Trail Rated Jeep, and a near-silent and torquey electric drive is a ton of fun off road.
The 2021 Wrangler 4xe is a landmark vehicle for Jeep. And it’s just the beginning, as the brand will electrify its entire vehicle lineup — both hybrid and full-electric — over the next few years. Whether you love the performance, green credentials, savings at the pump, or the opportunity to sneak up on wildlife more easily, this new Jeep PHEV is a compelling vehicle.
Let’s dive into what it’s like to be behind the wheel of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon.
Besides the electric-blue accents, hood decals, badging, and the addition of a charge port, it’d be hard to pick the 4xe out of a crowd of Wranglers. That is until it rolls by extremely quietly making electric motor noises.
Somehow Jeep has been able to retain all the things we love about the Wrangler without much compromise. The Wrangler 4xe still offers up to 30 inches of water fording, about a 1,110-pound payload limit, and a 3,500-pound towing capacity.
It also responds really well to two-footed driving, which is necessary for smooth off-road driving in technical terrain, which computer nannies in EVs often don’t know how to handle.
Interior cargo volume is nearly the same, except the battery pack now lives under the rear seats. That doesn’t change much, but it does mean the rear seats don’t fold flat anymore. This could make some overland accessories, like drawer systems, unable to fit.
Hybrid Electric Drive
Jeep built the Wrangler 4xe off its base 2.0L four-cylinder turbo gas engine and then added in a full hybrid electric drive system. The PHEV system includes two electric motors, one on the engine and one in the transmission bell-housing, and a battery pack under the rear seats. All in, these hybrid electric components add 500-700 pounds to the Wrangler.
The 400W 17kWh battery pack offers 21 miles of all-electric range. We even managed a few better than that in our testing. A Jeep engineer quoted “3 to 4 hours on electric” when talking about off-road rock-crawling range. The EPA rates the Wrangler 4xe at 49 MPGe (miles per gallon equivalent), but the best we got was about 24 mpg in our mixed-use testing and with my heavy right foot.
It will take about 12.5 hours to charge the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe on a level 1 EV charger and about 2.5 hours on a level 2 charger. The key with the 4xe is that it’s a hybrid and not a pure EV, which allows you to fill it up with gasoline and keep on exploring no matter where your adventures take you. Basically, you get the benefits of an EV but without the range anxiety.
The 2021 Wrangler 4xe has three drive modes to choose from. Hybrid mode is the default, and it prioritizes the least expensive combo of gas and electric motor use. Electric drive mode prioritizes burning electrons — unless you mash the accelerator pedal, at which point it fires up the gas engine to provide you with full power.
The third drive mode is called eSave, which uses the gas motor exclusively. The idea here is that you can choose to get to the trailhead burning fuel to enjoy full-electric off-road driving when on the trail.
In electric mode, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon is nearly silent. Under about 20 mph, though, it produces a unique amplified electric sound to alert pedestrians that the Jeep is moving. This sound is much quieter than a running gas engine, making the 4xe less disruptive in the wilderness.
Jeep Hybrid Performance: More Torque & Power
The ICE and EV drive systems combine to provide big power. You get a massive 470 pound-feet of torque — 28 pound-feet more torque than the diesel Wrangler. You also get about 100 horsepower more than the V6 Wrangler but about 100 horsepower less than the new Hemi V8 Wrangler.
All that’s to say you’re never wanting for power in the Wrangler 4xe. In general, you get about a 10% better power-to-weight ratio over other Wranglers.
The 4xe dispenses 60 mph from a standstill in just 6 seconds. While that’s quick, it doesn’t feel all that fast off the line.
On the other hand, it does feel pretty quick when passing at higher speeds. It keeps pulling hard until just before you hit triple-digits, where the boxy shape and big tires work against more speed.
Sure, the Wrangler 4xe would make for a pretty decent city commuter, but it really shines off road. There, you really appreciate the near-instant extra torque, as this Jeep quickly overcomes nearly any obstacle in its way. It’s also where you can most appreciate the nearly one-pedal driving experience.
One-pedal driving is common with EVs, but less so with hybrids. Jeep can’t call this a true one-pedal-drive system, though, as you do have to use the brake pedal to come to a complete stop.
When you depress the Max Regen button on the center stack and are in electric drive mode, you get a nearly one-pedal driving experience, which is really great for slow-speed, smooth, off-road control of the vehicle.
In this setup, the accelerator pedal does feel very heavy, with a lot of resistance against your foot, which can be fatiguing.
The Wrangler 4xe is hitting Jeep dealerships across North America now. Expect to pay a $4,000-6,000 premium over comparable gas-powered Wranglers.
That means that a Wrangler 4xe will set you back about $50,000-60,000. The Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4xe starts at $49,490, the Rubicon 4xe at $53,190, and the High Altitude at $55,065.
All in, the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon is a powerful four-door SUV that’s ready to tackle city streets and remote trails with ease. Add in some green credentials, no range anxiety, savings at the pump, and only a little extra weight on board, and you have a compelling vehicle.
The only question here is if the extra money upfront is worth it for your use case, as you’re very unlikely to make back the money with savings at the pump alone. However, more torque and near-silent operation are reason enough to thoroughly consider the 4xe.
The 2021 Wrangler 4xe is just the first step in Jeep’s move into electric vehicles. We can expect more vehicles like the full-electric Magneto EJS concept soon from Jeep, with variants of every one of the vehicles being electrified in the next few years.
With the help of Electrify America, Jeep is also building branded on- and off-grid EV charging infrastructure at remote locations. First up are over 60 Jeep Badge of Honor trailheads, with chargers showing up in Moab, Big Bear, and the Rubicon Trail in the next few months.
Also be sure to check out this video review of my experience with the 4xe in Austin, Texas, and the surrounding hill country: