2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe First Drive: Is It A Good EV?07/29/2021
Is Jeep’s first plug in offering worth the extra cost? We find out.
The Jeep Wrangler is nothing short of an iconic all-wheel-drive adventure vehicle. So when the announcement was made that Jeep was going to add a plug in version to its Wrangler line, there were probably some of the loyal Jeep faithful who weren’t convinced that the new “e-Jeep” would be a “real” Jeep.
After driving the Jeep Wrangler 4xe (pronounced “four-by-e”, like four-by-four) for a week, we’ve come to the conclusion that this new PHEV Wrangler is absolutely worthy of wearing the Jeep badge. That’s because there’s really no sacrifice or compromise, other than it costing more, and the extra coin can be reclaimed through available incentives and potential fuel savings.
There are a lot of good overall reviews of the Wrangler 4xe out there already, including one by Brandon Turkus over at our sister site Motor1. Therefore, we decided to focus specifically on the electric aspects of the Wrangler 4xe, to decide if it is a good plug in hybrid.
The Jeep Wrangler has three driving modes:
- Hybrid: The vehicle will switch between all-electric mode and hybrid, as the computer calculates out how to best blend the two in order to maximize fuel efficiency.
- Electric: The 2-liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine remains off unless the vehicle determines that extra power is required. It will then turn on the ICE to add the power needed.
- E-Save: The 4xe operates as a hybrid and maintains the battery’s state of charge. There’s also an additional setting in E-Save that allows the driver to actually charge the high voltage battery pack to a higher state of charge using the 4-cylinder gas engine.
The Wrangler 4xe has a 17 kWh battery, of which approximately 15 kWh is usable. When the battery reaches 0% state of charge, it’s actually at 15%. The Jeep Wrangler 4xe holds a 15% battery buffer at the bottom of the usable capacity.
The vehicle always defaults to hybrid driving mode upon startup. That bothered us. In our opinion, there should be a setting that allows the driver to select which driving mode the vehicle always defaults to.
Notable timestamps in the video:
- 1:07 Initial driving impressions
- 2:33 Drive modes
- 4:54 Regenerative braking
- 6:24 Previous driving history graph
- 7:06 Powertrain overview by Micky Bly
- 8:45 Performance, battery & economy
- 12:59 Charging the Wrangler 4xe
- 15:06 Cost comparison to the non-electric Jeep Wrangler
- 17:00 Mild off-roading
- 17:16 Lack of charging connector lock
- 17:33 Interior overview
- 18:37 Final thoughts
The Wrangler 4xe always defaults to a very mild regenerative braking mode. However, if the driver wishes to have stronger regenerative braking, they can press a “Max Regen” button in the center console and the regenerative braking force increases significantly.
Although even in Max regen mode, there’s no “on-pedal” driving effect, as the braking force isn’t quite strong enough for that. Also, the vehicle won’t come to a standstill with regenerative braking alone, the friction braked are needed for a full stop. The vehicle also has an artificial creep that the driver cannot disable.
The 4xe has a blended braking system, so even in mild regen mode, the regenerative braking force increases when you depress the friction brake pedal, increasing the amount of energy being recuperated.
Range and Efficiency
The Wrangler 4xe is EPA rated for 21 miles in all-electric mode and a total of 370 miles of driving range including driving in hybrid mode. However, I was able to average about 26 miles per charge in my week-long loan and one time a drove 30 miles before the vehicle switched to hybrid mode. In our 70-mph highway range test, we were able to drive the 4xe 21.8 miles on battery alone.
While driving in hybrid mode, the Wrangler 4xe isn’t particularly efficient and is EPA rated at only 20 mpg. That’s actually worse than the Ecodiesel (25 mpg), the 2.0L Turbo (22 mpg), and the V6 with automatic transmission (21 mpg). Only the V6 with manual transmission (19 mpg) and the 392 V8 (14 mpg) have worse fuel economy ratings.
However, that can be a little misleading. That’s because your average fuel economy will greatly depend on how you use the Jeep 4xe. If you take lots of short trips and recharge between drives, you can actually attain a very respectable average MPG rating.
In my week with the vehicle, I drove 805 miles and averaged 30.4 mpg. That’s because I plugged in between drives and did a lot of local driving. But it wasn’t all local driving, I did plenty on highway trips and even made a 270-mile round trip to Atlantic City. The hotel did recharge the vehicle, so about 50 miles of the trip was on battery and the rest was in hybrid mode.
I also have a 32-amp level 2 EVSE, so I was able to quickly recharge the 4xe in between trips. Overall I dove 342.8 miles in all-electric mode and 462.4 miles in hybrid mode. That’s an average of 49 miles per day in all-electric mode and 66 miles per day in hybrid mode.
Cost and potential savings
In Sahara and Rubicon trims, the Wrangler 4xe costs more than $10,000 than the non-plug in version. That makes it a difficult economic proposition. Even factoring in the Federal tax credit (which not everybody qualifies for), the 4xe is still nearly $3,000 more in the above-mentioned trims. However, some states also offer additional incentives for EVs, which could close the price gap even further.
Interestingly, in the top-of-the-line trim, High Altitude trim, the 4xe is only $5,225 more, which means it actually costs $2,275 for those that qualify for the full $7,500 federal tax credit.
Owners do have the ability to save significantly on fuel, provided they plug in frequently and take advantage of the lower cost to recharge the 4xe as compared to filling it up. But it really depends on the owner’s driving demands. If they work 70 miles from home and are going to do 140 miles a day and only 20 to 25 of those miles will be on battery, then they probably won’t see much in the way of financial payback.
But if they do a lot of local driving and plug in between trips, owners can easily average over 30 mpg as I did, and the fuel savings will certainly add up over the years. You really need to take a look at your usage in order to decide if the 4xe will make financial sense for you.
So check out the video and let us know what you think. Was Jeep’s first swipe at a plug in a worthy effort? Or should they have done more to make the Wrangler 4xe a better EV? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
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