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2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe first drive: off-road, on-road and towing

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Blue accents denote Jeep Wrangler 4xe

The blue tow hooks and graphics denote the Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a plugin-hybrid. (Photo by Tim Esterdahl)

What happens when you take the most iconic off-road vehicle and add a plug-in hybrid? You get the 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe.

Publisher Tim Esterdahl recently spent some time in Austin, Texas, where he got to experience this new Jeep first-hand. When we originally talked about the 4xe, Esterdahl didn’t sound too optimistic about an off-road vehicle that makes almost no sound. Who would want that?

After watching his video, I think it’s safe to say he’s changed his mind.

Technically speaking

In the video, you’ll see Esterdahl walk us through a cool cut-out showing the electrical components that make this Wrangler a hybrid vehicle. From the 17-kilowatt, 400-volt, 96-cell lithium-ion nickel magnesium battery to the special high-capacity air conditioner that keeps the battery between 70 and 100 degrees to the electronic braking system that offers regenerative braking, this Wrangler is a whole new vehicle.

The high-voltage, liquid-cooled generator unit connects to a belt that turns over the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine providing 375 horsepower, 470 pound-feet of torque and provides a 0-to-60 sprint in 6 seconds.

Plus, thanks to the electric engine, the on-demand torque gives instant feedback, which is great for towing. Esterdahl says of the get-up-and-go: “This is the fastest Jeep I’ve ever driven.”

The good stuff

The Wrangler 4xe offers 21 miles of all-electric driving. Plus you can use the regenerative braking system to save battery with the golf-cart style, one-pedal driving. You can even charge the battery while you’re driving in gas mode — meaning you don’t have to plug this Jeep in to charge it if you don’t want to or if you don’t have a way to charge it.

Overall, the 4xe is estimated to give you a fuel economy of 49 MPG! That’s incredible for an off-road capable vehicle.

No compromise

The Wrangler 4xe still offers all of the trail-rated and off-road capability you’ve come to expect from the Wrangler — including its ability to ford up to 30 inches of water. All of the electronic components are sealed to protect them. Esterdahl muses that this hybrid version of the Wrangler could replace the V-6 — because why wouldn’t you buy the vehicle that is every bit as capable, has a better fuel economy and gets you a massive tax credit?

The only people who won’t like this are those who want the V-8, which is currently available in the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392.

What does it sound like?

Esterdahl compares the 4xe’s electric motor sounds to a big RC car. No, it’s not completely silent, but that is by design. If you’ve ever heard an electric vehicle, I’m sure you’ve noticed they all hum a bit. This is is for pedestrian safety. Those who are visually impaired (or just not paying attention) need to be able to hear a vehicle approaching, so this light whine is for their safety.

When you’re just idling, the Jeep is so quiet you can hear the birds. In the video, you’ll be able to hear the spotter giving directions while Tim is off-roading over large boulders.

How to spot a Wrangler 4xe

Because the classic body style of the Wrangler is exactly the same, Jeep had to come up with some way to denote show that the 4xe is a plugin hybrid. They chose to color the tow hooks a bright blue. You can also customize the 4xe with blue graphics on the hood and front quarter panel.

No on-board generator?

Because the 4xe has some pretty massive batteries it would only make sense to be able to power your gear (and maybe your house?) should the need arise. However, Jeep did not put an onboard generator in the 4xe like Ford put in their F-150 hybrid.

No worries, though. You can still plug things into the household outlet in the second row, or any of the power ports in the front. When the 4xe’s battery is drained, the Jeep will turn on, charge the battery and turn back off all on its own. Esterdahl muses it would be nice to have some 110 plugs in the rear, and he hopes Jeep adds those in the future.

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Erica Mueller

Erica Mueller is a Texan, which means she believes that trucks are family vehicles and giant SUVs make good second cars. As part-time auto journalist for almost a decade, Erica enjoys driving all kinds of vehicles and sharing her experiences with others. Erica is the secretary of the board for the Texas Auto Writers Association as well as a contributor at A Girls Guide to Cars.

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